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Lessons to Unlearn

by bevbarnes on January 20, 2012

By the time I was four years old, I learned that my value as a human being was based on what work I did.

I watched as people met each other and the first thing they asked was “What do you do?” I was constantly asked “What does your father do?” I wondered why they wanted know. I tried to avoid the question but people were persistent. When I came up with an answer that satisfied them, it seemed to me that they were filing my response in their inner filing cabinet that categorized who people were by what they did.

I dreaded the question.

My father was as immigrant. He took the jobs that he could get. His purpose for work was to earn money to support his family and put his daughters through university so that they could “advance” in life, whatever that meant. I felt my father’s pain and so, by the time I was four years old I had deduced that:

• My value as a person had to do with what I did for work, not who I was;

• A good job was one that was perceived by others as important and prestigious;

• You should never quit a good job;

• It was better to do a white collar job than a blue collar one;

• The best job was to be a doctor because it gave you money, status and prestige;

• It was better to have a secure government job than to be self-employed;

• I should never, ever work as a maid or a waitress;

• I shouldn’t be an artist: dancer, painter, writer because I’d be poor;

• No matter what job I did, I’d end up raising kids, so I should make sure I picked a husband with a good earnings potential;

• Work was supposed to be unpleasant, that’s why they called it work.

Were you taught that your real job in life was to use your natural talents to make a positive contribution?

I wasn’t.

I bet that if my father had believed that, he would have been happier and prouder of himself before he retired. He wouldn’t have let his job define his sense of identity for most of his life. I wish I could have told my father this:

You are not your job.

You do your job.

If you get to use your natural talents to make a positive contribution and that is also your paid work, you have hit the jackpot. But even if you don’t, that doesn’t make you less of a person; you can find other avenues where you can use your natural talents to make a positive contribution.

If you are unhappy at work and can’t seem to make a change, start with identifying what your beliefs are about work and whether you are still following old rules.

It might be time for you to unlearn what you were taught.

Try this out as a new empowering belief:

Your real job in life is to use your natural talents to make a positive contribution.

Suppose we all learned that in school?

Can you imagine what the world would be like?

That’s my dream.

I love hearing from you. What were you taught about work that you now know isn’t true? It’s time to dump your old beliefs. Share your answers below.

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