Work Identity

My class has been talking a lot about identity lately and how we determine what our personal identity is. It is not something new that I have taught, but it has been something that I have thought a lot about recently, especially the way that we go about shaping our identity. It got me thinking about how many adults determine their identity, and for most, at least the ones that I come in contact with, it is connected with their job.

I know that this should not be considered a great new revelation. People have been talking about how this has been a fact for many years. It is the first question that many people ask of each other when they first meet outside of the work place which is rare considering that most of the people we associate with come from within the work place. If I really think about it, this is even something that is ingrained is us from our college days when we question asked of many of our fellow students was what their major was, or another way of putting it, what they planned to make of their future careers.

It is strange that we tie so much of our identity to this part of our lives, yet it is the one things that most of us would love to get as far way from as soon as we can. It is also not all of us that place this much importance on our jobs, but I do believe that this is the minority out there. It makes me wonder how these people are able to leave this aspect of their lives behind, and what it is that they shape their identity around.

The obvious answer to that is their family, followed by their accomplishments. But that is still looking at our identity through the lens of another person in order to define who we are. When are we able to define ourselves through our own understanding of our identity, and not through the lens imposed on us by society? Has anybody ever come to this true understanding of self? I’m sure that there are a few who have throughout the course of history, but those are rare and I am also betting that are the more influential people the world has ever known.

Thinking about that makes me start to understand better the importance of identity. It something that I see all of my high school students struggle with, and I am sure that this is something that is typical for all people their age. But I am also starting to come to the realization that it is not only exclusive to them, but to all people of all ages. It is a struggle for all of us, and what makes it even more difficult is the changing landscape of our lives and how they automatically changes the essence of our identity.

The best I think that any of us can hope for is to come to an acceptance that this change is constantly happening and be happy with the identity that we have on any given basis understanding how it connects to the identity that proceeded it. It is what I have begun to strive to do, and I have found a certain amount of peace within myself because of this perspective.

Or maybe I should quit teaching such philosophical ideas in my class and I won’t have these deeper thoughts causing me to have an identity crisis. But then would my class be as interesting, and what would their identity be?

4 thoughts on “Work Identity”

  1. Jtownnn, I usually really enjoy reading your blogs but this one in particular really surprised me, in a good way. I sometimes forget that teachers aren’t perfect beings and that they all have their own struggles and internal dilemma, especially with someone like you who always seem to know what you’re doing and stand by what you believe. So, reading this and now knowing that you too are having an identity crisis, somehow brings me to a calmer state, because it made me realise that this may not be a horrible thing after all and that it might just be part of life. I also just wanted to say, please don’t stop teaching these philosophical ideas! They are probably one of the most valuable things I have learnt in school, as I’m sure they are to others too. Anyways, thanks for sharing that!

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    1. I would never stop teaching the philosophical ideas. They are my favorite part of teaching. Thank you for the kind words, and I hope it helps you to understand that we all go through these struggles.

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  2. Hi John, My first rule of behavior over the years has been that I will never ask anyone “what they do”. It always seemed that this leads to pre judging other people based on very sketchy evidence.

    Cheers, Bob

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