No, I haven’t lost my mind like an old man at the deli by asking this question. But it’s always interesting to hear the responses. Invariably, (after stating their name as if they’re presenting a new line of Lee Dungarees to a group of investors) people describe their job or what is currently filling up most of their time. “I’m a doctor”, or “I’m a student”, or “I’m between jobs”, or my personal favorite that I heard recently: “I’m a serial entrepreneur” (become a cereal entrepreneur and we’ll talk…).
Why is the way in which we make money the biggest part of our identity? There is no doubt that this is an important fact about us. It’s a big part of our lives and it partially helps tell our story. But to be one of the first things that we tell people about ourselves before we talk about our family, friends, and interests…It’s a bit sad that this is the convention.
Also, for those who are stay-at-home parents or taking some time off from an official job, there’s almost an apologetic tone expected by the questioner and conveyed by the answerer. It’s as if when someone isn’t producing something that can be measured in monetary value, he or she is worthless and should apologize to society for existing.
If you’re proud of your job, that’s wonderful. I’m sincerely happy for you. But I think it’s important to know why. Is it just so that you can measure yourself against others and against yourself? So that you can say: “I did this incredibly interesting thing at work today and it was so interesting that I got paid extra for it.” Or is it because you think that your dedication to your job is the only way your family will be proud of you?
Is there nothing else in your life you can even consider worthy of talking about?
Perhaps this is a big statement, but personally, I think we’re reaching a mental breaking point as a society, and our reliance on money as an ends instead of a means is a big reason why. There are more people than ever on anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs and I don’t think that the pandemic is fully to blame,.This has been happening for years. Whenever I’ve seen a new client over the past 10 years, I’m astounded that there is maybe 1 out of every 10 that isn’t regularly taking a medication for anxiety reduction. This includes kids, athletes, parents, lawyers, doctors, retired people….every type of worker and person you can think of.
There is so much expected of us at all times and we pass this pressure onto everyone around us just as they pass it on to everyone around them. And truly: “There is only so much heat a pot of water can take before it boils over.”
I don’t know what the right way to address this issue is, however, as always I think if we just took a step back and realized that everyone is worthy of respect, even if they make less money than us or have a less noble career, or have no career; we would all be better off.
This would also probably lead to more interesting conversations that aren’t about 401k plans and how efficient the new excel update is.