It’s pretty common in the American culture to define ourselves by our vocation, and by that I mean by what we get paid to do. It’s almost like if you don’t earn money doing it, it doesn’t ‘count’. I’ve seen a tide shifting here, but mostly only as it relates to stay at home parents. Both my husband and I have by turns stayed home, not earned a paycheck, and devoted our time to raising our daughter and tending the (endless) household tasks. I was a little surprised, and disappointed, at how we both felt like we weren’t earning our keep unless we were busy doing ‘stuff’ around the clock, because we weren’t earning a paycheck. We both realized in our heads that we were doing a huge, and very difficult job, but it didn’t feel like it because we weren’t getting paid for it. This is a real struggle for a lot of people and I’ve seen it in myself in my writing and coaching.
What I’ve realized for me is that I’m reluctant to define myself as a writer and as a coach because that’s not how I earn my paycheck yet. If people ask what I do, I say “Oh, I’m an HR Director, and I’m kind of a writer…but I haven’t been published yet.” As though I need to reassure my audience that I am not trying to deceive them about my writerly-ness. And yes, I know that this is sad, and untrue! I’ve coached others out of this false belief, but it astounds me how persistent it is. When we moved to Washington last year, I met a woman through a friend of a friend and thought she seemed really cool so I friended her on Facebook. There I found out she was a successful, published author. I hadn’t read any of her work so I binge read all of her books and loved them! I had no trouble telling her how wonderful her writing was but there was no WAY I was going to tell her that I write too. Everyone who knew about the situation asked me why. There were a few reasons but mostly I was embarrassed that I hadn’t been published. I felt disqualified to tell her I was a writer because no one had yet deemed my writing publishable. I went through this when I was getting my coaching certification as well. I would NOT call myself a coach until my own coach realized this and called me on it. She said if I coach others I am a coach. Period.
Obviously much of this is my own stuff, still getting a measure of validation through others despite years of work on this, but I don’t think I’m alone in it. So my challenge to myself this week, and to you too if this resonates, is to stop qualifying. If you are writing, you’re a writer! This week if someone asks me what I do I will say “I’m a writer! (And I also Direct an HR Department)”