More Than You See Podcast episode 3.12 - Mental Health & Identity: Your Profession & Your Passions
7:27AM Feb 22, 2022
Hello, everyone, thank you so much for joining me for another episode of More Than You See podcast hosted by me, actor, filmmaker mental health advocate Deborah Lee Smith. Every Monday just like this one, I come to you to share some resources, have a conversation, and generally just dive into all sorts of topics around mental health. I am not a licensed practitioner or therapist, but just a woman exploring my own mental health journey and sharing it with you, my listeners, my hope is that this podcast brings you some joy, some understanding and some tools so that you can build your own mental health toolbox.
Hello everyone! Thanks again for joining me for another episode of the podcast, we have two episodes left of the season, and then we are going to be taking a short hiatus. But I'm really excited about these last two episodes. Last week, or two weeks ago shall I say, we talked about identity and how it relates to depression and sadness, and how we can often say, and easily identify that we are sad. But sometimes we have difficulty sharing that we're actually feeling depressed and what the differences are between those two things, and the importance of embracing your identity, but also really honing in on what depression is versus what sadness is. And I think that this is really important as we continue to destigmatize mental health that we really name things for what they are, but also examine this idea that we can have a myriad of different emotions at different times in our lives. And sometimes we can feel sad, but not depressed, and vice versa. I went into all that kind of stuff on the last episode.
And today we are going to talk some more about identity. In particular, we're going to talk about the labels that we put upon ourselves and upon others, when specifically we are directly dealing with mental health. But we're also going to be talking about one of our biggest identifiers which is our job, and how our profession - and how we label our profession - and in relation to us how much that takes up our identity, and how that can be really quite damaging. So that's what we're going to talk about today. And then next week, as a final episode of the season, I've got a really exciting additional conversation about identity.
And as I mentioned, in the last episode, each episode is going to focus on a resource. So last episode, we focused on a quiz that you can take in order to identify whether or not you are clinically depressed. And this week, I'm going to share a couple different articles from Psychology Today that are specifically around identity and mental health.
Now I want to start off today's episode specifically talking about identity and whether or not we can over identify ourselves in relation to our symptoms or our diagnosis. For example, if you go through something really traumatic, whether that be a life event, or the death of a family member, which is a life event, but you know, any kind of thing that is that causes tragedy or just causes any kind of big shift in your life, that will then maybe cause some symptoms of depression. You know, grief, loneliness, and being on unable to sleep, anything like that, that is a symptom. And sometimes we can over identify ourselves as being labeled by that symptom. So saying, and I am certainly have this issue where I will, someone will ask me how I am. And my default will just be I'm tired. And of course, there's a lot more to myself my personal identity than the fact that I'm tired. But that's just like, an easy thing that you can, you know, go back to similarly, if you were, for example, going through a breakup or going through a divorce, there's often that you know, feeling or that gut reaction from someone that you're talking to where they automatically feel like are you okay? Are you still in grief? And so you are being labeled as someone in grief, whether or not you are or not.
And that's something I've talked about in a previous episode, this idea of really identifying where people are and meeting people where they are instead of putting our own ideas of the situation on someone else. So really, you know, separating those two things. I know personally, it's one of the biggest struggles that I had when I was processing my divorce and going through this change in my own identity from someone who was married to someone who was single. My therapist would ask me all the time, who am I? Who am I outside of this relationship? Who am I? Besides being a partner to this other person. And that was something that I really struggled with for a very long time. And she, we would play this exercise all the time where she would say, you know, tell me something about yourself, that has nothing to do with who you were as a partner, or how your partner saw you just like who you are separate from that. And I think that that's just an important exercise for everyone to do, where it's like, who are you outside of identifiers - outside of things that people label you.
And something that my therapist reminded me about is like, who you are - part of your identity - could be simple things. It could be what your favorite book is. It can be what your favorite flavor of ice cream is. It could be do you prefer dogs, or cats. Like, all of those things have nothing to do with how you show up in the world. That is just little tidbits that are part of your identity. And it's so important to, for us to cling to those things. Because even if you are feeling depressed, even if you are in a mental health crisis of some kind, those little identifiers are, who you are separate from, how you're feeling, and what is currently plaguing you or going on in your life at that moment.
