Our society encourages us to seek goals built around wealth, power, status and fame. Often our career is the vehicle that we use to pursue these ambitions. This means that our identities are often defined by our career and how successful we have been in it. Many of us don’t realise how much we are defined by our career – until we retire. It can be quite a nasty shock when we can no longer mention our position in an organisation or pull out a business card with what we think is a nice title, when someone asks us “what do you do?”
Many of the retirees that I have spoken to complain that this loss of identity, when they leave their career, can be a difficult issue to adjust to. Often the higher up the corporate ladder a person has climbed, the more difficult it is to deal with this perceived loss of identity and prestige. Our ego doesn’t like not being important and it can make us quite unhappy.
Retirement gives us the opportunity to redefine who we are and to create a new identity which more easily reflects the real “me”. With the life experience and wisdom that maturity hopefully gives us, it’s not that difficult to confront this identity challenge once we can accept the fact that we needn’t be defined by our career or the title on our business card. We are far more than this one dimensional picture.
This process gives us the opportunity to think about our core values and personality traits. It’s often a good time to jettison some of our less appealing characteristics, which may have been useful in the corporate world, but do not make us a more pleasant person to spend time with (descriptions like ruthless, intimidating, intolerant, arrogant and egotistical are character traits that we can do without if we want to have others to like us).
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Our real identity is built on qualities like – our core values, honesty, tolerance, empathy, compassion, generosity, sense of humour, passions. When we start to focus on these elements of our personality, we can get past the need to be defined by our work and find a more honest and better balanced identity.
Hopefully after you have been through this exercise, you’ll like the person that you see in the mirror every morning.
Have you retired and felt a loss of identity? Who are you? Who is the real you? Tell us below.