separating who you are from what you do

Separating Your Identity from Work

Separating who you are from what you do is the dream result of healing an unhealthy relationship with work. And for me, it was a lengthy and sometimes complicated journey to get here. In an effort of honesty and a practice in imperfection, I’m going to level with you here and say that I still struggle with untangling my identity from my job (even my job as a coach or writer) from who I am. If I’m being realistic I know that what I do to make money is a part of my identity – to me the important part is knowing that it is only a small part of who I am. My identity cannot rely on my career regardless of how much I enjoy it. 

After years of working on separating my identity from what I do I am proud to say that I know that I am whole, unique and amazing without it (I just also need money to live because capitalism really does run the world). My jobs enable me to live a life that fulfills me and I can live with that. So now I want to help you get there (if that’s where you want to go..if not I would suggest skipping this blog). 

Disclaimer – I did NOT go to med school 

Before we continue any further I want to remind you that I am not a mental health professional. I am a life and career coach. These tips, tricks and ideas are just what has worked for me and my clients. As always your life decisions are your own so take what resonates and leave what doesn’t! 

Work Life Boundaries 

Whether you are a remote worker or in the physical office, setting boundaries with when you start and end your day is extremely helpful. My mindset around work shifted when I realized that after a certain time it was ok to check out, walk away and leave the project for another day. Everything cannot be urgent and by building out boundaries around when I came in, left or stayed online, I began to find balance and a sense of calm in my work. 

One of the work life boundaries I set was that I did not start my day before 8am. Another was that I had to take lunch for at least 30 minutes everyday and WALK AWAY FROM MY DESK. A third was that I had to honor appointments with myself meaning that if I scheduled a workout, break or time off I took the time to do those.

Speaking of workouts I also encourage prioritizing movement as a way to signal to your body that its physical and mental wellbeing is more important than work. So many of us spend so much time sitting and our poor bodies pay the price. To help with that I will do 5-10 minute yoga flows as breaks throughout the day or after work. 

Another way to work on your work life boundaries is to find a hobby, interest or habit worth upholding your boundaries. This can be anything! A few ideas are an exercise class, painting, reading a book or playing video games. Anything that lets you focus on something other than your work. Having hobbies or habits that you enjoy is also a great way to turn off your mind when you think about work outside of work (more on that in the next section). 

Thinking About Work After Hours

If you are anything like me the suggestions above sound great but you cannot turn off your anxious mind outside of work. And if you are like me this may be something that you need to work with a medical professional on – it also may be something that you can find a coping mechanism for on your own (there are no rights and wrongs either way).

My first tip for getting your mind off work and into a relaxing evening is to find an activity or two that you do most days after work to signal to yourself  “no more thinking about work”. For me that looks like closing my laptop, taking my dog out and then doing another non-work related task. For you that might be yoga, screaming off your patio at passing children, showering or taking a nap. I’m not here to judge you and I’m asking you not to judge yourself. The only goal here is to find something that works for you.

My Brain Won’t Shut Up 

Now this habit will build over time but in the interim and on the busy days the work thoughts will still sneak into your brain. Here is what I do to deal with them. 

  1. I notice the thought, I try not to judge it and I say “thanks for being here but you have to go and you don’t get to waste my time” 
  2. I tell myself something to counter the thought like “I trust myself to have done that task correctly and I trust myself to fix it tomorrow if I have not” 
  3. If the thought is persistent I distract myself by tapping into one of my hobbies. I like to use something that makes me use my mind and body so a video game, yoga or a HIIT workout.  

I did this consistently until I got it to stick. It’s a practice of patience, resilience and self-trust. If the thoughts would not go away and it was ruining my evening, sometimes I would just do something about it (if that was an option). If that was not there my back-up plan was to interrogate the thought with some perspective. “Who does this affect?” or “Is this worth worrying about or is worry a work related habit of mine?”. 

A Self-Trust Exercise 

My favorite byproduct of separating my worth from my work was building my self-trust and confidence. By practicing self-trust, knowing that I could handle anything that came up and learning to quiet my inner critic I began to see myself as so much more than my job. And this revelation made my occasional work mistakes less catastrophic for my mental wellbeing. 

As always, I’m here to support! If you want help separating who you are from what you do I’m here to help! You can find a few ways to work with me here. 

making work morally neutral

Making Work Morally Neutral

One of the ways I’ve fostered a healthier relationship with work is by making work morally neutral in regards to both my employment status and my performance. And before you lose your mind over that allow me to explain. 

