After a lifetime spent in the workforce, it’s often hard to separate your true identity from the work identity you have developed over decades.

This is hardly surprising as so much of our life is connected to our work. As well as the money our job provides, it also links in with our social life, our status in the community, our self- esteem and our lifestyle. It also provides an answer to that age-old question "and what do you do?"

Many people suffer a loss of identity when they leave work. We find that often the higher up in the management structure a person sits, the more difficulty they have when they lose their job identity and find that their views are no longer that important.

Whether you are still in the workforce or have already left work – there are some considerations that could help you to deal with this situation.

If you are still in the workforce, it certainly helps if you are aware of this potential problem and take some steps to start moving away from an identity largely defined by your job.

Here are some strategies you could try:

  • Look for things outside of work that give you joy and satisfaction, and devote more time to them.
  • Work at building some emotional detachment from your job. It’s not the most important thing in your life and the organisation will survive after you leave it.
  • Start working on activities, projects or hobbies outside of work that will provide some challenges, interests and a foothold in areas where you’ll enjoy spending more time when you retire.

If you have already left work and are still troubled by your loss of identity, here are a few points to consider:

  • Retirement gives you the opportunity to be the person that you always wanted to be.
  • Defining yourself through the narrow prism of your job is short changing yourself. You are far more than that.
  • Your true self involves things like your natural character, your attitudes, your compassion, your sense of humour, your creativity, your passions - all the things that make you an interesting human being.

It might take some time and effort to find your true identity but it’s well worth the effort and you will be a lot happier when you have a better understanding of who you really are.

Paul McKeon, 50plusBooks

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