The first time I heard about workism, I thought it was the act and process of doing work. If you feel same way, I am so comforted right now that I am not the only one that thinks everything that ends with –ism is referencing to the process of the root word.
Workism is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production but also the centrepiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.
Workism promises identity, community and transcendence and this is where a lot of people – creatives – get it wrong. They believe their work gives their life social legitimacy and as such, they become tied to the work that they do
The idea that your identity is tied to your work is a very limiting one. I can trace this idea to the question we were asked as kids – “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
As innocent as this question seems to be, we subconsciously begin to tie our being to that singular thing we want to be. This is why a lot of creatives find it very difficult to accept feedback – criticism – on their work. They feel bruised when you say to them that, “I do not like the outcome of this. Can you rework”
To them, it seems as though you are saying, “You do not know how to do your job.” The singular fact that you are not your work and your work is not you is liberating. It helps you separate the whole of you from a part of you.
Your work is only but a part of you. You can make something terrible but it doesn’t mean that you are terrible. You can be a bad cook but it doesn’t mean you are a bad person.
Your self-identity must be defined by who you are as an individual and not as the work that you put out. You must understand that a meaningful life is wholesome. When someone doesn’t like your work, it doesn’t mean they hate you.
However, I won’t be naïve of those who go the extreme to attack your person with the disguise that they are criticizing your work. In my previous article, I mentioned that you should only take feedback from the man in the mud. Your work should never define who you are – do not ever allow it.
When you create an astounding work that attracts praises, you must also be careful not to cross the divide line. It is both ways. If you are able to separate yourself from your work when work is successful, you won’t find it difficult to separate yourself from work when work is a failure.
You can be a very bad person and still produce astounding work. You can also be a very good person and produce very bad work. Your job is to always strive to understand why the work you did was good or bad and find ways to either replicate or improve on it. This quote by Fred Wilson paints the picture better
“You can be brilliant while still making work that isn’t, particularly if you understand why the work that wasn’t great wasn’t great.”
To do this successfully, you need to detach your identity from your work. The moment you fail to detach your identity from your work, it becomes very hard to learn from it and move forward.
I hope you found this useful.