Have you ever thought about how there are different ways how to present yourself? When we present ourselves to someone new it is interesting what we say about ourselves first and have you thought at this in relation to how you identify yourself?

Obviously the way we are presenting ourselves depends as well on the context in which we are meeting: when you are meeting people at a work event, we are generally stating your function at work or when we are meeting our partner’s colleagues at an event, it is common we present ourself in relation or with a clear reference to your partner.

On my website I present myself by saying I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter and a friend. However, this was only after a careful evaluation of the message I wanted to convey.

The truth is that I have identified myself for years with my job: a legal adviser, an EU Official… That was the way I thought it was supposed to be: I thought that pride could only be in what one had achieved. Is this effectively true and what does that say about our sense of self worth? What does that say about our relation with success or failure?

In my case, identifying myself with my profession didn’t give rise to doubts as long as my career followed a linear path. When everything is going according to plan, we have a sense of achievement and success. However, things change when you end up in a situation in which your career doesn’t work out as planned or as desired. Or even worse, what happens when you end up in a hostile working environment where your professionality is put under severe stress?

I have learned my lesson the hard way. My self worth suffered incredibly and even though this happened hidden from the external world, I ended up in a huge depression.

People who tend to identify with their professional position tend to be extremely committed and driven in their job. The job is of huge importance to them and often this leaves, if any, a limited space for hobbies or a social life outside the work place. Employers like those employees because of their commitment and their continued efforts to do better and more and longer hours.

What needs to be taken into consideration, however, is that with those benefits come with responsibilities which, in my humble opinion, are often (totally) overlooked. Overly committed employees are obviously great assets for employers, but what bosses forget, is that these people also are at high risk of having serious mental health issues when things go wrong at work or when they are bullied, harassed or dismissed. Stress leads to burn outs and mental breakdowns, depression and anxiety. Too often I heard that bosses justify abusive behaviour as “not personal” or “just business” or sweeping it under the carpet as if the other person were “oversensitive” or has “other issues”.

It is therefore of great importance to valorise the employees not only for what they contribute professionally, but also that employers or bosses show respect for what the person represents outside the work space and that they provide time and space to express outside interests and talents. It is a matter of balance, of not putting all your eggs in one basket, of spreading risk and of emotional intelligence and long term humane vision as well as a sense of accountability.

I mentioned the huge responsibility of employers and bosses, however, I am thoroughly convinced that society and education has also a big role to play in this mind switch. Young people should be taught about self worth, made aware of mental health issues and be placed in a less competitive oriented scale of values.

I am perfectly well aware that the world’s economy can not run on love alone, but again I think that a more balanced approach to financial growth, power and ambition could be beneficial to us all.

Call me an idealist. I plead guilty.