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If Losing Your Job To The Pandemic Destroyed Your Identity, Here’s How To Find It

        “If I’m not (insert job title here), then who am I?”

This is the type of question some adults are asking themselves as they struggle through the darkness of losing a job to the pandemic.

Some never realized how tied their identities were to their careers until they lost them. They feel lost mentally and emotionally, as if they’re experiencing a bad breakup. The present is surreal, the future is uncertain, and they’re unsure how to define themselves.

Christa Black, a freelance copywriter from Ashland, Kentucky, said her work shaped her identity.

“I finally felt like a ‘real’ writer, because after several years of trying, I was actually being paid to do what I enjoyed and was good at,” she said. “I started to feel less like an artist and more like ‘a professional.'”

But when the pandemic hit, the work faded away. Black’s income decreased to little to none. She soon felt that she had lost her identity, that she was no longer a professional and that she didn’t fit in with the creative community from which she had come.

That might be because sudden unemployment is a threat to “narrative identity,” said Jonathan Adler, a professor of psychology who specializes in identity and narrative psychology at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts.

“Identity is the story of our lives that weaves together the way we reconstruct our past, make sense of the present and anticipate our future,” he said.

That narrative identity is the confluence of you and the culture in which you live. We grow up in a sea of stories about what a typical life’s journey looks like and what moments we’re supposed to hold onto, Adler said, so we take the templates available to us and tailor our experiences to those master narratives.

“We use our stories as the foundation for everything else that we do,” Adler said. “So when you rock the foundation, everything else on top of that crumbles.”

Through some inner work, however, you can take back your worth.

How our identities influence our jobs

For some, jobs provide merely a paycheck. For others, occupations also supply a sense of meaning that holds weight when they think about their sense of selves.

Our perpetually “on the grind” culture defines who we are by what we do for work.

“The first thing we ask when we meet a new person is, ‘What do you do for a living?'” said Nicole Hind, an Australia-based psychotherapist behind the online community, blog and practice Unveiled Stories.

“It’s as though we equate ‘goodness’ with ‘work’ when in fact goodness is so much more than that. It’s important to note that this is particular to our modern industrialized society: the idea that work is all of who we are and that we are not worthy humans if we don’t work.”

Additionally, people who feel motivated and engaged by and passionate about their work might have experienced psychological benefits from finding their calling, Adler said.

In the idealized college-job-promotion-passion trajectory, becoming unemployed isn’t part of the vision. “All of a sudden the end is totally open and uncertain,” Adler said.

Our narrative identities serve two additional functions that make us feel good. They provide a sense of unity, so that we feel we are the same people over time. They also provide a sense of purpose, so we know the meaning of what we’re doing and what our lives are about.

People suddenly faced with job loss are now challenged by a story with a cliffhanger and interrupted senses of unity and purpose — all of which can lead to anxiety, depression and anger.

 

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What to do about it

Finding your identity begins with questioning yourself about three themes that construct life stories and tend to be the strongest predictors of well-being, Adler said.

“It’s not so much what happens to you [that matters]; it’s how you tell the story of what happens to you,” Adler said.

The first is agency, a characteristic of the main character in your story (which is you). Maybe your effectiveness at your job provided your sense of agency. Though no one is in complete control, how much are you in the driver’s seat of your life versus batted around by the whims of external forces?

Give yourself the space to grieve the losses, Hind instructed.

Don’t rush into proclaiming why you’re stronger because of it. Instead, acknowledge what you’re feeling physically, emotionally and mentally. Recall positive moments, too: the times when you advocated for what you believed in or hit a goal.

Summer internships have dried up because of the pandemic. Here’s how to get ahead without one

“People who do what’s called exploratory processing — which means deeply trying to make sense of their experience before creating a redemption sequence at the end — actually do better than the people who just do redemption without exploring the challenge,” Adler said.

Then find something else to prioritize, like a new venture or hobby. Revisit your core values and what really matters: What parts of your job were important to you? What fueled your passion? How can you express those during this period?

You can stay invested in those values whether you’re employed or not, Adler said.

For example, Black, the freelance copywriter, has found her roots again in creative writing. “It has helped me get back in touch with my creativity and given me something enjoyable to focus on while I emotionally recover from everything that came along with the pandemic and its fallout,” she said.

In this way, the underlying value of her job might be fulfilled.

Figure out your own definition of success, Hind said. What do you admire about your role models? Is it their “success” or their skills, compassion, kindness or wisdom?

And our stories aren’t just about ourselves. Communion, secondly, entails a sense of being connected to, nurturing and feeling cared for by quality relationships. Engage with the connections that matter to you.

“Step away from ‘job’ as being the only and step towards appreciating [yourself] and others for everything: the way you take care of someone or the meal you cooked today,” Hind said. “What [do] my everyday life, my interactions and my values say about who I am?”

Taking action and finding community foster the growth leading to redemption — stories that start out bad but end well.

