Identity tied up in work? How to know if it’s holding your career back

Feb 1, 2024

What happens when you’re established in your career, known as a lawyer, accountant, financial advisor (or insert what you do)… And suddenly, you’re not in this role anymore?

It can feel like you’ve lost your identity and leave you questioning your abilities — and value.

You may be asking yourself: Who am I without the fancy title or organisation? Or: What will people think?

Whether you’ve stepped away from a career you’ve worked in for years or are taking a career break (even if by choice). Or you’re considering making a shift from a profession you’re known for and are noticing a lot of fear coming up.

Having experienced all the above, I understand how challenging it can be. Which is exactly why I’m sharing how this holds you back in your career — and what’s really keeping you stuck.

Here are my 3 go-to practices to get unstuck and create the career you want with certainty, ease and confidence.


When this happens, it’s because your self-worth is tied up in work. I notice this in clients who are reluctant to reach out to their network to explore potential career paths or opportunities. Not because they lack the confidence to do it, but because they’re worried what others will think now they’re no longer in this prestigious role or sought after company.

I’ve also seen this come up in clients who want to make a change. There’s a fear if they step away from their current career — even if it’s what they want — they’ll be throwing everything away.

But here’s the truth. You can never throw away ALL the skills and experience you’ve gained in your career to date. And you can’t lose who you are as a person — your unique qualities, strengths and all you’ve done and achieved.

In fact, you’ll take all of who you are and everything you’ve accomplished with you and will apply it to any role or career you do next.


So if you’re finding yourself in a situation like this, notice if your identity is tied up in work. And if so, make sure you’re taking steps to build your self-worth. Here are my 3 go-to practices:


One of the best ways to boost your sense of self-worth is to get clear on your unique strengths. The things which come naturally to you, your point of difference and value you have to offer. But these can be difficult to spot on your own if you don’t see them as strengths — or assume everyone has this gift or talent too.

This is why I recommend asking a few key people you trust what top 3 qualities they most admire in you. What do they perceive to be your unique strengths? Often, the people who know you best will see the things you can’t.

Because when you know your unique strengths, you will develop your self-worth.


Another approach is to look for evidence of your past achievements. I’m talking testimonials or LinkedIn recommendations from clients, positive feedback from past performance reviews or 360° assessments, any awards and other forms of recognition.

It’s normal to experience self-doubt when making (or considering) a big shift in your career. Your brain is designed to keep you safe and will trigger a fear response whenever you’re about to step outside your comfort zone. But the more evidence it sees of your past achievements, the more you will reduce these fears and doubts.

The bottom-line? When you give your brain the evidence it needs, you will build your self-worth.


Growing your self-worth requires you to change how you see and what you believe about yourself. Self-compassion is the antidote to low self-worth. Dr Kristin Neff, describes self-compassion as “treating yourself with the same kindness and care that you’d show to a good friend.”

Write down the personal qualities you most admire in yourself. Use this structure: I am creative, I am committed, I am courageous, substituting the qualities which best describe you. Look beyond your status or job title and get clear on what makes YOU unique as a human being.

This is a powerful self-compassion practice and when done daily, it helps to build your self-worth. Because when you realise what you do is not who you are… you will create the career you want with certainty, ease and confidence.

These tips have helped my clients and I develop our self-worth and create a healthier separation between our careers and identities. I hope they support you too!

Want to develop your self-worth and create the career you want with confidence?

Book a free, no obligation 30 minute call with me and let’s discuss the best option to support you! Get started HERE.

Stacey Back is a globally recognised and certified career coach, speaker and facilitator. She helps high-achievers at a career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms. Stacey works virtually with individuals and organisations based across the globe.