Work Smarter//

Why It’s Essential to Separate Your Self-worth From Your Work

You are not your job.

Courtesy of Billion Photos / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Billion Photos / Shutterstock

Take a moment and think back to the last time you met someone new. What were the first things you learned about them? Their name, where they’re from, and most likely, what they do for a living

In today’s intense work culture — where burnout has become the rule rather than the exception — it can be easy to equate your job with your identity

Differentiating between your “work self” and “personal self” isn’t an easy path to navigate. Having two separate identities can become confusing and frustrating to manage. On the other hand, bringing your full self to work comes with a caveat: When your identity is wrapped up in your profession, what happens when your job begins to determine your self-worth? 

Here are some expert-backed tips for putting who you are before what you do:

Check in with yourself

“It helps to be intentional about anchoring a sense of self by getting clear about your values,” Heidi Brooks Ph.D., a senior lecturer in organizational behavior at Yale University, tells Thrive. She recommends beginning a habit of continual self-reflection through regular journaling or with a group of friends or colleagues. During these check-ins, ask yourself two questions: What kind of person do you want to be? How much are your daily behaviors aligned with that image of self? This intentionality may inspire a change in your habits in order to both fit in at work and be true to yourself. 

Cultivate interests outside of work

It’s important to “do something that fulfills your sense of self without having it tied to your day job,” Rebecca Greenbaum Ph.D., professor of human resource management at Rutgers University, tells Thrive. Whether it’s taking yoga classes, attending a book club, or training for a marathon, make sure you’re doing something creatively, intellectually, or physically stimulating that has nothing to do with your job. 

Declare a “tech time out” outside of work hours

In order to create a boundary with work, build in ways to step away from work-related technology at home. During times when you don’t absolutely need to be readily available, log off your work email during weekends and after hours, and turn off those notifications. “By selectively separating yourself from your work during non-work hours,” Greenbaum explains to Thrive, “you will be able to focus on other aspects of your identity.”

Celebrate your non-professional successes

Are you making a positive difference in your community? Are you reaching your fitness goals at the gym? Did you do something meaningful for a friend? Take the time to recognize your non-work related accomplishments, and remember that they are just as valuable as your professional achievements. According to Elizabeth Campbell Ph.D., a work and organizations professor at the University of Minnesota, and her graduate student, Tianna Barnes, maintaining this attitude can help to reinforce self-worth that is “independent of the success [you are] experiencing at work, or lack thereof.” If you have things to feel proud of outside of work, you will be less likely to take professional failure to heart. 

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