Do You Let Your Work Define You? by @ArtistThink

When you get cool opportunities such as this, to help students set up and run their own art show, it's pretty difficult not to completely tie your identity to your job!
When you get cool opportunities such as this, to help students set up and run their own art show, it’s pretty difficult not to completely tie your identity to your job! But what happens when that job changes?

by Carrie Brummer | Featured Contributor

When you introduce yourself to people, what do you tell them? What is the first thing you talk about when you meet new people?

Can you guess what most people discuss?

That’s right, their jobs.

Do you know who you are? I mean, really know yourself?

Are YOU your job?

Have you ever lost your job or changed careers? Not only do our finances become a concern, we experience a real feeling of loss. Who are we without our jobs?!

I’m watching my Dad retire this December after working 6 day weeks on and off since his 20s. I’m so proud of him for all of his achievements. His parents lived during the Great Depression and I’m sure his work ethic stems a bit from their influence. While I can see he is ready for a new chapter in his life, I also imagine he feels a bit like he’s losing a limb. What will he do with all of this gained, extra time?

Entrepreneurs are no strangers to workaholism. We take pride in it. In fact, when I posted my last article asking people “if they always feel like they should be working,” I had some social media responses ask, “but what if I want to always be working?!”

My question to all of you is: what will happen to your sense of satisfaction and life purpose if for some reason, that work is taken from you?

How do you define yourself?

When you introduce yourself to people, what is the first thing you use to describe yourself? I know for me it’s always been my job. “I’m a teacher.” When I left the classroom it took some time to determine my introduction. It made me see how much my identity was ingrained in the notion of being a school based educator.

Take a minute today and reflect on your life. Rank the priority (priority defined as time spent – either mentally or physically) with which you give each category:




personal care,



Now look at those rankings again. Do you really treat them in the category order you listed or is that your ideal? How do you really prioritize your time, focus, and attitude?

I can already hear some of you. “But Carrie,” you say, “I’m an entrepreneur, I need to be constantly pitching myself. I want to shout from rooftops!” I understand your desire to share your passion with the world and while I encourage you to still incorporate it into your conversation when you meet someone, is that all you really want people to know you for? How can you introduce yourself, you, first?

By connecting with people on a genuine, personal level, your “elevator pitch” about your job will have even greater meaning and opportunity for connection.

We aren’t alone. And many of us are proud of what we do. Why shouldn’t we proclaim our professional accomplishments to the world?!

But it’s not about that, it’s about how we do it. It’s about the underlying message it sends to everyone in our lives: work comes first.

We need mentors in our lives. We need examples to follow that strive to be known for more than a job title. Who do you admire in business, media, or your immediate life? Why do you admire them? Is it their work, or how they approach work? Is it their accomplishments, or how they constantly strive to grow and learn? Then look in the mirror: do you mimic their behavior? Do you take steps to act as your mentors act?

Some day it’s going to be time for retirement. Or maybe you’ve been cut from your job. Or, maybe you have to sell your company. With the economy still feeling uncertain to many I ask you: who are you?

Today, let’s find a new recipe for introductions that define us as people and not our jobs.

First, ask yourself, what do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?

And then, how do loved ones describe you?

I felt the sting of identity just recently. When I left my role as an secondary art teacher to become an assistant principal, I still wanted to call myself a teacher (and I was). But leaving the school system entirely really threatened the way I see myself. It took a loved one to tell me, “Carrie, you are still a teacher, even if you aren’t in schools anymore.” I felt like I wasn’t allowed to call myself that anymore because my job and role are different.

I write for myself as much as I do for my readers. The lessons I offer are lessons I need to learn from and grow myself. So, let’s test my new introduction today:

“Hi. I’m Carrie. My family and friends describe me as kind and thoughtful. (I’m sure you can decide that for yourself shortly, teehee). We spend a lot of time playing games together. Good food and good company make me happy.

I really love the arts. In fact, I love the arts so much they’ve inspired my desire to help others embrace their creative interests. It’s why I created my company Artist Think, to offer support and inspiration for the arts curious. I’m so glad to meet you. How do your loved ones describe you?”

Our jobs are important elements of our identity. And when you build that “baby” from scratch and run your own company there is much to celebrate. But are you only your company?

Share with me your new pitch for introductions in the comments below. I can’t wait to get to know you.


Carrie Brummer – Educator, Creative Play Advocate, Arts Empowerer – living in Muscat, Oman (for now!)

Carrie Brummer Carrie Brummer is an artist educator nomad. Teaching and leading in school systems for 9 years in the USA and the Middle East helped her see the gap in education that prevents people from accessing interests they love. She has tired of the countless stories from people all over the world saying, “I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw,” or, “I wish I could write a novel someday.” It’s become her mission to share her passion for the arts and encourage everyone to take creative risks in their lives.

Carrie’s current creative baby is to encourage creative play for adults; everyone can use an opportunity to slow down from their hectic lives. Creative play is not only important for children, it makes adults happier, healthier, and more fulfilled human beings. Carrie actively exhibits her artwork worldwide and teaches courses in art history and the arts.

When Carrie isn’t painting, doing yoga or baking chocolate chip cookies, she is playing board games with her husband, looking for new learning opportunities, or planning their next trip. You can read more about her adventures in travel and the arts on Artist Think.

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3 Replies to “Do You Let Your Work Define You? by @ArtistThink”

  1. jean

    Hi…I am Jean and people say I am warm and kind. I love movement through yoga and running and have found that through movement I find quiet and clarity and perspective. Through my work I help others do the same 🙂

  2. Carrie Brummer (@ArtistThink)

    Awesome Deb! Thank’s so much for sharing 🙂

  3. Deb Brown Bryant

    I’m Deb, and most people say I’m creative, inquisitive, and caring. I really enjoy meeting folks. I especially like discovering how we are all similar in some way. My creativity led me to start my business, It’s Your Season, where I design, make, and sell jewelry, cards, and wall art. My products inspire you to look good, feel good, and want to shout “YAY”.

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