Recession Mama

{September 6, 2009}   GUEST POST: Is Your Identity Defined by What You Do Professionally?

Today’s guest post is from Jim Hart.  He is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The International Theatre Academy Norway, and The Hart Technique.  You can get more info about him and other inspiring articles on how to get to where you wish to go creatively at


A lot of people define their sense of self, based on what they do for a living. Artists are notorious for this. They think of themselves as, “I am an actor” “I am a dancer” “I am a writer”, etc. Tricky thing about such a line of thinking is–that if you are not working, what are you then? Of course, each of us is more than the titles we wear. But many artists are so passionate about their art and medium that they wear their medium title (actor, painter, dancer, musician, etc) as a cloak, which gives them their sense of self. Defining one’s identity in what one does can lead to identity crises, as they change with time and mature. For such individuals, I encourage them to not identify themselves only via the type of medium they practice, but, rather, as Artists–Creative Artists, at that. One may be a creative artist who acts or paints or does photography or…all of the above, simultaneously. I believe that artists are artists are artists. Every artist creates from the same place–we simply have different tools to express ourselves. Some of us use our bodies, some film equipment, some computers, etc. Mastering technique in one form or discipline will enable one to pick up other mediums of artistry. When we hop mediums, we need only learn the new tools or “rules” of the medium. Another tricky thing about identifying oneself as, say, “an actor”, is that it can cause the artist to mentally rule out other possibilities and potential–like writing or directing, teaching or producing. Certainly, most of us ask what it is we want to do, numerous times in our lives. I have heard that the average American has 6 careers in their lifetime. This further illustrates that we are all in a constant state of change. Nearly everyone in the field of theatre, began in an acting class. Acting classes are the window into the medium. Many leave acting to pursue directing, design, producing, writing, technical theatre, stage management, etc. Once again, change is represented. One who begins in an acting class and discovers a passion for directing or design is not a “failed actor”. They are creative artists who direct or design. Most artists today cannot afford to think in such a limited fashion. There are not enough professional opportunities to do so. The markets are over saturated. We need to be teaching our artists to have “a wider directional perspective”. Rather than thinking about what opportunities exist in a narrow sort of thinking, (ex. Do these few things, via these few paths to find work in your medium), we need to teach them to broaden their perspectives and ask the question, “What can I do with my skill sets”? What opportunities exist? Where are there needs to be filled? What gives me joy? What are ALL of my interests? How do I synthesize my many interests, into a single endeavor? Such a line of thinking and practice will lead to more artists with unique voices. New aesthetics will emerge. Greater innovation will occur and these students and graduates will dramatically increase their potential to make a living via their creativity.


Heather says:

This rings so true for me. I’m having a hard time imagining that I can’t say I’m a TV or radio anchor/reporter. I think I will always be one at heart but I’m moving on to other adventures. I will get to take all of my skills with me. Hopefully they’ll come in handy during my next phase of life!

Hi Heather. Thanks for your response. I am glad that it resonated for you. The skills you have developed, you can, no doubt, use them in a multitude of pursuits. Having that “wider directional perspective” about what one can do with their skills in the market, will enable that person to see other potentiality and opportunities.

I wish you the best of luck and thanks again for your comment.

Jim Hart

Katy says:

This post really resonated with me. For a long time in my life, I identified myself completely with what I do professionally. Since I’ve met my Fiance 5 1/2 years ago, I am learning to define myself by who I truly am, but still maintaining my creative high! Thanks for this, Jim!

Carla says:

Thanks for the guest post, Jim. It is really important for us to be able to see ourselves for more than just what we do. For me, I can say that thankfully I had 2 little babies at home who needed me when I was laid off, and honestly, that softened the blow bc I literally had no time to think about what had just happened or the loss of that “other” part of my life. Thank you so much for posting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

et cetera
%d bloggers like this: