It starts with the language. In Germany, we say, Ich bin Illustrator, Ich bin Maurer, Ich bin Psychologe (I am an illustrator, …). This formulation creates a strong connection between work and identity: I am what I do.
But this attitude is risky and can be unhealthy. From a connection, dependency may arise. So, as part of society, I am measured by what I do. At the same time, I begin to measure myself by it. It’s constraining.
What happens when a serious injury forces a professional football player to end his career? Or when a 5-star chef loses his sense of taste? Is his identity lost with that?
In Italy, they say Faccio l’illustratore, Faccio il muratore, Faccio il psicologo. This means as much as I make … or I work as … The language creates a distance to identity.
Once we realize that what we do is only a by-product of who we are, our lives will become easier. We deal better with criticism, detach more easily from expectations, and take the freedom to redesign our lives.