Posted by: devonellington | July 20, 2020

Mon. July 20, 2020: Re-Establish Your Sense of Self

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One of the hardest things to hold onto in all this is feeling a sense of self, and a sense of worth.

So often, these are entwined.

When I first started working in theatre, I was so tied up in whatever show I worked on at the time that I wasn’t sure who I was outside of the theatre. That was not healthy. It took trial, error, and life experience for me to detach my “self” while still keeping the passion invested in the work.

I have value outside of and separate from my work.

With so many people unemployed right now, it’s hard to detach personal value from the work. We’ve been taught to define ourselves by the answer to the question, “So what do you do?”

Especially in the case of the pandemic, remember that, “it’s not you, it’s them.”

Too many businesses are ignoring the reality and expecting their workers to put their lives on line daily so the business can profit. This is how little they value their employees. If they truly valued their employees, they would allow remote work whenever possible and put in as many safety measures as exist to protect workers.

They would also pay workers a living wage and benefits no matter what. That, however, is a bigger discussion for another day.

Some businesses truly have been crushed by the economic depression we’ve entered. They have tried everything, genuinely worked to do the right thing for themselves, their employees, their customers, and still couldn’t survive.

Hopefully, those owners can step back, take a breath, regroup, and start a new business that will be even stronger. We need to remember these businesses, we need to respond to the way they valued those around them, and support them when we can in turn.

We also need to remember the businesses that aren’t taking precautions and demonstrate, daily, that they do not value us. We need to recognize the businesses that believe we are expendable.

We need to recognize that “at will” employment is an embodiment of the belief that we are expendable.

We have value as individuals, which is separate from our work. We have value in what we contribute to our families, to our communities, to art and science and gardens and clean houses and meals on the table and love and friendship and the hundreds of other ways we each contribute positively to the world every day.

Once we realize that value, and once we stop letting other people define our value in terms of their convenience and their profit, we can start looking at each situation and seeing how it becomes a mutually beneficial relationship.

The company gets completed work that generates profit from creative, dedicated individuals.

The worker gets a living wage paycheck in an environment that respects creativity and human dignity.

When anything is out of whack in that relationship, it causes a sense of dis-ease.

We are taught that if we work hard and do what we are told, we will be rewarded – financially and emotionally. What we learn is that if all we do is work hard and do what we are told, we will be gutted emotionally, toyed with financially, and told we should be “grateful” for such bad treatment. If everything you do and are is wrapped up in your work, then your employer will drain you like a vampire on every level and leave you an empty husk.

Retaining a personal sense of value and dignity if vital. Remember who you are away from work. Remember your value to those precious to you.

Use that sense of value to renegotiate your current work situation, or to search for something new. If you’re working, keep looking for a new job. Yes, it’s difficult now. But do it. Put out the energy, get the emotions flowing, and put change into motion. You may need to work a few stopgap jobs in between. But keep searching for a mutually beneficial situation that offers and cares about value on both sides.

Remember that “at will” can work both ways. If your employer will not commit to a contracted period of time, and reminds you, repeatedly, you can be fired at any moment, you can leave as soon as you find another job. You are not required to give two weeks’ notice, although you may want to in order to keep professional lines of communication open.

Take a few minutes every day to center yourself in your own value. Refill your emotional wells so that, when you are challenged daily, whether it’s on the quality of your work or the expectation that you should put your life in jeopardy for someone else’s profit, you have the emotional resources to make the best decisions you can.

“I deserve all that is good” may sound like a pop psychology affirmation, but if you believe and embody those words, they have power. They can give you the energy and momentum you need.

Remember the old saying: “Words have power. That’s why it’s called spelling.”



  1. […] Last week, we talked here about the need to re-invent work. Then, over on the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions site earlier this week, I talked about the need to re-establish one’s sense of self. […]

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