6 mins read

If I’m not my job who am I?

Identity crisis in COVID-19


Yes I appreciate we are all more than just the job we do, but what if our job is ‘who we are’ and it is our ‘why’? What if we have been fortunate enough to find the job that ‘fulfils’ us? And now we have been furloughed. Or you are a sole trader, consultant, entrepreneur who’s clients have been furloughed!


“The construct of ‘work’ has disappeared over the course of a few days perhaps even over night for some”


Lockdown and some Crude Maths

On the 23rd March 202o, the UK went into official lockdown, for some it may have started sooner (for me it was the 18 March). Now 3–4 weeks in we may well be having a ‘crisis of identity’ – You may well be finding yourself contemplating this thought…


“Without my job I’m not entirely sure who I am”!

Shappi Khorsandi (Comedian, Author and Independent Columnist)

In an article written on the 20th March, just 2 days after the ‘official’ lockdown Shappie wrote in her column..


“Never have I been so grateful to have this column. It is literally the only work I have at the moment; I’m typing really slowly to make it last.”

In this article Shappi shares an honest appraisal of her current situation and makes the point that she is hanging on to this column almost as an anchor into her-‘self’ (perhaps her previous self).


Why is this ‘crisis of identity’ happening… lets do some maths (conservative math):


  • In a 24hrs day
  • Lets say you sleep for 7hrs (I know some of you sleep less)
  • That means your waking time is 17hrs
  • Of which 10hrs is likely to be work (and I know lots of you work more)
  • The remaining 7hrs is everything else (eating, relaxing, family time etc)

If you do work a 10hr day (including travel) that means over 60% of your daily life is defined by work. No wonder you are having a ‘crisis of identity’ if this has been taken away from you.

Even if you hated your job – your job gave you structure, it provided a rhythm for your day, it gave you a start, a middle and an end. It helped you manage your time (as little as you may have felt you had), it helped box your life. It contributed to your ‘sense of self’.


What once shaped your week has gone

The things which shaped your day, your week, even your month – like socialising with friends, family outings, hobbies (out of the home) have been taken away.

With these things gone, it is likely that your are asking yourself some ‘deeper’ more ‘searching’ questions. If not you may be in the stage before this – which is ‘denial’ (perhaps even unconscious denial).

Inside your new found time, without the structures which you knew (and could draw safety from) you may be questioning ‘who you are’ and ‘what you want from life’.

Where your mind had previously been distracted from paying attention to this you are now drawn to answering the question – who am I:


  • Beyond what I do for work
  • Beyond what I do for my family
  • Beyond what I do for friends …even
  • Beyond what I do for me (now the world is different)


A deeper personal look

Lockdown has changed our everyday life, especially those of us either not working or working in a form very different to before (whilst now owning the role of. full time ‘parent educator’.

That’s me, a single dad (widowed), living 24–7 with my 6 year old daughter. There is no escape for either of us beyond the fence of our garden or the walls of a room opposite or above us. If we fall out (which we have) there is no grandma to run to, there are no friends to play with (unless you count the online conversation).


“The ‘who am I’ question has definitely visited me, and continues to (and I’m guess it will be there for sometime)”

I pride myself on being a father 1st and everything else second. But that’s when I was a father before and after school and on weekends. Now I am SCHOOL… well ‘homeschool’.

As father, parent educator and business owner (still working) things are different. Much different. Emotion are higher and life is in continual tension, everything is a sacrifices (not always in a bad way)…


  • To be a present father, education and work steps back
  • To be a parent educator, being a father has emotion and work stops
  • To be a business owner, being present as a father steps back and a different type of eduction occurs (one self propelled & unguided)


What have I learnt since 18th March 2020

This is not an exhaustive list and focuses on me and work – there is a whole other list which is about me as a ‘father’ and me as a ‘parent educator’ (feel free to get in touch to chat about those elements)…


Dragging your old world into your ‘current now’

Simple don’t, every time I do this it doesn’t work. The pattern of work, the manner of thinking, the medium for communicating, they all fitted within the ‘old’ normal. We are in a new world of operating now. And yes it does feel like dragging… like a heavy weight, I’ve had to question why am I doing this. My only answer – because its what I did before. So I’ve STOPPED!


The nothingness day

This may or may not come for you, but it landed with me on 11 April. A little over 3 weeks into lockdown and I think I hit the bottom of the curve (see Bridges Transitions Model below). I’d gone through the anger, denial, even fear and was now in ‘sadness’ and was entering ‘apathy’. Or as the youth may put it ‘meh’ – a lack of interest or enthusiasm.


Source: courtesy of Daniel Lock Consulting with my timeline added

See chosen nothingness is great, its an opportunity to chill, but forced nothingness, thats just a pain. My advice SULK IT OUT’ ride the wave that this emotion gives you. Don’t fill the void, FEEL the void. Let nothingness play out, otherwise you will skip a stage and may well be drawn back to it.


Motivation vs Discipline (or Commitment)

I was reminded by some old and new friends that motivation does not mean you have permission to stop. Motivation is emotion lead and lives in moments, some longer than others. Discipline and Commitment (to your cause) is what gets you through.

So as much as I haven’t wanted to do stuff I have. I have run 10km with a frown, I have filed my admin and shredded my old case folders with a grimace and I have played games with my child with false laughter and forced smiles (I think she knew daddy was sad – extra cuddles were given).


Redefine you but BEing transient

Yep we are on the up, but with it taking note that the ‘new’ me and how I operate is transitional. The new structure of our day, the routine, the methodology are only relevant for a short period of time and things around us will change, therefore we must. And this dynamic environment is the ‘new normal’ for a while.

What I was happily managing last week as a routine or structure to the day does not work this week. My message to myself (and you) –


“I am not to get mad or angry with this. I am not to feel sad or be in denial but I am to accept the confusion as being ok (it is). I am to find myself in the disorientated spaces (metaphorically and physical), frustration may exist but often that is an opportunity for learning and may well be a gift in disguise.”


In closing

We are only part way through this curve, yes we are on the up but we don’t know the steepness of the curve or the pace of the change. I say..


“Be careful to wish for your ‘old’ life back – parts of this life may not have been good for you”

My advice – live this experience. Really live it. Feel it, express it in conversation, narrate it in a diary. Let this be your sense making space! It will become clearer as you go….


Kurt Ewald Lindley – Exploring my identity as a father, parent educator and business owner