Now, one of the biggest things that we identify under or that we identify as, especially in Western culture, is what our profession is. And I really wanted to touch on this, in this, you know, three arc episode about identity. And I mentioned it last week as well, because I think that we kind of label our identity and cling to that profession as part of our identity more than we cling to any other aspect of our identity. Like someone will ask you what you do for a living over what you like to do for fun. Like, you know, the default is always what do you do? And what is your profession? And I think that it makes sense, because it does say a lot about you. But you can also have a profession that isn't necessarily how you like spending your time. There's this idea between like, are you working to live or are you living to work, and there's no wrong in either of those, I know that I identify with one of those more than the other. But that's just part of my identity. But that doesn't make up my entire identity. That's not who I am.
So I really wanted to have this conversation about profession and how it relates to identity because I think that we can get so tied to our profession, and our profession being our passion. We have this idea in this country, in particular that you need to follow your passion in order to succeed, in order to be happy, in order to feel most fulfilled. And I would like to kibosh that idea, because there is more to you than what you do. And you potentially could have a passion that is not what you do for money. I know that that is very much something that I identify with right now.
I have a lot of passions right now that do not mean money, that I have to do other things in order to survive, in order to pay my bills. And there's a TED Talk that I'm going to link in the show notes that I think is also very, very important. And I would encourage everyone to listen to this TED talk. It's called "Stop Searching for Your Passion". The speaker is Terry Trespa CEO. And basically what she talks about is why this idea of finding your passion is damaging to our culture, especially because this idea that we focus on one thing is our passion instead of again, looking at this full identity. Like, who you are, and what your passion could be today could be very different what your passion is, in a couple weeks, or a couple years, we all evolve and change. But we expect our passions to stay the same. And that is not realistic. That doesn't make any sense. And that's what this TED talk is really about is about, you know, challenging that idea that we just have one passion that we're supposed to be pursuing in our lives, and instead saying what lights you up right now, because that is the thing that's the most important what is part of your identity right now.
Now let's relate this back to mental health because obviously that is what all of our conversations are about. And the reason why I think identifying this with mental health is so important is because I know for myself, I often feel like I am failing in life when I am not earning money or feeling successful in my passion when I feel the most depressed, oppressed, and hopeless - and feel like I am struggling mentally - it is directly tied to not feeling like I'm living up to the expectations that I put upon myself. And I am very blatantly saying that I know these are expectations put upon myself. They're not put upon by anyone else. And I think that that's why it's so important for us to be able to identify those things that are causing us distress, and be able to say, "is pursuing this passion, causing me happiness or causing me distress". I think this idea is perfectly explained in another Psychology Today article that I'm going to link in the show notes. It's called "You Are Not Your Work: How to Escape Workism and Reclaim Your Identity". And one of the quotes in this article that I think is so important, says, "If you tie your self-worth to your career, the successes and failures you experience will directly affect your self-worth." And I think that that perfectly encapsulates everything that I'm saying today in this idea that if we tie our identity to our passions, if we tie our identity to our profession more than anything else, we have the damaging potential that it is going to cause us to feel like we are not worthy, and that our identity, therefore is not worthy. And of course, that has a huge impact on our mental health.
I think that's why, you know, people always say that it's important to like, have other passions - have other things that, you know, have some hobbies. But I think that it's just really important to draw these direct parallels between our identity, and not tie our identity so clearly to something that is a struggle. And of course, I know, as a filmmaker, and as an actor, that this is something I struggle with, on a weekly basis. But I am constantly trying to remind myself that I have so many other aspects of myself that are important, and that there's so many other components of me, that make up my identity. And by focusing on these other aspects of my identity, it allows me to show up more fully in the world. And it also allows me to show up with more mental clarity and release some baggage and lack of self-worth and self confidence in a lot of ways.
So everyone's homework for this week is that I would strongly encourage everyone to listen to this TED talk. It really was very thought provoking for me. And if you like her, she actually does have a book that just came out. That's how I discovered her. And I would also encourage you to think about the question, Who am I? Who are you outside of your mental health diagnosis, outside of any symptoms that you're feeling from tragedies or different things going on in your life? Who are you at your core, and if you would like to share some different aspects of yourself, I would love to hear from you. I would love to listen.
Please follow me on all of the platforms and share and subscribe and all of the things. My usual little plug because I'm really excited to have this conversation next Monday. It's about a book that I think has been really transformational and I highly encourage everyone to read it over this hiatus period while I will be taking a little bit of a break from the podcast.
Please remember that you and everyone around you is more than you see. Thank you so much for listening, everyone. I really look forward to chatting with you again for the season finale of season three next week.