One of the toughest things to do after experiencing a life changing event is to get back in touch with your true identity. Speaking from experience, this is easier said than done. Why? Because for most of us, our identity becomes wrapped up in our careers, family, and social circle. With so many opportunities to be on stage, it becomes uncomfortable to break down the rock star façade and feel worthy just for being ourselves.
A short time into retirement, I am feeling this pain and am trying to fix it by altering my work-centric mindset. Self-worth is not tied to a job, popularity, or to being the greatest wife or parent on the planet. If you struggle with this like I do, here are some reminders that your self-esteem is not what you have done but who you are.
4 Reminders that Self-Worth is Tied to Who You Are and Not to What You Have Done
1. The way others see you is often a perception and not reality
When facing the public, whether at our job, a neighborhood potluck, or even at the computer keyboard, we put our best foot forward. Regardless of how we really feel at the moment, we put on a happy face and turn on the charm. The reality is that you may be feeling crappy or are struggling with the stresses of the day. Let us call it what it is: a mask.
This is not a bad thing. Not at all. Who wants to be known as a grump? But even more important, even when things may not be going particularly well, putting on a happy face can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I can recall countless times when I put on a happy face only to find that it turned the tide and helped evolve a bad day into a good day.
Still, that happy face, or mask as I call it, is there for others to see. Depending on the situation, it may not reflect your hopes, dreams, feelings, and concerns. Recognize the sometimes you need to drop the mask and get in touch with yourself. Those hopes, dreams, feelings, and concerns are important. If only to you.
2. What you do is not who you are
Closely related to reminder #1, what you do may not have much to do with who you really are. This is especially true in the workplace. Anyone who has changed jobs knows what is like to show up during those first days knowing that you will have to prove yourself all over again. Chances are that most of your co-workers will be unaware of the promotions you earned or your rapid rise to stardom in your previous company.
The same thing can be said for retirement. After spending eight to ten hours a day focused on career, waking up to the lack of purpose can be daunting if not downright depressing. When the closets and pantry are reorganized, the house cleaned from top to bottom, and the 100 item to do list reduced to 10, what comes next is the realization that what you are doing in the moment is what defines you. Not the accomplishments from a previous life, not the money in your bank account, and not the number of Facebook friends.
What defines you is how you live in the here and the now. It is not what you do, but who you are as a person that counts. Which leads us to the next reminder.
3. Core values are important
Know what you believe in then walk that walk. At the end of the day, you must be your own judge and jury. Core values are unique to everyone but there are a few that should ring true for everyone. Let me toss some of my own out for consideration:
How you treat people day to day is what counts
Practice frugality but don’t be a cheapskate
Allow room in your budget for an occasional indulgence
Don’t depend on others to take care of your basic needs in an emergency
You can pick your friends but not your family
There is no room in your life for toxic relationships
As situations change, be flexible and demonstrate a willingness to change
Live each day as though it may be your last
4. Memories are fleeting
People forget. You may not forget about a certain milestone in your life but trust me, others will. It is not that they don’t care about you but rather that they have their own busy lives to deal with. If you are stuck in a rut trying to be the person you were five years ago, you will be left behind.
My advice? Get over it. Give the people in your life a new memory and heck, store that memory for yourself as you continue to move forward.
Some of you may remember my byline “Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!”. Let me change that. How about “Enjoy your next adventure wherever it takes you!”.
Summing It All Up
In this piece, I have done my best to summarize how to disconnect your self-esteem from major changes in life circumstances. My methodology consists of simple reminders that you are who you are as a person and not solely as the sum of your accomplishments. What you have learned along the way has most assuredly contributed to the you of today, but those lessons do not define you.
One more thing. Something you do not know about me is that my undergraduate degree was in Sociology. That may explain my lifelong interest in studying people as a group and applying the best of group dynamics to my life and my writing. Snippets sometimes fall into place as they have done during this most recent transition from full-time blogger to full-time retired. Thank you for reading and for sharing my journey.