I Am Not My Job! ~ Angela Syverson

Via elephant journal
on May 1, 2013
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What I do is not who I am.

This was a major lesson I had to learn when I realized a career in K-12 education was not for me. For about eight years my very identity was tied up with the role I played as a teacher. Because I thought my teacher-self was a big part of who I was, every day that I felt I had poorly planned a lesson, done a bad job dealing with behaviors or simply not met the incredibly high standards I had for myself, I really suffered and experienced a lot of pain around the story I had created that “I am not good enough.”

I had forgotten that I am enough, no matter what job I do or how well I do that job. I say “forgotten” because we all come into this world simply knowing that we are enough exactly as we are.

There are several reasons why tying up your self-worth with something external like a job is so painful. Any time that something goes wrong in your job, you make a mistake, realize a job isn’t for you or even lose your job, your entire feeling of self-worth can be compromised, which creates a lot of unnecessary pain and heartache.

When we identify so strongly with external roles, we aren’t connecting with the deeper part of ourselves—what we could call our “soul” or “essence.”

This is why what we say after the statement “I am” is so powerful. For example, I used to say, “I am a teacher, daughter, sister and good friend.” Although all of those things were true, at my core I am intuitive, creative, compassionate and joyful. These qualities are not based on any external roles and don’t change over time.

When I became aware of how closely my identity was tied in with my work, I began to use a simple yet powerful mantra: Who I am is not what I do.

Any time I felt self-judgment or negative self-talk creep up, I repeated this mantra to myself. It was incredibly freeing because it allowed me to see that who I am is so much more than a job. The belief that I am enough despite my career status has made me so much happier!

Right now I am working three part-time jobs as a substitute teacher, legal assistant and Personal Care Assistant. Random, I know! The old me would have probably been depressed, believing that there was something wrong with me, a 27-year old successful college grad working part-time jobs and not interested in pursuing a career in any of them.

But because I know my self-worth is not tied to what I do, I am completely OK with myself. In fact, I am able to see the blessings that these part-time jobs bring. For example, I don’t have to take any work home with me which frees up my time and energy to pursue other interests and hobbies!

Are you over-identifying with your job? Have you discovered who you are at your core?

For me it was a really powerful, liberating experience!

Angela SyversonAngela Syverson: My 20s have been an absolute whirlwind, and I hope that by sharing my story I show others that they aren’t alone! I have been ALL over the place, both literally and figuratively. I have lived in 3 different cities in the Midwest, as well as Spain, Chile and Vietnam. I started and ended my career as a teacher. I was engaged after a dramatic three-year relationship and then broke it off. I started out on a spiritual path of personal growth, and my life is headed in an entirely different direction than I had ever imagined. It’s exciting! I have had ups and downs, felt heartache and joy, but most importantly I have dedicated myself to figuring out who I really am and what I was put here to do.

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Ed: Sara Crolick


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4 Responses to “I Am Not My Job! ~ Angela Syverson”

  1. paulazamora82 says:

    Hi Angela !!!! loving your article . I love that you had the chance to discover what you were really feeling about your job and were able to change and free yourself with this new Mantra ( that I think I'm taking for my self too).
    Recently I have faced a very difficult decision about work and it was complicated for me to tell my husband and even my friends. I decided just work as a private tutor and have my first baby. Now for me was difficult because here now being just a mom or just a tutor ( no formal job at a school ) is not very welcomed for other women. At a point I felt the same as you not enough and I even ask my self, what the hell am I doing ? But then I realized that this would make me happier because I would be able to take care of my family much better and also when I teach I feel I'm doing a better job helping people who really need to learn English not just 'cause.
    But Still I think there is one more step for me that you just showed me: " I need to see who I am at my core " .

    Well nothing else to say. I am very proud of you and I hope you keep growing and making yourself confortable in this world that is very a important achievement in this life more important than many shallow things that we think they make us happy.

    CONGRATS!!!!!! I hope you keep writing I think you have potencial …… cariños y besitos para ti

  2. Paula,
    So good to hear from you and where you are right now!!! The mantra definitely helped me to un-identify with my job. It sounds like you are making choices that are aligned with what you know is best for you, and honoring yourself is more important than anything!!! I agree, our culture definitely places more importance on what we DO than we who ARE. But the irony is, we need to figure out who we are in order to figure out what we really want to do!

    Thanks so much for your comment…mucho cariño para ti y tu marido!

  3. Kate says:

    Angela — Great article. Thank you for writing it. I read your bio below the article and, oh my goodness, you have no idea how much your situation mirrors my own (I am seriously contemplating leaving the world of education as well as my husband)… "I have dedicated myself to figuring out who I really am and what I was put here to do" — me too. It is a hard and beautiful path. Can I ask what you say when meeting new people when they ask, "So, what do you do?" I already dread figuring out how to answer that in a truthful, authentic, non-weird way. Probably just an indication that I need to internalize your simple and powerful mantra a little bit more…

  4. Stacey says:

    Wow, how this resonates with me. I left my job in September and have been doing a lot of soul searching particularly surrounding identity as it relates to work. Thank you so much for sharing and if you like, check out my blog that I started in October where I have done a lot of external processing: http://raisingstacey.blogspot.com