“There’s a lot of research on the theme of redemption. It’s sort of a classic American master narrative,” Adler said. “We have the Puritan settlers finding freedom. We have ex-slaves’ narratives about liberation. We have the rags to riches stories.”

The outcome of finding yourself

Reclaiming your identity requires both a quick shift in mindset and a journey of changing your thought patterns and behaviors — just like setting an intention to lose weight, Adler said.

“That’s something that takes place over time, but it actually happens every moment of every day. You can’t just diet and exercise on the weekends,” he explained. “Changing your narrative identity is like that — it’s a cumulative process that builds up over time, but the intention … is something you do in the here and now every day.”

When we’re focused only on work as a measure of success and what defines us, we lose touch with many other areas, Hind said.

We might devalue our contributions to our families or forget to be present with them, ourselves, pets and other sources of joy. We say we “don’t have time” for leisure and then wonder why we’re so anxious all the time or need a drink to unwind. Then we wonder why we’re unhappy, Hind said.
Just as a threatened identity might have upended every area of your life, a solid identity can also flow into different domains and increase your confidence.

By Kristen Rogers       June 18, 2020
source: www.cnn.com


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Ikigai: Your Reason for Being

What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning?
When asked what is the single most powerful contributing factor to one’s health and vitality, integrative medical doctor Oscar Serrallach answered without hesitation: having a sense of purpose. Serrallach went on to describe that while some of his patients have developed great regimes of nutrition, lifestyle activities and movement to support their wellbeing; those without a clear sense of purpose in their life experience continuing struggle with physical health issues. The distinguishing quality of many of his healthiest patients – those who  transcend common health challenges despite not having lived by the book, in terms of healthy lifestyle factors – is that they seem to be the most aligned or ‘called’ towards some primary focus of meaning in their life.

Japanese culture actually has a word which addresses this focus. The word is ikigai and translates simply as, ‘reason for being’.

What is Your ‘Reason for Being’?
According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai. To find it often requires deep enquiry and lengthy ‘search of self’ – a search which is highly regarded.

The term ikigai is composed of two Japanese words: iki referring to life, and kai, which roughly means “the realisation of what one expects and hopes for”. Unpacking the word and its associated symbol a bit further, ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:

  • What you Love (your passion)
  • What the World Needs (your mission)
  • What you are Good at (your vocation)
  • What you can get Paid for (your profession)

The word ikigai, that space in the middle of these four elements, is seen as the source of value or what make one’s life truly worthwhile. In Okinawa, Japan, ikigai is thought of as “a reason to get up in the morning”. Interestingly, while certainly incorporating the financial aspects of life, the word is more often used to refer to the mental and spiritual state behind our circumstance as opposed to our current economic status alone. Even if we are moving through a dark or challenging time, if we are moving with purpose, if we are feeling called toward something or have a clear goal in mind, we may still experience ikigai. Often the behaviors that make us feel ikigai are not the ones we are forced to take based on the expectations of the world around us, but rather they are the natural actions and spontaneous responses that emerge from a deep and direct connection to life.

 

Ikigai

The Question of Purpose
Many ancient indigenous cultures took time to honour the question of purpose through ceremony, vision quest and rites of passage in order to help reveal the essential role that each member was born to play in the greater tribe and story of life; though the space and reverence for this question does not always seem to exist today. For many, our decisions around life-focus unfold in a more reactionary way, propelling us into educational, professional and life-directional paths based less on deep inner calling or soul-inspired vision, and more on societal expectations, so-called ‘practical reality’ and what is required to survive in the systems we’ve created to live in.

The truth is, if there was ever a time on our planet where a sense of true purpose was needed, required, or desperately called for, now would be that time. But amidst the multi-layered pressures of our modern world, how do we peel back the layers and discover why we are here and what we are really supposed to be doing?

American mythologist and author Joseph Campbell shared his view on fulfilling our purpose when he said,

My general formula for my students is,

 ‘Follow your bliss.’ Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it .

Sacred Activism, encourages us on the other hand to find our purpose by ‘following our heartbreak’. Andrew Harvey calls us to discover that which is most deeply disturbing in our world and to use this as a catalyst to propel our actions and discover where we can make the biggest difference.

Meanwhile, philosopher and civil rights leader Howard W Thurman said:

 Don’t ask what the world needs. 

 Ask what makes you come alive and do that… 

 Because what the world really needs is people who have come alive. 

While each of these viewpoints are powerfully compelling in their own right, whether we are following our bliss, following our heartbreak, or that which makes us come alive (or a combination of all three!), for many of us there is also an apparent need to follow that which pays the bills each month and allows us to cover the basic necessities of life. So how do we balance all of these factors in the creation of a life which is meaningful, purposeful and aligned with our true calling? Is it possible to have it all? The essence of ikigai gives us a framework to balance these elements into a cohesive whole.

