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What You Do Is Not Who You Are

Building a community that matters
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Years ago, I lost a job, and it was devastating. Not only because of the financial implications but also because my identity had become so woven into the work. The role had become an integral part of who I was, and it was unnerving to realize that I had placed so much emphasis on seeing myself solely through a lens of what I did for a living. I’m so grateful for a community that offered support, guidance, and grace during a difficult season to remind me that I am so much more—I am a seeker, a learner, and a connector. I am more than my 9 to 5. 

While working on my Ph.D., I saw this same pattern in the women that were a part of my research group. One of the ladies lost her job as a director and without this role, she was influx in determining not only who she was but also how others would view her. It’s in these experiences that we are forced to reckon with our identities being so much more than what we do but recognizing the vastness that embodies each of us—it is embracing the breadth and depth of our lived experiences that shape us. If the time is taken to truly discover who you are, you will discover the uniqueness that you bring to the world and that no one can be like you. 

Building Community and Connections Are Important

Part of understanding our identity is recognizing the importance of community. When we isolate ourselves, we are unable to see the totality of who we are. Our community can reflect to us who we are, remind us of our greatness, and even help us see the blind spots that prevent us from recognizing those areas we’ve suppressed.  

Recently, I posted a video about the importance of connections. As much as self-care is important, I think we miss so many opportunities to heal when we allow ourselves to be in community. There is power in our fellowship and our conversations. There is power in our narratives. Listening to the testimonies and journeys of others can inspire us, empower us, and affirm us. Our healing can also be found in our relationships. Building connection and community is critical. It is important in many ways, especially for our mental health. 

In an article in The New York Times newsletter, The Morning, writer Melissa Kirsch shares about the importance of our time and spending it with those who matter. So often we commit to events, meetings, and even people we don’t want to because we feel obligated. Instead of using our time to spend with those who enhance our lives, we are wasting precious time with those who drain and deplete us. Kirsch quotes a colleague: “Spending time with friends you feel ambivalent about—because they’re unreliable, critical, competitive, or any of the many reasons people get under our skin—can be bad for your health.” 

The impact of COVID-19 is still being realized especially as it relates to our mental health. In a recent interview on the topic of grief for Guidely, a transformational membership community, I discussed how the isolation and loneliness that many experienced has impacted a significant amount of the population, and for some, this adaptation has now become normalized. Kirsch further states, “A 2010 meta-analysis found that loneliness is “as harmful to physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Just as it is problematic to spend time with those who add little to no value to our lives, being alone is also detrimental to our wellbeing. Fellowship is important for our joy, peace, longevity and reminding us that who we are is beyond what we do.

Examining Your Network—Remove Toxicity

We don’t always understand the power of our networks. It is a resource, and making sure that it is an asset is critical. Social capital is a necessity. We all have it, but it is important to think about how we are leveraging our relationships. Are there individuals who are missing from your life or others who you need to create space and distance?

Social capital involves our networks, associations, and relationships. At the core of social capital is trust. Just as money or our education are forms of capital that can be used to make things happen, our relationships also can either elevate or expel us from opportunities. Relationships flourish when there is trust and the willingness to collaborate. When there is jealousy, envy, gossip, slander, or even hatred, there is division and discord—there is no trust. And yet, many people will continue to befriend those they don’t like or feel they must include. Sometimes, we can’t remove those individuals from our lives completely, but we can create boundaries that protect us from those who bring drama and negativity to our space. 

How Can You Build a Community that Matters?
  • We tend to attract who we are. If you want individuals who are reliable, caring, and dedicated, it’s important to embody those characteristics. We can’t demand what we are not willing to be or become.
  • Building a personal board of directors is essential. Just as organizations select board members with various characteristics for guidance and perspective, you need to make sure that you create a team of advisors who speak into your life.  
  • The goal isn’t to have individuals that totally agree with you but to challenge you to be your best. So often, we connect with those just like us and that only reinforces who we are and can be limiting. How can you make sure that you are building a network that isn’t just safe but one that challenges you to be more than what you do but can see the potential and possibilities that exist in you? 
About The Author
Froswa Booker-Drew, Ph.D.

Froswa provides coaching and group facilitation through Guidely, an intelligent personal development platform, connecting people seeking healing, inspiration, and answers with experts who help transform their lives. In addition, she is the host of the Tapestry podcast, the author of four books, an adjunct professor at Tulane University, and president of Soulstice Consultancy. Join the Guidely Community and visit Froswa’s profile for more information.