Personal Work Identity

Culturally supported beliefs, aimed at able-bodied individuals, focus on individualism and not needing help. Examples of some familiar culturally supported beliefs include: work hard and don’t quit; work your entire life; don’t let other people down; don’t depend on others; don’t ask for help; and if you have a problem, solve it yourself. Of course, while we often strive to be self-sufficient and work hard, such rigid beliefs are difficult to sustain, and can lead to feelings of guilt or a sense of failure if we do not meet such high expectations. Learning to take breaks and identify ways to reduce unnecessary stress may include knowing when to ask for help.

Living with MS can challenge one’s personal identity and clash with workplace norms.

  • Attachment to roles can be mistaken as a definition of self; if someone is no longer able to move through the world the same way, with the same title, he or she can lose a sense of connection and purpose.
  • Type A personalities (less-relaxed individuals who are always busy and feeling a sense of urgency) struggle to let go of constantly working, being on the move, and getting things done. If the rhythm changes, it can lead to a great sense of loss.
  • Individuals need to consider their comfort level with disclosing their disability to people at work and understanding why it would or would not be helpful to disclose their needs to others. For instance, having an ally at work when feeling stressed can be helpful, while telling someone who gossips can make someone feel threatened or vulnerable.
  • Individualism is paramount, yet in so many ways, humans are interdependent. They may not acknowledge or realize how much they may actually need others in order to perform many of their activities. As we move through our days, systems of people are in place, providing resources to keep us going. For example, farmers harvest food for our meals, mechanics keep our cars running, vendors sell products we need (and want!), schools educate and care for our children, and transportation departments keep the roads accessible and functioning. Without these hidden and expected services, our independence would look quite different.

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