Career Advice

The Problem with Defining Your Self-Worth by Your Career

posted on July 12, 2016 | by Amanda Holstein

The Problem with Defining Your Self-Worth by Your Career

When you meet someone at a party, what is one of the first questions you ask them? For most of us it’s, “What do you do?”.

As millennials in 2016, we seem to define ourselves by our careers. What we do for a living has become such a priority that we often don’t even realize how closely we attach ourselves to it. The pressure to get married has been replaced by the pressure to become successful in our careers as quickly as possible. While there is a lot of merit in that sort of success, I think what we need to be careful of is associating our career status too closely to our self-worth.

I remember when I graduated from college, my first job was an Office Manager at an ad agency. Let’s be honest, I was the receptionist. I answered the phone (you know, the three times it rang a day), I ordered office supplies, and setup snacks in the conference room for meetings. I remember at the time feeling so low, in every sense of the word. I felt like I was “below” everyone around me, like my college degree meant nothing. And I also felt low emotionally; I was depressed. I was associating my career status with my self-worth. I was at the bottom of the totem poll at work, and I translated that into where I stood in life.

Thinking this way didn’t just affect me negatively when at the beginning of my career. Instead, this thought process has been detrimental even as I’ve grown. Even now, it’s easy for me to compare myself to others around me — not just bloggers, but my peers in various industries as well. If that blogger has ten times more followers than me, does that mean she’s “above” me? Does that mean she’s ten times better than me? It’s easy to compare yourself in this way and wonder where you stand, like the rungs of a latter. But life doesn’t work that way. If someone is earning more money than you, or they’ve made their passion their career, or they’re job title has more responsibility — none of that means they are “better” than you. Because the amount of money we make, or the number of followers we have, does not define us. In other words, your career status does not define your self-worth.

After recently listening to one of my favorite podcasts The Lively Show, the host Jess Lively brought up an interesting point. She explained that while you can lose a job, you can never lose the abilities within yourself that got you that job in the first place. I love this concept for so many reasons. It helps to detach yourself from these external things, like your career or your relationship status. Instead, it promotes the idea that the abilities, qualities, and strengths within you are what define you. Not your career.

Has anyone else struggled with your career defining your self-worth? Let’s talk about it!

feature image via Career Contessa