What are the five things that describe you?
Great piece, Michelle. This a theme that’s important to me, as you know. The theme of identity and how it changes continuously over time based not only on external stimuli and events but also on your own view of yourself. When we look ourselves in the mirror, we see a whole universe evolving (or just changing) and sending you back inputs on who you are every single moment. There are “evergreen” elements that will never leave you, and fluid ones that will be shaped by whatever happens to you and your life. I like to think that the smaller the things that we choose to define ourselves, the clearer the picture we get at any point in time. Sounds paradoxical. I really enjoyed this reflection and as always your outstanding ability to put it in words.
You are wise, Michelle. It took me a lot longer to come to peace with this same realization of evolution.
OMG Michelle, Touched my heart on so many levels.
Three years ago, when I left my job in software development after my son was born, and decided to devote myself to raising my child instead of becoming part of a race, the biggest issue for me was an identity crisis.
“Now if someone asks me what I do, what answer should I give?” This thought used to make my head spin.
For me, it was very difficult to separate myself from a job title and express myself.
And in all this, I had lost a lot of confidence.
It was then that I realized that the foundations of my confidence were very weak, my confidence was based on wrong and impermanent things.
My confidence was attached to my achievements, my money, and my job titles. As soon as something moved, my confidence shook.
One day, when I was feeling extremely sad, I told my husband that I didn't feel confident, even though I enjoy what I do now, which is coding or writing for toy projects, it brings me peace, but since I am not making money out of it, I don't feel confident sharing about it. So my husband said that if someone asks you now, tell them that you are a part-time software developer at x company (my husband's). Lol he tried to fake hire me and even allowed me to put it on my LinkedIn. Lol
I laughed because I knew it was a lie. And that I need to accept the truth, sooner or later, that our titles do not define us.
Transitioning is a difficult and challenging process, and I have been going through it for three years now. I have experienced an identity crisis, a sense of self-worth, and overthinking about what others might think about me. But now, I feel like I have made some progress.
I need to build my confidence and make it unshakeable. No matter who I am or what phase of life I am in, my worth is not defined by the titles attached to me. As you rightly said, these titles will keep changing.
One thing that I will teach and try to give my kids is “Unshakeable Confidence”.
Loved this piece! ♥️
Bold those new five!
So good Michelle. Beautiful how you’ve finessed so much into such a short piece.
Ohhh ohh so much love. The piece has such depth and wisdom and somehow felt calming to read. I also love the format of toggling between your reference material in Ephron and your reflections on your lived experience as well.
Shunning labels is one way. But using labels as signposts through living and evolving is another way.
So much to resonate with here Michelle. I especially relate to how, when unemployed, my identity reels from the space left by my previous title. We’re more than our jobs and this post does a fantastic job of reminding us :)
Wow Im glad I finally prioritised reading this first thing in the morning. What an insightful piece, Michelle! I never would have considered calling myself a writer, not in a million years if it wasn't for reading this today.
Also, is 'title transitions' your term now?? It's amazing, it's a whole book!!
Yeah these titles play a trick on us! Even after 12 months out, I was still using ex-[previous role] to describe myself in my online bio. But I came to the same conclusion as you that we need to define our identity based on activities that bring us intrinsic joy and be aware that it evolves over time.
I love that question. And I heavily relate to Title Transition anxiety (going through that myself). Thank you so much for writing this. I needed it.
Thank you for sharing this question and your reflections! I resonated with your experiences a lot, especially “my problem wasn’t that I didn’t have material success, my lack of confidence was coming from a lack of action.” So happy for you that you are in action in pursuing what matters to you!
“I enjoyed sitting on the sofa, cup of chestnut tea in my hand, simply thinking. I listened to podcasts and read tons of books. I used my free time to follow my interests and another word cropped up to describe me, learner.”
Love this passage. The narrative around productivity dictates we need to be hustling 24/7 but it’s important to create space for depth by relaxing, thinking, and nourishing our curiosities. Great, thoughtful piece (as always)!
Reading this I’m reminded of Herminia Ibarra’s book “Working Identity” She strongly believes we're made up of “multiple selves”
Here are some quotes:
“This book hinges on two disarmingly simple ideas. First, our working identity is not a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered at the very core of our inner being. Rather, it is made up of many possibilities: some tangible and concrete, defined by the things we do, the company we keep, and the stories we tell about our work and lives; others existing only in the realm of future potential and private dreams.
Second, changing careers means changing our selves. Since we are many selves, changing is not a process of swapping one identity for another but rather a transition process in which we reconfigure the full set of possibilities.”
“ We learn who we are—in practice, not in theory—by testing reality, not by looking inside”
“ To launch ourselves anew, we need to get out of our heads. We need to act.”
This was very helpful to read Michelle, exactly what I needed. It's so necessary to be reminded that our lives are fluid, as are our self-definitions, and we have to do checkpoints in order to see where we're at. Will be doing a deeper exercise to figure out my current 5, and one that came to mind is "unproductive", in a positive angle: not being productive at generating dollars from something I'm not interested in.
Which ties with what you said about the podcast and writing not generating dollars directly, but giving you deep satisfaction. In the end is detaching you identity with your job, which you so masterfully reflected on.
And also, just happy to witness you embodying those 5 concepts so well!
PS. there you again with a great picture-caption combo! 🤣🤣🤣
Beautiful share, Michelle! I’m here for the Nora Ephron fandom.
This prompted me to reflect on my own 5 words. Something that’s become clearer for me is a title creates the contrast between what is fulfilling about my work vs. what is fulfilling in other spheres. And I should be cautious of how much fulfillment I attribute to work.
When I feel that I’m putting too much of myself into work, I remind myself to untether from it and focus on my main four: sister, daughter, partner, and friend. My job can exist in the background, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for feeling that way.
I'm with Joshua in actually having an interest in your experience/insight regarding sales. Sales has become a dirty word, and you describe how unfortunate it is that you once identified as a salesperson, but as I watch you work magic in your newly chosen titles what I see is exceptional skill in the creating of relationships. Isn't that what sales is? Rather than your association with sales diminishing how you are perceived I think there is a chance you could help elevate the perception of sales by associating it with yourself and your commitment to human connection.
“Losing my job was the sobering realization that a large chunk of my identity was tied to how I made money. The beauty of having time off work was that I had plenty of time to sit in my existential crisis. Even though I didn’t have a job title and often questioned my purpose in life, I was happy.”
A thoughtful read and highly relatable. This is indeed inspiring me to write my own take on - “What are the five things that describes me today”.