XII – Anchors III: Status & Identity

12_Anchors III_Status & Identity

“The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, person and family history, belief systems, and often nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.”  Eckhart Tolle

“A urgência de agarrar, qualquer coisa para mostrar
Que afinal nós também temos mão na vida
Mesmo que seja à custa de a vivermos fingida
O estatuto para impressionar o mundo
Não precisa de ser mais profundo
Um marasmo que nos atordoa.” Jorge Palma


Who am I? This classical and philosophical question is best answered nowadays by stating one’s current occupation. I’m a gardener, a stay at home mum, a doctor, a teacher, a collector, a soldier, an entrepreneur, a singer, etc.

It’s easy to identify ourselves by our employment, but the truth is we are all much more than that. We’re parents, sons, sisters, brothers, daughters, friends, partners. We’re curious and courageous beings, searching and eager for growth. We are people who want to add value and significance.

We usually identify what we do by our job title. Up until recently when asked by someone I just met “What do you do, Diogo?” my inclination was to respond with my job title – I always hated this question (especially after finishing my degree), as it felt intrusive and for someone you just met, not really necessary to know. Almost like asking someone you just met what their favourite sexual position is.

Social unwritten law decrees that, whoever asks this question wants to know what you do for a living. How you earn a pay check. They want to know your degree of education, how much money you make, they want to infer your social status based on that imagined number and place/label you somewhere either above or below in the social ladder.

Answering this question has been a lot easier with the advice from Joshua Fields Millburn. He makes a good point saying that you can pretty much answer with anything you want, ‘I drink water, I eat and breathe’, we all do a lot of things. But my absolute favourite is one where he turns the conversation to a whole new direction by answering what you’re passionate about.

I tried it out, for the first time, the other day while having a massage. The masseuse asked me “So, what do you do?”, to which I answered “I do a whole heap of things, but what I’m most passionate about is my family, heading to the beach, eating well and surfing. How about you? What are you passionate about?”

It was awesome – I found out that the guy is incredibly passionate about dancing as he went on about the different styles he has been taking lessons on. He also worked 8 years as a video game programmer for Xbox, Playstation and the like. The massage wasn’t that great but he has only been working on this new interest of his for 18 months now.

The truth is I don’t share many interests with the guy, but I got to know that. I got to know that because I turned the direction of the conversation to a very personal level. I turned the question to a subject that people like to talk about – what their passionate about. And people aren’t usually passionate about their work – at least I know I’m not. If I had responded with my daily occupation the conversation would surely have died there.

How about you? What part does your job title/ field of study, play in identifying who you are? Who are you? What part does ‘Status’ play in your life? Your society? How do you identify yourself?

So, what do you do?


3 thoughts on “XII – Anchors III: Status & Identity

  1. “It’s easy to identify ourselves by our employment, but the truth is we are all much more than that.”

    What a beautiful line 🙂

    As a fellow fan of The Minimalists, I really appreciated this post. It’s awesome that you asked the massage therapist about his passions, allowing him to define himself as something other than his job. Beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I make up stuff, contraptions. That’s is lucky of me, as it describes both what I do at work and off-work!
    I really hate titles, how do you answer people asking you if you are an engineer clearly for the purpose of knowing how to address you ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Since you hate titles and have a clear answer for what it is that you do, you can answer something like: “Engineer? Naaah, I’m just Alex, the curious, environmentally friendly inventor. Since I’m extremely passionate about the environment, and making up things, I create contraptions and tools that help me in my goals of leaving the tiniest carbon print possible and becoming increasingly self-sufficient. I’m also extremely passionate about amateur radio. What about you? What are you passionate about?”

      Your answer and follow up questions will take the conversation to a personal level and the search for a title will hopefully be forgotten. Since you opened up on a very personal level, the person already knows a little more about you and so they will put the formalities in the background.

      If they insist on knowing if you’re an engineer you can always be clear about your preferences, “Yeah, I got a degree in engineering but the name’s Alex, not Mr. Eng. Alex”

      You can always answer something like this straight away, if you’re not keen to expose your passions to a particular individual.

      Thanks for your comments and questions. They help a lot!!
      Keep them coming!


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