If losing your job to the pandemic destroyed your identity, here's how to find it

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Maybe you lost your identity when you lost the job you cherished or made you feel accomplished. Through some inner work, you can take back your worth.
(CNN) "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.

You know, I never realized how much my identity was tied to my job until I lost it. And I don't mean like "oh I loved my job so much, muh career,what am I gonna do... blah blah blah." Nah, I'm fighting depression and anxiety every day because I don't have a job to go to.

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…
Kristen Rogers
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