19 Signs Your Job Is Stealing Your Identity

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May 30, 2024 at 5:2PM UTC

Among the many teachings the writer Toni Morrison gave us, in the wake of her recent passing in August, wisdom she shared on work-life balance began making its rounds on social media. 

“Whatever the work is, do it well — not for your boss, but for yourself,” the much-circulated post reads. “You make the job; it doesn’t make you. Your real life is with us, your family. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.” 

If your involvement with your work has led you to question the validity of any of the above statements, it’s possible your job has begun to steal your identity. And, in a hyper-capitalist society that tends to value production over all else, you wouldn’t be alone in experiencing this loss. Below, here are the 19 signs your job is consuming way too much of your identity. 

1. Your family or friends are making comments about seeing you less. 

Even worse: They've stopped inviting you to certain events and activities, because they know you'll say you "have to work."

2. Your job features prominently in your dreams.

And/or the quality of your sleep is decreasing, too.

3. You feel too busy at work to justify taking a break.

Eat lunch away from your desk? People do that?

4. Your productivity is suffering, despite the number of hours you put in. 

You know that you're working a ton, but when you compare it against what you feel you've actually accomplished, there's a disconnect.

5. The Sunday Scaries have become especially severe.

What for some people is a joking expression feels oh-so real to you.

6. You can’t stop thinking about work, even during supposed “downtime.” 

There are few to no activities you can do "just for fun" without thoughts of "that one thing" you still need to do for work creeping up. 

7. You cancel social plans, often.

And people expect it of you, too. 

8. The last thing you do before bed has to do with work. 

"Hopping back online" for a couple hours — or any amount of time at all — has become far too-regular a part of your nighttime routine.

9. You check your work email or Slack notifications obsessively.

And you have push notifications enabled, too.

10. You can’t remember the last time you were totally, 100% off on a weekend. 

But actually — no clue when the last time was that this happened.

11. You struggle to think of any personal goals you’re working toward in life. 

The goals you're supposed to be hitting for work, on the other hand, you can recite in a heartbeat. 

12. You’re consistently one of the first and/or last people in the office. 

You know the rough time that most of your coworkers get to and leave the office, because you're always there to witness it. 

13. You’re edgier and more irritable, and you’re not sure why.

You realize that you've begun to become a generally snappier person, which feels untrue to who you are. 

14. You’ve given up a hobby you love because there “isn’t enough time” for it. 

You'll pick back up Hobbies A and B again soon, though, "when there's time."

15. Your physical health is suffering. 

Headaches and tense or sore muscles have become a daily reality.

16. If you were given a completely free day tomorrow, you have no idea how you’d use it. 

Your use of time has become so oriented around work that conceiving of a day without it is difficult. 

17. You’re constantly at least a little afraid of being fired. 

And that anxiety drives your need to produce even more for your company.

18. The idea of attending a 6 p.m. event (that doesn’t have to do with work) on a weeknight feels unfathomable. 

L.O.L. Yeah, sure you'll make it to that sporting event that starts while the sun is still up.

19. You talk about work non-stop, and you notice you’ve started slipping work-isms into everyday conversations. 

"Circling back" and "ROI" have begun to worm their way into your conversations with friends — who also know every last detail about your boss, that project you're working on, and the latest annoying thing Coworker X did.

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