Your Identity is Not Defined By Your Role

I have a right to exist.

If someone came up to you and stole your role away, what would be left? What would you call yourself if you couldn’t say anything about your job title, your marital status or where you live? 

Would you still believe in yourself? Would you know who you are if you couldn’t use any of those titles?

If I stole away your roles, what level would your existence be? On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rate yourself?

I’m asking you because you need to know something:

Your identity is not defined by your role.

You have a purpose outside of work. You have a reason to be alive beyond what you do. It’s easy in our culture to think that without our titles — husband, wife, salesman, head of marketing, or student — we are nothing. We don’t amount to anything.

But this isn’t true.

Every single day, just by being a human being who is living and breathing, you are always a 10. No matter what.

This past week, I read You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar. He had this exercise in it:

Imagine you’re on a remote island, by yourself. There are no titles, no roles, no descriptions of what you do. You’re simply you.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your existence? 

Most people are going to put themselves fairly low, from 1 to a 4.

What does this mean?

It means that we think our identities are defined by our roles. 

Separate your identity from what you do. You are not defined by your role. You are worthwhile even if you’re not productive one day out of the week. 

If you find that hard to believe, I understand. That’s how I feel anytime I don’t accomplish something I care about. And that’s how I felt this past week.

I’ve started a new project with Praxis about sharpening my social and emotional intelligence. I have a weekly challenge. This week was to sell something and make at least $50.

Guess what?

I didn’t make it. 

I listed two items online, one for $50 and another for $40. The $50 one was taken down due to complications with the listing and the $40 one got no interest. I even talked to a sibling about selling a set of books for $20 to $25, but they never expressed any more interest afterward. 

When you’re in the middle of a bad circumstance, it can pull down your own mental capacity. I was confident at the beginning of this week that I could sell something. I knew where to list online to get sales; I knew who to talk to who might be interested in buying something from me. But I still failed. I got everything else done with my project. But this big weekly challenge? I failed.

How did that make me feel?

Defeated. Resigned. That I can’t sell. That I can’t accomplish what I set out to do.

Ultimately, I’m not good enough.

But hold up.

That’s not right. That’s not true.

You see, everyone fails. I fail. You fail. We all have bad days. We all think we can do something and have something happen and we don’t make it. We don’t make the cut. We don’t win the contest. We don’t get noticed by the person we like. We don’t make as much money at something as we wanted to. We all fail. We all get rejected. That’s life. 

But we need to understand that those moments don’t define us.

I’m not defined by how much I sell. I’m not defined by how much work I get done. Those things are important, but they’re not ultimate. Because at the end of the day, my identity is not found in what I do. And neither is yours. 

Your identity is not defined by your role.

“I really enjoy my highs, and I learn a lot from my lows.”
— Mitchell Broderick, Praxis grad

You’re going to get through it. You’re still good, no matter what your circumstances or your position are. No matter where you’re at. You’re going to do better. You’re going to find a better place. You will fail, but that’s okay. Your identity is not defined by your role.

Because you got this. You. Not your role.


I believe in You.

2 thoughts on “Your Identity is Not Defined By Your Role”

  1. Well thank you Rose, I believe in you too! My role is about to change from area manager over a small group of people and lots of complex systems and processes to Retired. How relaxing that feels, moving from a job which takes most of my life energy during the week to one in which I am my own boss, I can accomplish my own goals. Life will still have lots of challenges, not the least of which will be greatly reduced income, but life enters a new phase. Bring it on!

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