Some psychologists say that men in America tend to define themselves by their work, while women define themselves by their family. This tendency identifies the investment of time, emotions and creative energy we put into child-rearing, a company or our career. The tension between ‘doing’ and ‘being’ is evident when we describe ourselves in the terms of our work. We are ‘teachers’ and ‘programmers’ – or we ‘educate children’ and ‘write code.’ But these labels and descriptions, however, can easily become definitions rather than explanations of our lives, making it too easy for ourselves and others to stereotype the persons we really are. Rather than just a series of paychecks, Work – with a capitol W – should placed in context, become one of many contexts where we co-create with God.
A way to challenge self-imposed definitions and stereotypes is to create your work resume as a narrative – a story – rather than a simple list of jobs and skills. This gives you the freedom to express your working as a part of your context, a frame rather than the whole painting. Let your story be less about the titles or labels and more about your creative passion, less about accomplishments and more about the challenges you have overcome, less about results and more about growth. Let the story of your work describe how it shaped you into who you are becoming.
Try this exercise
Take a quite morning or evening to write the story of your work life, including domestic duties and places you just ‘help out’ in the community. If you have a hard time getting started, image you are telling your grandchildren (current or future) a story about how you got your first job, what you learned about work and how you felt about your boss. In each employment find a ‘lesson’ you can teach the child; give them a reason to do (or not do!) what you have done. Write all this down, along with any creative and innovative things you did or wish you had done.
Then, read the story aloud to your significant other or close friend. Make note of the questions they ask, your replies, and any ideas you find to improve the story. Add those points into the story and print it for your life notebook.