Titles can be elevating. They can give us a sense of worth and status. They can make us feel good when we say, “I’m the ___ at ___,” when people ask what we do.
Titles can be constraining. They can be less than what we think we deserve and inaccurate at depicting our full value. We may not want to use it when people ask what we do.
Titles can carry a ton of weight in certain crowds, immediately prompting more focus and interest from the listener, who suddenly thinks we’re way cooler now that we’ve said a few words that give us more value to them.
Titles don’t mean a thing in certain crowds, where people couldn’t give two shits whether we’re a dishwasher or a Head of blah blah blah. They want to know where we’re from and what we’re into.
Titles can be a quick way to evaluate success and how well we’re doing in life. Our moms may tell all her friends about her baby’s great job at___ leading ___ even though she has no idea what we do. Meanwhile, we dream about quitting everyday to go travel the world.
Titles can lead people to think we’re not doing as well as they think we should based on a standard that doesn’t actually exist. “Didn’t she go to a good school? I thought she’d be ___ by now. What happened?” Yet we’re the healthiest we’ve ever been, living the best life we ever have and are the happiest motherfuckers out there.
Titles are supposed to serve as short descriptions of responsibility and seniority. They’re supposed to be useful in identifying career paths, skillsets and progression.
Instead they’re often intertwined with identity. It starts to be an easy way to introduce ourselves to people. The Headline on LinkedIn, the bios on Insta/FB/Medium, the nametags at events, etc. After a while, we can start to feel lost without them.
But there may be many moments when we lose them… layoff, transition, retirement, taking a break, making a major life change, etc. Or when life happens and we take on new ones or old ones evolve.
So, do you know who are you with and without them? What defines you if it’s not your title? What do you do for yourself, the people you love, the causes that matter to you, the world?
The clearer those answers are, the easier it’ll be to face all the social and societal pressure that will constantly challenge what we believe. Parents, teachers, managers, recruiters, friends, family, partners may all mean well, but they’re not responsible for what you do with this life and they don’t have to face the reckoning in those silent moments when it’s just you, your inner voice and the life you’ve lived.
Instead of letting someone else define your worth and assign your value, figure out what yours is. Know it to the core. Live it fully. Remind yourself regularly. Be skeptical of anything that makes you doubt your clarity. Factor in your growth. Evolve as needed. Reaffirm your conviction. Repeat.