Updated: Nov 4
The idea is seemingly innocuous yet deceptively fraught with toxic potential. We grow up to “become” something. It’s a societal construct of a tale as old as time. You grow up and venture out into the world to live the life expected of you. The present-day ideal is that we reach for our dreams. But, what fills our dreams? We indoctrinate children into a self-concept that is intertwined with their job. “What do you want to be when you go grow up?” is the question that is constantly bombarded upon children. The only answers seemingly accepted or encouraged are professions. (Fireman, Policeman, Doctor, etc.).
I have seen the extrapolation of this issue in adult conversations. The inevitable first question, “So, what do you do?” How many of us have fallen victim to or even perpetrated this phrase? This question reinforces the idea that our jobs are the dominant aspect of who we are as people. I categorically deny the assertion. As I encounter more people who fall prey to this misnomer, I have seen how people associate poor feelings about a job with poor feelings about one’s self. And if we somehow change directions in life, this faulty idea can also lead to feelings of failure as a person. When in reality, our job (or career) is a function of our lives at one moment in time. We are not our jobs! I recently have worked very hard to eliminate this question from my initial interactions.
Future generations would be improved from a psychological and emotional standpoint if we were to transition to answers more in line with positive characteristics. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” would elicit answers such as “determined”, “honest”, “diligent”, “compassionate", etc. I believe that this change is essential to understand the true meaning of a person is not always congruent with the job that we choose. Does this mean we shouldn’t endeavor to find a job we love? Or to appreciate aspects of work that coincide with our moral and ethical standards? Or course not. The paradigm shift should come from the perceptive realignment that our "job" is evidence of our value as human beings.
Forever bound to the human condition, we, as people, navigate through life on diverse yet equally worthy paths. These paths, however different by comparison, represent a unique manifestation of choices relative to personal experiences and environmental exposures throughout an individual’s lifetime. People, invariably, link career to happiness. It is not my place as a therapist to challenge this assertion based upon my proclivities within the confines of a therapeutic session. My role is to create an environment whereby my client can manifest his or her own destinies. If they require my assistance to challenge maladaptive perceptions, I believe I am well versed and prepared to do so. My goal is always to remain steadfast in the foundations of beneficence. However, whenever possible, I do see it as my ethical responsibility to advocate for improved mental health conditions as I encounter them.
The lesson I hope to convey is that you are extraordinary as you are. A job title is only that…just a job title. You are all worthy of respect and kindness regardless of your station in life. I hope we can start today to help shift toward a more appropriate view of how we value each other and more importantly, ourselves.
© Jeremy D. Robinson – All Rights Reserved