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1 question you might want to consider not asking at parties anymore.

I've asked this question, and I'm pretty sure you have too.

"So, what do you do?"

When meeting someone new, it's usually the first question you're asked. And there's actually a lot riding on your answer.


What we do for a living is such a small part of our identity, yet people use that one piece of information to decide how valuable we are as a person.

We want people to care about what's on the inside and to see us as a whole person. Instead, we feel judged based on our job status. That causes anxiety and affects our self-esteem.

So people tend to go after money, big jobs, and fancy cars as a way to get attention and love.

Since childhood, we've felt the pressure to succeed. How society defines success has a lot to do with what kind of job we have.

It's not a coincidence that two of the most popular book genres are "how to get rich" and "how to cope with low self-esteem."

We're sold a tale that everyone has the same opportunities, that the rewards go to those who really deserve them, that the 1% got there purely because they earned it, and that those in poverty deserve that too.

At one point, people living in poverty were referred to as "unfortunates." Now, too often, they're judged as losers.

Equating our value to monetary success can cause depression.

How can we cope? Stop believing the tale. Luck, accident, and opportunity play big roles in life, so never treat someone (rich or poor) like they entirely deserve where they are.

Create your own definition of success. We don't have to buy into the old one.

Refuse to let traditional achievements define who you are. There are so many more valuable things about a person that can't be captured by that simple question, "So what do you do?"

Give a new answer.

Like one of these suggestions:


This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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Years ago, a friend went to a party, and something bothered him enough to rant to me about it later.

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