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Is My Identity My Job Title?

By Erin Aldrich

We live in a society where people are often more concerned about what we do than who we are. If you don’t believe me, just think about how often you say something like, “Hi I am Erin Aldrich, Director of Metro Achievement Center” and then smile and pause expecting a similar sentence from the person standing across from you.

To constantly be identifying one’s self with a job title and place of work can take its toll. What if I don’t have a job or don’t have the position I want or am ashamed of where I work or work in what some people consider a lesser job? Since we often identify ourselves with our job, we can start to think our upward movement in a company is the same thing as an increase in our self-worth. Our value starts to become dependent on our position, making it easier to act in ways that might even go against our value systems.

For the past five years I have had the great privilege of getting to know hundreds of young professional women who volunteer weekly at Metro Achievement Center, each searching for happiness and fulfillment. Since these women are also constantly repeating their job title as what identifies them, they might easily begin to think that this is where happiness and fulfillment are to be found. But does this even make sense? Absolutely not!

Not many people stop to think about where happiness and fulfillment come from in the fast-paced world that we live in. Who has time after juggling work, friends, groceries, laundry, drinks with friends, and every once in a while cooking a meal? If we don’t take the time daily to reflect on what we want in life, why we want it, and how we strive to obtain it, it’s easy to fall into the habit of seeing the next promotion or the next pay raise as the key to happiness. If we keep identifying ourselves by our job titles, we limit our self-worth and potential for happiness. It would be very sad to allow our employers to dictate our worth and sense of fulfillment.

How serious are you about finding happiness and fulfillment? If you are serious about it, then I suggest you make time to reflect each day. People who reflect daily on their purpose and identity tend to be much happier. I don’t have any research to back this up, just years of observation. I encourage everyone to take time daily to think about the following questions:

What is the purpose of my life?

Am I trying to fulfill my purpose?

What is at the core of my identity?

Do I often remember this or do I define my worth based on other things?

What is most important to me?

Does the way I set my daily priorities allow me to make time for what is most important?

What are my values and beliefs?

Am I staying true to my values and beliefs?

As we reflect daily on these types of questions, it sets us on a path for success, happiness and fulfillment. 

And in a world where we hear and say many times a day, “Hi I am Erin Aldrich, Director of Metro Achievement Center” smile and pause, it is good to be able to remember while that is what I do, that is not who I am.


Working Towards Unity

By Teresa Carale

John Thorton, the cotton mill owner in Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic novel North and South, had a tempestuous relationship with Nicholas Higgins, an industrial worker and union leader. But they were both courageous, honorable men who confronted their conflict, a conflict that resulted in a crippling strike that meant greater poverty for Higgins and bankruptcy for Thornton. They developed a deep friendship, each learning from the other, respecting and trusting the other. Each was a leader in his own respective “class.”

As we survey the world we live in, we long for leaders like Thornton and Higgins, leaders who are agents of unity. From a purely anthropological standpoint, unity is superior to conflict; rather than avoiding conflict, we need to confront it in an effort to resolve and move beyond it, to make it a link in a chain, as part of a progress towards unity (Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, n. 55). These words are worthy of reflection—we need to confront conflict in an effort to resolve it and thus achieve unity.

There are conflicts that have existed for centuries and which flare up at different times in history. In many instances, these conflicts were never properly confronted since they were often resolved through violence. The "resolution" did not address the root of the conflict, i.e. the victor in the confrontation dictated the terms of the resolution.

We often have the tendency to run away from disagreements to "avoid confrontation."  We may think we lack the skills or confidence to have a reasonable discussion, or we fear that the opposing party might lack those skills. Sometimes one is afraid of not being able to keep one's emotions in check as well. Despite all of these fears and misgivings, we need the courage to confront conflict, to seek and address the root cause of the conflict, to seek solutions that make unity possible.

Towards the end of the novel, after his cotton mill was closed, Thornton was speaking with a rising member of parliament at a dinner party. He openly acknowledged that he was unsuccessful in business and was seeking an employer that would allow him to continue his “experiment”—where “master” and “laborer” are brought together into actual personal contact, so that they are more aware of what each side is doing, resulting in greater understanding. His leadership was not a result of his owning a mill. He remained a leader despite his apparent financial ruin. His leadership came from within. His vision of the world had changed: he had become an agent of unity.