One Definition of Morally Neutral

In my opinion (which is what this whole website/channel is) most of us do not work in jobs that save lives, we are not landing rockets on the moon and for those of us who do not work these VERY INSANELY IMPORTANT jobs we have the privilege of viewing our work performance as morally neutral – meaning that if we do a mediocre job, get a meh performance review or honestly kind of suck at what we do we are not bad people because of our performance (but we may still be bad people I suppose). 

A Second Definition

To take this concept a step further, I also think our employment status is morally neutral – meaning that your employment status does not make you a good or bad person. If you have the financial privilege and your job is too much it is ok to leave or find a better one. Our society places a lot of shame on the unemployed for absolutely no reason – most people do not choose the unemployed life and even those who do have good reasons. 

Both of these definitions were crucial to my journey of untangling my worth from my work. And untangling my worth from my work helped me create a healthier relationship with work and it honestly made me a better worker. This journey has made me wonder – why do we define ourselves by our jobs at all? (more to come on this question in later content)

With these definitions in hand what do we do next? In my experience unpacking the following concepts and questions will take you on a journey to a healthier mindset with work. 

Journal Prompts

  • When your work feels too much ask yourself one of my favorite questions – does this really matter? Is this work getting upset over? Can I remove myself from this temporarily to calm myself down?
  • Perfectionism – a major inhibitor for me in my relationship with work was my perfectionist tendencies. I had to learn to leave perfectionism at the door. 
  • On the hard days I asked myself – does being a good worker give me more value as a person? 
  • What can I do to help myself stop obsessing over work? Can I find distracting hobbies? 

Unpacking these, deep diving in and finding ways to work around or work through my unhealthy habits helped me reduce stress, find better work life balance and honestly become a better worker because I’m a lot worse at my job when I am overly emotionally engaged. 

Let me know if you want me to deep dive into these topics and if so which ones in the comments! If not I think the next video will be on separating who we are from what we do. And if you want some 1:1 help working through this please reach out – all my coaching details are here.

Unpacking things further with a video!
desk set up for healing unhealthy relationship with work

Healing My Unhealthy Relationship with Work

Over the past two years I have been unlearning the habits that contributed to my unhealthy relationship with work. For the first leg of my career I was in a very unhealthy relationship with work. Like the kind of relationship where I was obsessed, not sleeping and may have contributed to my early gray hairs. Now that I am on the other side of this relationship drama I’m able to help others work through this – because our jobs should not control us. We are so much more than what we do for a living. 

I promised my TikTok commenters that I would make this subject into a longer series so this blog is going to be part 1 of I don’t know how many on this subject. This post is going to be an introduction to the subject and I’m including the Youtube video I created on this for those of you who prefer video/audio chats below. 

What is an Unhealthy Relationship with Work?  

My unhealthy relationship with work became painfully obvious to me when I realized that I spent more time worrying about work than I did working. My work stress impacted my personal life almost consistently and my work performance impacted my self worth. In short, work took over my entire life. Leading up to this realization the signs of burnout were there and my attempts at boundaries were failing but it took a birthday spent in tears over a work mistake that I realized I needed to do something about this. 

I was letting my career treat me in an absolutely unacceptable way. I would have never let a person treat me the way I was letting this relationship treat me. My self worth had plummeted and I no longer recognized myself in what I did and frankly I didn’t want to care about work anymore. In short I went from over-engaged to apathetic. 

Self Worth and Work 

Once I caught on that work was dictating my emotional happiness it was impossible to unsee. A good day at work always meant a good day at home and a bad day at work meant a bad evening. If a Friday went poorly the whole weekend could be ruined. This relationship was obviously toxic so once this revelation sunk in I started making a plan to remedy this. 

An obvious option here was to quit my job. With my new observation fresh on my mind I realized that it wasn’t just my current role that I had this issue with – it was work in general. I no longer valued my personal successes and I needed to remedy that. 

Morality, Boundaries and Personal Success 

As cliche as this is, I started with a major mindset shift (mostly through journaling – more on that in a second). I set boundaries, practiced saying no and I made my work performance morally neutral. This change did not happen overnight but once I came to terms with these concepts things got a lot easier. For everyone this will look different but for me the knowledge that I could empower myself through boundaries and not worry about being perfect at my job was liberating. 

Ok, But How? 

I spent a lot of time working through my emotions around work, finding places where things felt wrong and looking for opportunities to build walls to keep work out of my personal time. It was a struggle at first but lucky for you I already did it. If you want to make those mindset shifts and reconfigure your relationship with work, start by answering the following questions. 

  1. What is my relationship with work?
  2. Can I make my work performance (or employment status) morally neutral, i.e. doesn’t reflect as good or bad on me? 
  3. Why am I taking work so seriously? 
  4. Why does my job get to define me? (don’t blame yourself on this one blame society)
  5. Who am I if I’m not my job? 