Passion as a Vehicle for Change and Contribution
As the world moves through massive change on many levels, more and more people are feeling called to align their skills and gifts with a higher cause or sense of contribution. Beautiful examples are emerging in many arenas of social change and activism where people are not abandoning their passion for the cause but rather channeling the thing they most love doing in the direction of positive change – and discovering inspired ways to support themselves along the way.

Sixteen year old rapper, dancer and global youth director of Earth Guardians Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a living example of ikigai, blending his creative gifts and passion for the Earth in the rise of a world-wide youth-lead revolution in support of future generations.  Poet/rapper/Facebook sensation Prince Ea has woven his love and concern for humanity and Earth with a gift for capturing profound messages into powerfully creative 3-5 minute videos – an expression of ikigai which galvanises the energy and support of millions of people online each week. Visionary art therapist and yoga teacher Atira Tan responded to her “heartbreak” witnessing child sex trafficking in Asia and has discovered incredible passion and aliveness through the sharing of her global foundation Art2Healing, bringing justice and transformational healing and movement arts to those who have suffered from this experience.

Youth Director of Earth Guardians, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, in hip-hop expression of ikigaiYouth Director of Earth Guardians, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, in hip-hop expression of ikigai.
The truth is many of the challenges we face in today’s world are not simple, technical challenges. They are complex, multi-dimensional issues which will require expansive, multi-dimensional thinking and action. The type of thinking, action and energy that emerges naturally when we are in the throes of creative expression or connection with others. When we are immersed in any endeavor that brings us into our hearts, that makes us come alive – and we are bringing ourselves fully to it – instantly we become more generative, more magnetic and more dynamic in our ability to navigate challenges and discover pathways of breakthrough.

What is Your Ikigai?
Take a moment to draw your own version of the overlapping circles of the ikigai symbol and consider the following:

  • What do you Love? What aspects of your life bring you into your heart and make you come alive?
  • What are you Great at? What unique skills do you have that come most naturally to you? What talents have you cultivated and what do you excel at even when you aren’t trying?
  • What Cause do you believe in? What breaks your heart or pulls at your gut? What change would you most love to create in the world? What would you give your life for?
  • What do people Value and pay you for? What service, value or offering do you bring, or could you bring, that brings real value to others? Something people need and are happy to pay for or share some value in exchange?

Take a few minutes to write whatever key words, phrases, and ideas come up for you in each circle, then look for areas of natural overlap. Reflect on the sum total of these elements and how they may relate to each other. Bring yourself quietly to the centre of the circles and leave space in your mind for whatever impulse or calling may emerge naturally in the coming days… What is one simple thing you could do or be today that would be an expression of your ikigai?

By Chip Richards        Monday January 14th, 2019
 


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5 Thoughts That Can Get You Through (Almost) Anything

Collected over a lifetime, advice to keep you moving forward. 

Post published by Meg Selig on May 06, 2015 in Changepower

I’ve been given a lot of advice in my life, some good, some bad, most forgettable, and some…outstanding. I’ve previously written about one unforgettable piece of “advice” (it wasn’t exactly advice) from my father. Now I’m adding 5 more nuggets to the list. The words of wisdom below are so concise and powerful that I find myself reciting them in my mind at least a few times a week. See if you feel the same way.

As I wrote down these 5 gems to share with you, I realized they all had some common elements. Maybe you’ll pick up a pattern as you read. If not, I’ll reveal it at the end.

1. “Do what makes you feel best about yourself.” 

A friend once gave me this advice. I took it to heart as a reminder to live up to my own values whenever possible. When your life is in sync with your values, you have peace of mind.

2. “Just do the best you can.”

The mother of a friend of mine gave her this advice. Thanks to this gem, my friend works hard but never feels compelled to be perfect. I’ve adopted this advice as one of my own personal mottoes.

bullseye

3. “Set your own standards and work up to them.”

This piece of advice, offered by my partner, reminds me to…well, first of all, HAVE some standards, and, second, work up to—or in some cases, down to—them. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to have high standards for everything, just the few things of vital importance to me.

4. “Do what makes sense to you.”

This advice, also from my partner, might be my favorite. For a lot of tasks, chores, and choices, there is no one right answer or one right way to go. “Do what makes sense to you” helps you cultivate judgment and problem-solving skills. Whether you are making a large or small decision, this motto can strengthen your unique ways of meeting life’s challenges.

5. “Welcome mistakes and learn from them.”

I learned this from life and from my psychology reading (with a particular nod to the research of Carol Dweck). When I was younger, I didn’t have the courage to take risks and bounce back from failure. I was too concerned with protecting my ego. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned that a mistake is just Reality’s way of teaching you something important. (But it’s up to you to figure out what that important thing might be.)

Did you pick up the common threads? All of these advice nuggets help you explore your own identity, rather than directly tell you what to do. This kind of advice strengthens the self and gives you confidence to make future decisions based on what you’ve learned has and hasn’t worked for you in the past. As Socrates said, “Know thyself.” This advice gives you the ways and means to do just that.