9 to 5 Culture, Streamline Your Life

Becoming Your Work

It’s amazingly easy to lose yourself in your job. Let’s face it – the majority of us spend more than half of our waking hours at work – 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. When we come home at night (and the sun has already been down for an hour) it’s sometimes difficult to get out of “work mode.”

Some of us question our actions of the day, beating ourselves up over perceived indiscretions and mentally preparing for the storm tomorrow. Others just zone out in front of the TV, oblivious to the world, trying to forget the pain. Neither is particularly healthy, but it is understandable. Working for a living can be a stressful thing – if anything goes wrong, our livelihood itself can be at stake.

Because of this (and to be fair also because a lot of us have pride in what we do), many of us have developed the bad habit of “becoming our work.” We identify ourselves with our jobs so strongly, that even when we are as far away from work as we can get, we maintain this persona.

Let’s look in on a hypothetical conversation between Alex, a 30-something accountant who has just met an attractive woman at a bar. Let’s be a fly on the wall. Here is a snippet of their conversation:

Woman: So, what do you do for a living?
Alex: I am a Customer Account Representative

Notice the key words: I am.

You are Not Your Job!

Your job is something you do. It’s something that you perform – a service, or a trade for others – but this isn’t who you are.

One of the reasons so many of us feel disconnected and “out-of-whack” at work is because we lose ourselves in the job. We become an activity, rather than a person. This can be especially demoralizing for those of us who don’t have very high-ranking jobs. If you are a secretary and you have this problem, imagine the wonders this does for your self-esteem.

Sure, it’s fine to take pride in our work. But there is a better way of looking at our careers. Let’s go back to the bar with our friend, Alex and start over:

Woman: What do you do for a living?
Alex: I protect customer accounts from fraud and balance budgets at GlobalTron

Doesn’t that sound better? And now Alex can woo his fair maiden with stories of who he actually is. And if she doesn’t like his response – well there are certainly other 9-to-5ers hanging out nearby, tired from a long day at the office.



  • Ella | The Office Escape April 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Great point! I must admit though I am guilty of still owning my job. I would’ve felt bad 5 years ago when I was just like Alex – a customer service representative. However, now as a virtual assistant I love owning what I do, simply because I love being one and proud to be one. Maybe a better line for me would be: “I help entrepreneurs escape their office as their virtual assistant”. That sounds a whole lot better!


  • Kevin Ocho Cinco July 5, 2012 at 7:25 am

    It’s so easy to slip up like this.

    Even Colin Powell has this problem. I read about it in his book on leadership. This is a short quote he related to it.

    “Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.”


  • Mike July 19, 2012 at 7:25 am


    Agreed – great quote!


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