an identity metaphor with hats and vulnerability
How do you reconcile different facets of your identity: the ones that you’ve developed over time, and sometimes keep separate, and sometimes let work together?
As I’ve been on this sabbatical, the biggest hat I’ve been wearing is one of the Daughter. Not that it’s never been taken off: when I lived independently, it was one more easily tossed off and hung up on the coat rack. I put it on less frequently than others, as it would be the biggest one I wore in the fall for sequential family birthdays and more family-focused holidays. Throughout the rest of the year, it would be put on for visits home, or for phone calls, and one off questions or obligations. I’d easily take it off, and go about my day wearing various hats: the employee, or roommate, or friend, or just the hat that felt like Me the most. (I’m quickly realizing the hat metaphor is breaking down, but let’s just go with it, please and thank you.) Now, though, I’m wearing the Daughter Hat all the time. I live in my mother’s home, and it’s a role that trumps all others for her. I know this is something that others feel, too—I’ll (maybe) save it for another day. There are cultural layers that play into some less-than-happy feelings that come from this role for me. Some obligations that I feel like are a struggle, as I sometimes feel less seen for who I am. Is this the Leo in me? The need to be seen and accepted and loved for me? I don’t necessarily think it’s solely a Leo thing—we’re all searching for some form of being seen, and identity, and that journey of “who am I?”
Despite this big hat that can feel like a burden, it has made me dig into how I view myself in other roles. Last time, I spoke about friendships and some feelings around changes in those bonds. There’s been a process of digging into who I am as a friend, and how I show up and who others may see me as. I’ve had folks reach out to share their similar feelings about the struggle, and oftentimes, it’s been of some comfort that we’re not alone in this struggle—-we’re all trying, so maybe we should talk about it more. Of course, this has led to digging into a facet of my life (and identity) that has been put on pause for a year and a half: my career.
If I’m putting honesty out into the ether, I don’t think the career part of my identity has ever played a massive role: it’s not really been a big piece of the pie chart of how I see myself. I’ve greatly enjoyed working in my field, and working with the people of the companies I’ve worked for, but my specific career path hasn’t been “my passion” (another topic for another deep dive)—-it has, however, allowed me to do what I do love: connecting with people, and helping them. I’ve developed and honed skills that have gotten me to this point in life, in career, and I know what I do well, and where I bring value to a company. Not only that, but I love thinking big picture, and I like getting in the weeds and doing the work. I absolutely take joy in seeing others succeed and have their lives made easier by work I’ve done, or had a hand in. So, as I’m in the thick of applying to jobs again back in my field, I can’t help but wonder: has my career ever played a part in my identity and how I see myself?
Maybe a bit, but not entirely, no. It has afforded me connections to new friends, and a larger network of people. I have developed skills, and learned valuable life lessons. But, when I introduce myself to someone new, or if I’ve been on a date, I shy away from talking about my career right away—-other facets of me are definitely the first things I speak about.
I’ve been sharing more about my job hunt to others as I’ve been feeling ready to jump into the workforce again. The other week I felt good about a role and interview, and didn’t move on in the process—-it was entirely disappointing, and I shared the news to my Close Friends list. The response was so warm and loving, and even the small reactions softened the bruise to my pride and sadness. I know it’s not the best method, but I’ve already been picky about where I apply, and when I don’t move forward, it really gets me down. And, I don’t like being down! But, I’ve really been trying to feel the feels in the moment, then move forward because I know it’s not a reflection of me and just not the right fit or bad timing!
As I drop more nuggets of my day-to-day on Instagram, I recently had a friend send me a series of voice notes. I’ve known K for ten years now, and can I just say that I very nearly cried in public? The kindest, and most reaffirming message was received that recognized something in me that I don’t think I’ve ever had a coworker or manager verbally acknowledge. It truly hit me in the heart to be seen by someone who just got it and got me. The thing that she said that resonated most, though, was about vulnerability, and I’ve been thinking about it for days now and forming my words around her words on the topic.
This whole process of applying for jobs, or other whatever next step in your career or public life, is an act of vulnerability. You’re selling a version of pieces of yourself, hoping to be seen and recognized for their value, to continue forward in whatever path you’re on. But, not only are you sharing with strangers, and putting yourself up for potential rejection—-after presenting your best self—-you’re likely sharing your journey with those close to you, to those you consider friends and family. There’s another layer of vulnerability there, and you likely don’t want to disappoint them because they’re rooting for you. They’re going to be disappointed along with you when you’re also disappointed, or sad, or upset.
Maybe, to reconcile the different facets of identity is to continue to open yourself up to trust and vulnerability. Maybe there’s less need to break things up and compartmentalize. Maybe if you show up as yourself, there will be people who actually see you for you.
Things I’m Into Lately
I’ve been reading When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill, and it’s been an interesting read so far. It gives me The Power vibes but set in the 1950s and more fantastical energy where women are … dragoning.
Still slowly reading both Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin and Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman in an effort to be more present and try deep reading (and annotating!) books.
I’m nearly done Crash Course in Romance on Netflix. While mostly a romcom, there are some wild murdery things happening as a subplot, and I haven’t been so stressed watching a romcom in so long! Though, I think my hunch as to the culprit is correct. No spoilers.
I’ve not gone through my tabs of articles to read lately, so please send any my way that you may think are worthwhile reads. If I have a tab of it, that means I’ll close it sooner.
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