And from these questions things kind of snowballed. It brought me out of my career funk, helped me find a career path that I actually enjoy but that I don’t let consume me (you can check it out here since I now help people like you through this situation and more). 

You Are More Than What You Do 

Through this mindset shift it finally clicked for me that I was so much more than what I did. My job was one of the least interesting things about me and that I was worthy of work life balance and respected boundaries. I was not saving lives everyday, I did not need to bring work stress home with me and I sure as hell was not landing a rocket on the moon – I did not need to take work so seriously (though actively doing my job to stay employed was crucial). 

If you want help working through this please reach out – I’m happy to help. If you’re happy to work through it alone I’ll keep posting about this on here, tiktok and Youtube

perfectionist

Lessons from a Recovering Perfectionist

As a human being and a recovering perfectionist I put a lot of pressure on myself. Over the past few years I’ve worked really hard to recognize the signs of burnout but occasionally it just rears its head without notice. On our journey to balance we often end up in unbalanced places.  To reduce the number of surprise visits I get from my buddy burnout I’ve started allowing myself to cut corners and as your life and career coach and friend I want to encourage you to do the same  *insert perfectionist fainting on her fainting couch or clutching pearls here*  

You Do Not Have to Give 100% 

It is ok to not give 100% to everything you do. In fact, it’s impossible to give 100% to everything you do. It’s one of life’s few guarantees – do too much and you will end up on a one way train to burnout town. So let’s make this simple – stop giving 100% to everything – especially things that have low impact, won’t matter in 5 years or things that do not affect anyone negatively if you cut corners. Which brings me to my next point…

Cut Corners 

Ready for the best motivational sentence you will ever receive? Cut corners when and where you can. Use the aforementioned rules of making sure no one will get hurt by your negligence then give yourself permission to make things easier for yourself. Examples of cutting corners can include: buying pre-made pie crust while making a homemade pie (or buying a store bought pie – you do you!), grow things from plants instead of seeds (a personal revelation of mine that I shared on Instagram) or do the workout you want to do instead of the one you have scheduled. 

You Don’t Have to Grow the Seeds

You cannot be perfect and you cannot give 100% to everything you do. But you can give yourself grace. So please give yourself grace. Cut corners, be messy, be human and be kind to yourself. Give yourself all the tools you can to be the person you want to be. 

Where do you struggle balancing things in your life? Is there a place to cut corners?

go with the flow river scene

How I Embody Go with the Flow

Lately, my energy has been all over the place so my new motto has been to “go with the flow”. This phrase isn’t new or revolutionary but it’s been exceedingly helpful for me. And before you scroll away wondering if I have lost my marbles (which I have) let me explain! 

By going with the flow I have been learning to accept that I have high energy days and low energy days and a lot of days where I slide between the two. This revelation means two things for me. One is that I can simply let myself be where I am for the day and move from that place to get things done. And the second is that my energy will always come back eventually. 

Working Through the Lows (Sometimes)

But Emily, you may ask, how can you be productive on low energy days? To be honest some days I do and some days I don’t. If I can, I let myself rest. If I cannot, I tap into a few of my favorite productivity hacks (like batching, setting a timer, playing soundscape playlists, trying to find a low energy state of flow) and make it happen. 

More often than not the task can wait. So I rest. I allow myself to do something that fills me up a little like water coloring, journaling, laying on the couch and talking to my dog or screaming into the void. There are no rights and wrongs in this – being tired is morally neutral. And from this place of rest I can remind myself that the energy will always come back. 

Energy Always Flows Back In 

Whether I have a low energy day, afternoon, week or month I like to remind myself to go with the flow – the energy will always flow back in. Sometimes it takes longer than I would like and sometimes I wish it would stay longer but it always comes back. 

I also apply go with the flow when the energy comes rushing back in. I try to ride the new energetic waves instead of rushing through everything on my to do list. Everything doesn’t have to be accomplished on this single wave of energy. 

Do You Go with the Flow?

So if you are tired, please find rest if you can. And if you can’t find rest, maybe try accepting that tiredness is morally neutral. You will do the best with the energy you have and energy will always come back eventually. 

**This blog is not intended to replace mental or physical health care. Please work with a licensed professional when it comes to your health.

confidence

TikTok Changed My Life

Life has been..interesting lately.

It’s been a while since I have done a regular, old school, tell you about my life and my innermost thoughts blog. I think the last post I did like that was probably this one about throwing away my routine in the chaos of 2020. This lack of self-indulgent writing is partially because I cannot imagine many people wanting to read my rambling updates. But, if I’m being candid, the major inhibitor was that I really couldn’t tell you what was going on in my life. No, not in that influencer “I have a big announcement/secret” kind of way but in the way where I really couldn’t find anything wildly interesting about my day to day.

