How authentic is your identity?
14 Oct 2014

How authentic is your identity?

Recently inspired by the fabulous “Who are we?” series by Grayson Perry, it got me thinking about how our careers affect our identity and the impact it has on us when we’re not living the life we truly want to live.

14 Oct 2014

Recently inspired by the fabulous “Who are we?” series by Grayson Perry, it got me thinking about how our careers affect our identity and the impact it has on us when we’re not living the life we truly want to live.


Just a job?
When entering the world of traditional employment, we’re given a job title, sometimes a job description, we belong to a department, we have a person who Manages us – we’re put in our “place” from day 1.

Our characteristics, education, social and family influences – our values, will all form part of how we go about doing our job, but somewhere along the way our identity can get lost in all the labels that we’ve been given at work.

If you feel good about your contribution, you have a clear purpose, freedom to express yourself and stay true to your values; the clarity and authenticity of your identity will remain strong.

If however, you don’t feel good about what you contribute, don’t enjoy what you do, don’t know how you ended up here, question your purpose and conform to what others want you to think and have lost sight of your values – your true identity and authentic self will start to get lost – I know from experience that this is a miserable place to be.

I have been there, feeling utterly bewildered as to the cause of misery and telling myself I’m lucky to have a job blah blah blah!

What happens when you conform to things you don’t believe in?
The first sign of my identity being crushed happened to me in my mid twenties in my second job.

Part of a Financial Institution, where thankfully, I never felt I belonged, I was exposed to many senior management gatherings, and at one of them was introduced to the concept of “enforced distribution”

This is where Managers are forced to rank their people’s performance to fit in accordance with a distribution curve, that fits the budget for performance rewards.

I sat and listened in horror as Managers were forced to justify the performance rating they wanted to give people in their team, when the evidence was insufficient they were forced to give a lower rating,

When I shared my discomfort of this process with my boss, I was told to “toughen up”, feedback repeated to me as I progressed throughout my career.

If only I’d had the confidence to not conform to hideous management decisions, and to understand how important my values and sense of self worth was.

I recently heard the fabulously inspirational Alexander Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer at Woohoo inc, talk at the fabulously inspirational on the topic of workplace rebellion and the negative power that group think and our desire to conform, not stand out from the crowd, has on our behavior.

If only I’d heard him talk fifteen years ago, I thought to myself! But would a 25 year old me, entering the beginning of the 21st century have had the courage to be a workplace rebel? Was the end of the 90’s the time for such behavior? Did I need more life experience and a turn in tide, our values in society to change? …… Probably, yes!

Identity Crisis
Whilst I never became a workplace rebel, I spent the rest of my employment career trying to create happy environments for talented people to thrive in.

When I succeeded, I felt great about my contribution, I had a sense of purpose and meaning and my values were being met – I was true to myself.

But the more I progressed up the ladder, the more “toughening up” I was told to do, the more my true identity got lost again.

After almost twenty years of hard work, I felt it was time to take a break, to recharge my batteries, find some inspiration again.

Not long after that, I became a Mum! And life changed beyond all recognition.

I was happier than I’d ever been…. But something strange happened to my identify – the removal of a job title, constant flashing blackberry and people wanting to talk to me, because of my job title disappeared.

Replaced by the most demanding of bosses, who was difficult to fathom… my child!

People no longer bothered to refer to me by my own name! “Finn’s Mum” was my new label.

I felt, as thought I’d become the invisible woman, and that was a very isolated and confusing place to be.


Searching for my authentic identity
In planning my next career move, I knew I didn’t want to spend my life on a train, working in organisations without purpose or meaning, and not being able to be true to myself.

Above all, I needed flexibility to be the Mum I wanted to be.

So, I invested the money and time working with a Coach who helped me get clear on my purpose, passions, what would make me happy and ultimately to work out my true identity.

As the wise Chinese Philosopher, Conficus said “ Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”


I am not alone!
Our values are changing, we’re realizing that success won’t bring us happiness; happiness will bring us success (Shawn Achor, the Happiness Advantage)

There’s an exciting movement going on, brilliant business people who know the change of the 3rd Industrial Revolution is happening and they want to create better business for the 21st century.

We want a better quality of life for our children and us. Thanks to the most recent global recession, we have to make our own opportunities, we want to do it on our own terms, and Digital is allowing us to do that and to create a platform to share our products and services, quickly.

We’re questioning the meaning and purpose of working crazy hours, for soul-destroying businesses, often in highly paid jobs, which make us miserable.

Escape the City is a brilliant example of three ex city workers who have created a movement encouraging others to escape, do something different, something that makes you happy.

A quote from one of their weekly essay’s “We believe work has the potential to become love made visible”


Getting clear on your authentic identity
Here’s three things that will help you start to get clear on what really matters to you:

  1. Explore your passions and interests
    Spent time reconnecting with passions you’ve lost touch with. What did you love spending your time doing when you were 7, 13, 18, 24 – times before the strains of responsibility got in the way of what was natural to you?
  1. Get clear on what you’re brilliant at
    Ask people who matter to you what they think are your greatest strengths. There’s bound to be some nice surprises in there!
  1. Get under the skin of your values
    Our values shape so much of who we are, our actions, our decisions. When we’re honoring those values we feel happy and fulfilled…… when we don’t, we can feel miserable and uneasy.

Does your career allow you to honor your values, use your strengths and spark your passions and allow you to be your true self?

No, time for a change?

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