Have you ever been in a relationship you weren’t excited about? Any relationship. A relationship between you and your job, another person, a cultural norm, or even yourself?
When you introduce yourself to someone, do you use your profession as one of the first ways to describe who you are?
When you’re working, are you invested in the mission of the company you’re part of?
There was a time where I struggled with my identity and place in society. How I was defining myself in conjunction with others in my field, my age group, my cultural equivalents. How I was defining success as an individual, a woman, and a human. In that time, I was putting so much urgency on being successful in my business. This business wasn’t driven by passion, however, but driven by the fact that my worth was tied entirely to its success. It wasn’t the right driver, and I could feel it by how disproportionately hard it was. I remember I was also working alone then, in that I didn’t have any colleagues or a close entrepreneurial community to latch on to for direction or worth either, which is where many of us feel belonging and build confidence. Interestingly, I had gotten started in that business because the traditional healthcare model I was working in before it was in complete misalignment with my values, but I didn’t know it at the time. Instead, I thought I was a complete failure and used creating a “successful” business as a way to not feel that way anymore. I was driven by that undefined success, and not by my values. Getting myself out of that cycle was a massive undertaking, laced with deep confusion, self doubt, fear, and shame.
It was also in those moments that I realized how often we get caught up equating our worth and identities to external expectations and systems. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all, I believe it absolutely can be if we aren’t actually aligning with those systems. If we aren’t working in congruence with them, are we letting them dictate what we do and how we act, or are we taking steps to change our circumstances?
Many of us live our lives completely unaware we are being complacent, however, yet we feel a disconnection somewhere. We often take jobs or follow career paths (or even get in relationships!) for years without having any deep connection to them beyond having them pay our bills. Don’t get me wrong, paying bills a totally appropriate and respectable reason to work any job for however long is necessary. That’s usually why we work, right? Sure, but the point is that many times we yearn for more than it just paying our bills.
So what do we do? Most of us don’t have the luxury to quit our jobs and start our own business, or go to school again, or move to a new city. Not right this second, at least.
For those that feel that painful disconnection, I encourage you to create a mission statement or a set of values to live by. To imagine that your life is a company you’d dream to work at. What would that company’s values and mode of operation be? This takes time, but as you figure it out, commit to it, audit it, and live your life accordingly. Be the best worker of this company and represent it well.
The more we act and live in alignment with our personal values, versus the values others impose on us, the narrower the chasm becomes between us and our greatest desires. The closer we are to bridging ourselves to a life of living from a life of existence. And while this blog is using career direction as its example, the principle is global. It applies to your health, your friendships, your marriage, your sense of adventure.
For me, I’m still editing and fine tuning my life’s values, but the current ones I reflect on regularly are:
Engagement – e.g. in my career, my day-to-day activities, interactions, etc.
Health – e.g. in my body, my mind, in my actions, etc.
Connection – e.g. with friendships, self, during conflict, etc.
Expression – e.g. my personality, my needs, my experiences etc.
The beauty in identifying these things is that they aren’t tied to a community, a social norm, a job, a partner. So if and when something goes awry in any of these dynamics, your sense of worth and value as a human doesn’t have to change.
So, who’s values are you living by? If they’re not yours, then maybe it’s time you make some and get yourself that much closer to your alignment. Get someone to help you if you need it, because it is too important not to take action on yourself.
Dr. Megan-Marie Delegas PT, DPT