In today's fast-paced world, it is all too common to lose sight of our true selves, especially in our professional lives. Many of us become so engrossed in our jobs that we begin to closely associate our identity with our company's image. We start defining ourselves primarily by our job titles, our relationship statuses, or the social groups we belong to. However, in our relentless pursuit of success at work, we often overlook a fundamental truth – we are much more than just our job roles and responsibilities.
Unmasking self-identity: My personal journey
Self-identity, as defined by Encyclopedia.com, is the way individuals perceive themselves based on their structural roles and regular behaviours. Personally, I appreciate how a recent thought-provoking Forbes article defines self-identity in a more straightforward manner – it is the intricate blend of an individual's personal beliefs, values, experiences and perceptions. It is like an intangible essence that makes each person uniquely themselves, serving as both a robust shield and a delicate, ever-evolving showcase of who we are.
Allow me to share a part of my own journey to highlight how important self-identity can be. I spent a significant part of my life working in the banking sector, where I found deep satisfaction and a strong sense of who I was. I was also happily married with two wonderful children, or so I believed. Life, however, had other plans. Unexpected challenges came my way, including losing my job due to the COVID-19 pandemic and discovering infidelity in my marriage.
If I were to paint a picture of myself before my job and marriage entered the scene, I would describe a person who thrived on caring deeply for others, held honesty as a sacred principle, and let my inner creativity run wild. I took immense pleasure in forging authentic connections with people. My evenings were a time for painting, writing, or getting lost in captivating books. Staying fit and full of vitality was something I treasured, and that is why I frequented the gym at least twice a week. I had my own special routine, and I enjoyed every moment because it was a genuine reflection of who I was. Ultimately, I grew older, got a job, and started a family, a blessing I'm truly grateful for, as not everyone gets to experience these significant life milestones.
Balancing my role as a business development officer with my marriage to a man who, looking back, I can confidently identify as a narcissist (though at the time, I simply saw the man I deeply cared for), led to my defining qualities fading into the background.
For those who might not be familiar, the sales world is like an exhilarating dance with numbers. It is an environment where a common phrase, "Numbers don't lie," frequently circulates, particularly during performance reviews. This suggests that, regardless of the situation, your sales figures should consistently show upward growth. The pressure can be intense, but on the bright side, the commissions are quite tempting, and they keep us hooked. The rigorous brand training practically transforms us into walking, talking billboards for the company.
While this isn't necessarily a bad thing for the growth of the organisation and our own professional development, it can sometimes make us believe that our jobs, along with those hefty commissions, are worth trading in a piece of our soul for. We often find ourselves working long hours, engaged in fierce competition, and sometimes resorting to dishonest behaviour, all while our bosses offer tempting incentives that distract us from other equally important aspects of life.
Now, onto my marriage – a story brimming with joy because I had found someone to love and who loved me right back. So, when he suggested I forgo the gym to avoid unwanted attention from other men, I did not hesitate, even though staying in shape was a significant priority for me. Then came the part where he expressed distrust in my friends, prompting me to distance myself from them. After all, who wouldn't want a thriving marriage? I was fully committed. I gave it my all, prioritising my family above everything else.
My career flourished, and our home became a sanctuary of love and laughter. Here's the twist though – initially, it did not bother me that despite reshaping my entire life to please him, he continued to lead a bachelor's lifestyle, spending late nights with his friends while I eagerly awaited his return. It was only when his infidelity came to light that I was awakened to how much of myself I had sacrificed along the way.
How management can empower employee self-identity
In today's dynamic workplace, employee self-identity has become a significant aspect of job satisfaction and fulfilment. Management plays a pivotal role in nurturing this aspect. Inspired by Devashish Chakravarty, here are three key ways management can empower employee self-identity:
- Encourage authenticity: Foster a culture that values individual beliefs, values, and experiences. Create an environment where employees can be their true selves without fear of judgment. As Chakravarty highlighted, embracing authenticity leads to employee fulfilment and innovative thinking.
- Balance work and personal identity: Help employees strike a healthy balance between their work and personal identities. Avoid overemphasising work identity, especially during personal crises. Recognise that personal identity is a valuable anchor even outside the workplace.
- Provide growth opportunities: Invest in employees' growth and development. Offer opportunities for skill enhancement, career advancement, and personal enrichment. Chakravarty's article reminds us that nurturing hidden talents and passions can lead to a more fulfilling life.
In summary, management's role in empowering employee self-identity is vital. By promoting authenticity, supporting work-life balance, and facilitating personal growth, management not only benefits individuals but also contributes to the resilience and success of the entire team and organisation.
Having healed from my loss and understanding that I now only have myself to depend on, I have grown stronger. In my current sales job, I’m committed to doing my best and striving for professional growth, yet I no longer allow the pressure to succeed to compel me to abandon my core values. I prioritise my health and no longer overwork myself. I make time for the gym. I indulge in my hobbies. I nurture authentic friendships (devoid of any ulterior sales motives), all while excelling in my career.
I have come to understand that it is entirely possible to thrive professionally while leading a fulfilling personal life without sacrificing my authentic self. I am gradually rediscovering my core values such as self-care, caring for others, honesty and creativity. Values that sales pressure and my marriage had caused me to compromise for the sake of success. It took adversity to remind me of who I was, and that's why I'm writing this article – to encourage others facing similar dilemmas to make positive changes before it is too late. Experiencing job loss, divorce, retirement, or other life challenges does not mean the world has come to an end, especially when you have a deep understanding of yourself.
Embracing authenticity has proven invaluable in my life. To start, my years of juggling pressures from both my husband and work hid a surprising inner boldness I needed to succeed on my own. Plus, rediscovering my true self helped me set new goals that matched my core values. What's more, I built resilience by forming honest connections, which gave me the strength to face challenges head-on. Lastly, I struck a balance in managing my time, making room for lifelong hobbies like painting, reading and storytelling. Embracing authenticity has not only enriched my life but also empowered me to navigate its twists and turns with newfound confidence and resilience.
Rediscovering self-identity: Your road to balance and bliss
I can assure you, embarking on the journey to rebuild your self-identity can be utterly transformative. It is all about finding that harmonious equilibrium between your professional and personal life, where you can put your well-being first without worrying about your career. With a strong sense of self, you can boldly explore new interests and embrace risks. Who knows what hidden passions reside within you? They might just infuse your life with more happiness than you ever thought possible. Seek that balance, dive into your passions, and remain authentic. Let your self-identity be your guiding star, illuminating your path to fulfilment and success.