People tend to pin who they are on what they do and on what people think of what they do. This is true whether a person works for pay or works at home caring for a family. Identity gets tied to activity. We think we are what we do. And the better we do it, the better version of ourselves we think we become.
This kind of thinking leads either to despairing perfectionism or a sense of pointlessness. At some point we’ll look down that ladder and find we are no happier where we are now than we were at the bottom. Society tends to applaud architects more than waiters, so we assume that a better career will give life more meaning. But careers can fall as fast as they rise, so they are poor foundations for any lasting peace.
Sometimes we think that if we could just perfect our work—or at least the image of our work that others have of it—then maybe we could finally quiet the storms of doubt in our heads. But that’s a false hope too. There is no perfecting our work because there is no perfecting us.
Finding peace in identity and purpose means finding something deeper than work to base it all on. We have to find a truth and a reality that goes beyond what we do or how we present ourselves to the world. We have to find an identity that gives meaning to our activity, not the other way around. We definitely need a purpose higher than the opinions and likes of others.