I love that I have gotten to grow my business over the last year and I love the clients I worked with and I’m exceptionally grateful for all that. Yet inside, I still felt a little meh and uninteresting. I suppose you could say it was languishing mixed with starting a business mixed with living through the weird weird world that was 2020. But lately I’ve felt like my life is inordinately interesting again and a lot of that is thanks to TikTok. 

TikTok Helped Me Find My Voice & Shared it with 16k+ People 

I’m going to take a couple paragraphs here to get you up to speed on my “social media journey” but if you already know or could not give a care, scroll down past the next two paragraphs! My relationship with TikTok began pre-pandemic. I was solely a viewer for my first few months on the app – I wanted to get a feel for the creators, the audience and I really had no intention of posting on it. Did I spend hours scrolling through my For You Page when I should have been sleeping? Yes. 

But my nighttime scrolls did not inspire me to post. It wasn’t until early 2020 after starting the podcasts with Brenton that I decided to start posting whatever I felt like and that was significantly more liberating than I thought it would be. With growing confidence from TikToks and Instagram stories, I started my Youtube channel and from there my career coaching business began to slowly snowball. I viewed TikTok as my playground. It was the one place on social media where no one I knew in real life followed me. I was a little worried people from my day job at the time would find it but even with that cloud of anxiety over it TikTok was my safe space. 

Enter COVID

As the pandemic started and I was put on what seemed to be an evergreen furlough, I decided it was time to give my career coaching business that I had been daydreaming of a try. So I shared that on my TikTok and at first the reactions were lukewarm because nobody knew who I was…which is totally valid. And for some reason, even with videos that only got a couple views, I just kept posting on there as part of my social media strategy for my coaching business.

I spent a lot of time and money on business coaching, learning how to use Pinterest and Instagram for my business, setting up business pages on Facebook, editing Youtube videos, and trying to figure out all the algorithms. With TikTok I didn’t try to play the game; TikTok was just for fun. And yet it became the most successful tool and really made my business take off with one sassy TikTok about not staying loyal to companies that are not loyal to you. And that video took off a full week after it had been uploaded and right around my birthday this year. 

@emilybrucesky

You owe your work nothing. So set boundaries. leave shitty jobs (for new ones). Here to help! #corporate #worklifebalance

♬ original sound – Emily
This is the video

Success

I posted frequently on the app for a year, slowly building my consistency to a video or two a day, and it finally got to the right people (and to some of the wrong ones but more on that later).The social media courses I took may have helped me frame my strategy on other platforms but I can say with the utmost certainty that on TikTok it was just a matter of hitting the right pain point on the right day and luck. And from there my content snowballed.

It ebbed and flowed but by June I was able to join the creator fund (Tiktok’s version of royalty payments) and by July I had my first influencer #ad sponsored post. But most importantly TikTok brought me more career coaching clients than I could have ever imagined finding on Instagram or LinkedIn. And they almost always are perfect fits for my business because they find me through my sometimes polarizing videos.

The Comments on TikTok

But with great power comes great responsibility and for me that responsibility is moderating my comments. I love when a video goes “viral” for me because that means I will get to meet with and talk to more lovely aligned coaching clients. It also means that some people who may not be able to afford 1:1 coaching can still get some of my career tips.

But with that larger audience comes some really angry people and I do not tolerate bullying in my comments. Every viral video comes with at least one white man claiming that I am “stupid”, “naive” or my personal favorite “I don’t like your bangs”. And while they bully me in the comments I make money off of them. I find it fascinating that picking on me is one of America’s favorite pastimes for men. But that won’t stop me from posting – not when so many wonderful people send me sweet messages about how my content has helped them. 

In Other News 

In addition to my newfound low level of fame with Gen X’s finest, I’ve had a lot of fun with my new ghostwriting addition to the business and I’ve already had the privilege to help a handful of people build books and programs that change the lives of their clients. I’ve had opportunities to refresh my HR skills, making me a better coach, and I have been working with some amazing clients. And yes, I met them all through TikTok. 

TikTok helped me find my voice, my niche, my talents and it continually challenges me. So if you follow me on TikTok thank you – you’ve played a key role in this journey and if you do not follow me…what are you waiting for? Here’s your invitation to join the party! @ emilybrucesky 

The past two months have been quite literally life changing for me and But Really Tho (which technically is also me because I’m a sole-proprietor) and weirdly a lot of it is thanks to consistency, tenacity and TikTok. It’s a weird world we live in – thanks for being along for the ride.