05 Jan Rediscover Yourself: Navigating Personal Identity Amid Career, Passion, and Health Challenges
In a world that often equates personal worth with professional success, many individuals find themselves completely dedicated to their careers or passions. While this dedication is commendable, it’s vital to maintain your personal identity – the very essence that got you hired, drives your daily activities, and defines you beyond your work.
For some, an intense focus on a chronic illness can similarly consume their identity. I faced this crisis myself. I started to realize that every part of me was dedicated to my illness and, the result was that it became who I was. I forgot to laugh, I had no interest outside of my diagnosis and the challenges it brought with it. One day, I was listening to Eckhart Tolle and heard him say that often we are so immersed in our illness that we become that illness. It was like lightening had struck. That moment changed my life and I came to realize that HIV was not who I was, it was something that had happened on my life journey, I had to find my true personality again.
This article explores various strategies for maintaining focus on your career and your passion, even living with a diagnosis, while also preserving the richness of your personal identity and preventing any single aspect of your life from defining you.
- Honor Your Dedication: Acknowledge the hard work, time, and energy you invest in your career or passion. Honour the time you have spent researching an illness or volunteering for a cause. Your dedication is a testament to your character and drive. However, remember it’s only a part of who you are, not the entirety of your identity.
- Recognize the Risks: Just as athletes might face burnout or injury, immersing yourself too deeply in your career or health concerns can lead to stress and a loss of perspective. Understand that over-identification with your work, passion, or illness can overshadow other valuable aspects of your life.
- Cultivate a Diverse Self-Concept: Actively engage in interests outside your career or health concerns. Whether it’s hobbies, volunteering, or learning new skills, these activities can provide a refreshing counterbalance to your work life and remind you of your multifaceted nature.
- Build Supportive Relationships: Surround yourself with friends, family, and colleagues who appreciate you for more than your professional achievements or health status. A supportive community can provide perspective and remind you of your identity beyond your career or illness.
- Set Holistic Goals: While it’s essential to set career and health goals, also aim for objectives in other areas of your life. Whether it’s personal development, relationships, or leisure, balancing your goals can help maintain a well-rounded sense of self.
- Reflect on Your Journey: Regularly take time to reflect on your experiences, challenges, and achievements outside of your professional life and health issues. This can provide a broader perspective on your identity and help you appreciate the diverse aspects of who you are.
- Seek Professional Guidance if Needed: Just as athletes might work with coaches, consider seeking a mentor, counselor, or therapist. They can provide strategies to balance your professional dedication, health management, and personal well-being.
- Foster Creative and Personal Expression: Pursue activities that allow you to express your creativity and personal thoughts. Whether it’s writing, painting, or playing a musical instrument, these pursuits can provide a sense of fulfillment and identity beyond your professional life or health status.
- Shift Your Focus: When your illness feels consuming, actively redirect your attention to aspects of your life that bring joy and fulfillment. Engage in mindfulness or meditation practices to center your thoughts away from your illness and onto positive, life-affirming activities.
- Take A Break: Don’t be afraid to take a break, in fact if you recognize you are overwhelmed, make yourself take one. Set an amount of time off and stick to it. Don’t be drawn back in because you believe “they can’t do without you”. Put your own oxygen mask on first, it will help others in the long-term.
Your career, passion, or health condition is a significant part of your life, but it’s not the whole story. Embrace the full spectrum of your identity by nurturing relationships, hobbies, and interests outside of work and health concerns. By maintaining a balanced sense of self, you can enjoy a fulfilling career, manage your health effectively, and live a rich, multifaceted life. Remember, you are more than your job, passion, or illness – you are a complex, unique individual with a variety of interests, talents, and dreams. This journey of rediscovery is not just about personal satisfaction; it’s about creating a life that’s as diverse and dynamic as you are.