Identity-2-3I remember my first business trip to New York City – the rush of “The Big Apple” and the busyness all around me. I felt important just being there. In many ways, it was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

Being a girl from the Midwest, I had worked hard for as long as I can remember. I was raised in a single-parent household and learned to value independence at a young age. I wanted to achieve something, be something, and New York City was filled with the promise of making that a reality. There was something addictive, something thrilling, and something rewarding about being there. Being in the city drove me to work harder, to work later, and to enjoy being validated and respected for the work I did.

This is something I love about New Yorkers. They work hard. They produce. They lead things, create things, move things to action, and just get things done.

As I attempted to take their work ethic with me out West, it worked for a while, but it came with costs. You see, when I finished work at nine o’clock at night, I didn’t have anyone to join me for dinner. Most restaurants were closed (if you can believe that), and I would head to the gym and then go home to bed. When I worked over the weekends, I missed out on engaging with the community around me, who was busy exploring the mountains. My work-life balance was off, and I knew I had to rearrange. Some called it a quarter-life crisis; I called it healthy self-reflection.

A performance driven life can be exhausting. You work to please the boss, the parents, your spouse, or even just yourself. Who are we supposed to be looking towards for validation? And does this performance trap ever stop?

There is value in working hard, and it is to be commended over laziness. But most of us, if we are honest, do not commend hard work over rest. We typically value both, and we aspire to live out both, healthily. If working hard with no rest equals burnout, how do we find this balance.

I found I was functioning with a failed equation:
My performance + others’ opinions = my self-worth

Instead, I needed to focus on my identity. While work is an important part of my life, it is not good to base our identity in anything we could lose. We could lose our boss, our company, our job, routines, etc.  Living to please others, even with the motive of succeeding, is exhausting.

What is your identity in? Is it based in something you can lose? If so, it might be time to work hard in changing that. Your worth is much more than your performance.

Additional recommended reading:
The Search For Significance by Robert S. McGee
Photo: Robert Morely