How to Build a Life: A Profession Is Not a Personality


“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks in ‘Atlantic’ an American magazine and multi-platform publisher, founded in 1857. Mr. Brooks is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and senior fellow at the Harvard Business School. His column deals with tools needed to re-construct a meaningful life amid today’s shifting priorities.    

This summary attempts to provide an insight to one of the topicsA Profession Is Not a Personality” carried on September 30, 2021.


Self-Objectification vs. Happiness

The point Aurther C. Brooks tries to drive home in the column is lowering ourselves to one typical trait or quality, whether it is a designation or job performance, is an extremely damaging behavior. Many of us label ourselves as workaholics and carve their way to success. In the process they self-objectify themselves as architects of their respective organizations. They also believe that they are highly indispensable. Do we self-objectify ourselves in a job or career? If so, let us retrospect by answering the following, with honesty:

  • Is our profession the prime measure of our personality?
  • How do we introduce ourselves?
  • What are our priorities – Work, family & relationships?
  • Did we sacrifice love, friendship, or starting a family to nurture professional goals?
  • Are we happy hanging around work-station rather home?
  • Are we paranoid of taking a career break?

Towards ‘Enmeshment’

While answering the above questions, let us understand how Psychologists use the term “enmeshment”. The term describes a situation where individual identities lose importance as the margins between people grow thinner. Enmeshment results in undermining self- interests and holds back an individual’s personal development as he or she would be obsessed with identifying oneself with a designation, affiliation or a role in an Organization. It is not a crime to love our profession till we become susceptible to an aching identity crisis. One must make sure not to fall prey to a burn out, anxiety or depression owing to self-objectification.

Let us remember that in case we are trapped in “enmeshment”, it is challenging to lead a happy and satisfied life. We must inculcate a habit to identify ourselves by what we are, rather than what we do. Therefore, what we do is an extension of what we are. To stay happy, perhaps, two practices can help:

  • Allot quality time for ourselves and
  • Nurture new hobbies and relationships


To conclude, let us try to be ourselves rather portraying to be special-beings. In the never-ending race of being identified by a specific title, profession, career, we are missing beautiful aspects of life, such as love, laughter, friendships, relationships and life, at large. We can make an attempt to stop reducing ourselves to a single characteristic and understand how magnanimous a human being can be. Nevertheless, we can build a more balanced and robust identity in line with our values if we are willing to create some space and make friends who do not see us as professional objects.

Learners’ Opportunity

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Discussion Question

Have you ever felt that your professional life is affecting your personal life? Give three examples

Key Words


Source Article By Arthur C. Brooks- SEPTEMBER 30, 2021- A Profession Is Not a Personality-The Atlantic