Identity and work

I’ve been struggling with identity in recent months. Society has wired us to identify ourselves with our full time occupation, whether it’s paid or not. I left indentured servitude in 2010, with a break in there to have kids. And I’ve never really identified myself as a mother, either. Yes, I have kids, but mothers to me are crafty and bakey and much more nurturing than I. My kids are 9 and 5; they’ve been making their own breakfasts for years. I console myself with the fact that at least they’ll be able to live off WeetBix when they move out.

When I left work and started freelancing I didn’t really think too much about it. I just took those little bits of work when I could get them and got on with life. After stumbling on my market niche in 2011, I decided I wanted to be a subject matter expert. When I found my audience only weeks after I’d verbalised that decision, I started developing my area of expertise and marketing myself to my new-found tribe.

2012 was my year of public speaking. It was challenging and exhilarating. By the end of my last speaking engagement I crashed hard from exhaustion and I’d only spoken at three conferences and a few seminars. But my tribe had grown and it was exciting. I’d found my identity amongst my growing professional community and new friends. And maybe that’s the problem, the extrinsic nature of this kind of identity. Just like that of work.

When you work as a freelancer, you never truly belong to any of the organisations you work with. It’s doubly true when you work remotely. Freelancing is already a rollercoaster and when I read this article the other night, the discomfort I couldn’t put my finger on became so clear. The abstract identity of the near-full-time role I’m performing had been overwhelming me. It seems worse in a traditional corporate environment that favours functional specialists over segment specialists.

What I find so confounding and fabulous is that once I clarified what my problem was, the answer was delivered to me. There I had been, losing myself in an undefined role, when I completed a personality survey the next day and was shown my archetype—The Wise Owl.

Not only that, I read this article last night—”The honor and dignity is always in the work, and how that work is performed, not in the title.”

I am the Knowledge Bird, and I have my tribe.


  1. Definitely touched a nerve with me .. maybe it’s the ‘laydees in their fortees” thing?

    Where’d you do your personalisty test? Mine would be the direct opposite of yours I think.. :p

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