Chasing Inspiration

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Crisis of Identity

I realized something yesterday after I had written my blog post. Losing my job has created the perfect storm of conditions that have led me to a crisis of identity. I think this is fairly common in Western culture where we are judge not by who we are but by what we do. From the time we start school we are asked about what we do, what our parents do, what we plan to do. We are asked about careers and jobs and activities. We are not asked about who we are.

I think about this as I learn of more and more people who are finding themselves where I am - laid off and cut off from the life that defined them for potentially many years. I worked at my last company for over 6 years. It wasn't always good, but it was comfortable and known. I built many friendships there and I hoped to carry many of them with me when I left. I learned anew what I knew to be true - out of sight often does mean out of mind. But that's a different blog post.

When I left my job I no longer had words for what I did. And I let that become a lack of words for who I was. There's almost a shame that goes along with this lack of language. I didn't realize it until after interviewing for a position I was hopeful to obtain that I was undergoing a crisis. I no longer know who I am without a job to define me.

Okay, that's a bit of an overstatement for me. I do know who I am. I may not always remember it and the shock of not moving forward in interviews rattled me some. But there are those who truly no longer know who they are when they don't have a job to define them. They are forced into a crisis of identity. And part of me wishes the nation would be thrust into this existential tug-of-war because the crisis is the crucible that allows us to really explore who we are in essence and in truth. It can spur us toward authenticity.

Why is this crisis a good thing? Because we are not what we do! I firmly believe that to be true. What we do for a career is based on so many factors, who we are and our skills (or lack thereof), being a part of that whole. But what we do does not make us who we are.

So, who are we? That's not an easy answer, nor should it be. Depending on your belief system, who you are is based on a Creator and who that Creator made you. Who you are also consists of your beliefs, your values, your DNA, your experiences, your personality. Who you are is, I believe, growing and evolving every day. And it can take a life time to get to know yourself.

I challenge you to stop thinking about yourself based on what you do. Join me in this crisis of identity and tear back the layers so you can get to know yourself on a deeper, more authentic level. It won't always be easy, but I firmly believe it will be worth it in the end.

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