…But how can they be so different?
Defining yourself & others through their occupation is a part of day to day life, one we often don’t acknowledge we do. It’s one of the first questions we ask people when we meet them & its one of the first labels we attach to our name. Sometimes we even shape our personas around it.
I’ve found we do this for multiple reasons, be that we are proud of our achievements, want to display some hierarchy or superiority to present company or in one of the most common usages…as a defence mechanism. If we quickly identify with our occupation, we take control of the narrative, we go on the offensive in fear of the perceived impending attack.
We put so much capital on a ‘profession’, it can shape our whole experience & understanding of that person and how much time we are willing to commit to them in the future. Shallow, Superficial — yes, but it’s all too common in day-to-day society and its part of the narrative of our current circumstances.
One of the biggest examples of this, is the experience of courting in 2021 — online dating — a very modern love story. From the outset there are three main markers for how we judge someone and select a future romantic partner, all within a split-second swipe of a finger…looks (there is no denying that), age & occupation. Often, we believe that tells us all we need to know.
We can go to our friends & brag with impending excitement for an upcoming date…’oh he’s a doctor you know’.
…As if that suddenly tells us everything about the person. I am fully aware that the world of dating can require fast decision making, but it’s so narrow minded to assume so much from so little. But still we do.
Or a favourite…‘He’s a rugby player’…
If you’ve seen my earlier post on ‘The Athlete’ you’ll understand, if my torrid path coming to the end of my own athletic career is anything to go by, why do I assume that is the dream path of a romantic partner…If I was to relate it to myself I’ve already discovered people have very different routes in life, laden with ups and downs. Why would I not look at my own label and see the reflection in the mirror potentially wasn’t so attractive.
I always felt when it came to my occupation, I quickly had to justify myself…& in turn I ended up floundering and looking far more lost and confused…
I let the impending… ‘I worry about your future’… shape my life…instead of finding comfort in the journey, trying different things & knowing that I didn’t have to be one thing for eternity. We don’t have to live solely to retire.
I would have been far ‘happier’ if I had embraced the ‘low-skilled’ jobs (as I was told) where I felt, comfort, pride and took joy from it…but the looks on the faces of those around me when they realised that I still wasn’t ‘climbing the career ladder’ destroyed me inside. It isn’t their fault that I let it.
Before I further progress, I want to highlight that I realise how privileged I am to have been given the opportunity to get an education. I only want to highlight that we shouldn’t define ourselves and our futures on a set of expectations set by others.
Anyway… how does this relate to ‘The Physiotherapist’ you ask?
Well the answer is 2-fold.
Firstly, when it comes to identity and secondly with opportunity.
I have somehow found myself in life surrounded by physiotherapists (great for whenever I have the odd niggle) …slightly curiously from varying friendship groups but — these three people in particular — are some of the closest people to me. People I respect who are compassionate, kind & extremely hard-working…well I guess certain occupations require specific characteristics after all.
But all 3 people are wholly different. They have different strengths, weaknesses and that’s what makes them so successful. It takes a variation of kinds to make a winning team.
I find it so curious that society has conditioned us to identify so closely with our occupation and quickly form opinions on others through theirs, yet here are 3 people, all physiotherapists who are all so different…in their personalities, mannerisms but also journeys in life.
When we are at school, we are pigeonholed into certain careers, often purely as a direct result of our academic successes.
My first friend highlights that this struggle to please others is often an unwinnable fight.
She was incredibly academic at school and had a record of perfect A-grade results. You would think the world would be her oyster, but in fact — from spectating closely — it had the opposite effect. Being academically gifted closed a lot of doors to several other things for her. She was also very good at the arts and the possibilities of exploring that were never discussed at the time by her peers.
It’s only now…many years down the line, that the thing that truly brought her joy may be revisited in a professional capacity.
In my head, at the time, I was envious. What an easy path…to identify as a ‘Physiotherapist’, would appease all the people so fearful of my so called ‘lack of direction’. Oh, how lucky she must be.
That is the issue sometimes…the goal posts changed for her…potentially for me to work as a ‘Physiotherapist’ would have been a resounding success. However often, once you reach that level you can be accused of not reaching high enough or fulfilling your potential.
Our school… (incredibly results driven) could not fathom how someone who displayed so much academic prowess would not want to go on to become a doctor. Instead, choosing to settle for physiotherapy was a foreign concept to them. To her credit she didn’t let it sway her or guilt her into a change of path. However, over the years that perception of ‘settling’ has had an effect.
This friend is an incredible Physiotherapist and she has impacted so many people’s health & lives. What an asset to a vital profession. It highlights that we are conditioned to always want more, whether its what’s best for us or not.
Curiously…physiotherapy was never an option discussed for me. Actually it felt due to my mediocre results (I was a dreamer…less of a doer at that point), that each day more and more doors were closing. I wasn’t going to be a doctor or a lawyer — so I guess I was a forgotten stat. No…maybe I could tick the university box for them, regardless of degree.
My school was university obsessed…there was no other option. College was never discussed & when it was, people were usually scoffing at it. I didn’t want that… I couldn’t face more disapproval from my peers.
My next friend went to a school nearby…he like me was not getting great academic results and decided to leave before the last year of school. This was to the disapproval of many who believed that he had just thrown future possibilities away.
But he was steadfast, open to opportunities and took time to figure out what he liked and was passionate about. After a year working for his dad he decided to go to college to study Sports Therapy…but he was still unsure of where this path would take him.
By going down this route he found that he was incredibly interested and passionate about the profession, he subsequently gained great results and doors opened up to him to join a university degree for Physiotherapy.
He has proven time and time again to be an incredible physiotherapist, yet it wasn’t an option that was ever discussed or opened to him at school, if he had stayed within the parameters others had set for him he potentially would never have found something he loves this much.
…And to the people who questioned his choice to leave school and figure it out…well.
Lastly…my friend who only recently found her way into the profession. A story similar to myself, succumbing to the pressure to leave school and go straight to university, didn’t allow for the exploration of whether this was the right thing for her.
After one year of studying she decided that it wasn’t what she wanted for her future and that she wanted to be a ‘physiotherapist’ — an option that solely down to her academic results at school didn’t seem possible for her.
She left university, started to gain a multitude of ‘physiotherapy’ work experience placements, and set about applying for the course.
I have to admit I watched in awe…here was I so fearful of the opinions of others that I felt paralysed. I didn’t want to make any choices about my future, about what I liked or disliked, I just wanted to appease the masses. She seemed unwavering when she told people she was leaving university and didn’t give them time to question her…she had a plan; she would get experience and apply again.
I don’t know whether her steadfast belief in what she was doing was just a façade or whether she actually just had tunnel vision to the end goal and didn’t care for the disapproving looks of others, but I always found that admirable.
She got her place to study physiotherapy, and again the drive and determination she showed throughout that period of change has stuck with her into her studies.
As I said the story of ‘The Physiotherapist’ is 2-fold.
We hold our occupation so tightly to us that we allow it to shape our understanding of ourselves and the opinions of others when, it should not be our greatest defining label. If you were to sit my 3 friends next to each other, you would see 3 very different people all who contribute greatly in their own unique way.
We should never close doors to others or ourselves. People develop, progress and change at different times in their lives and we don’t have to be 1 thing forever. We believe as a society that 15- or 16-year olds should be making unwavering decisions about their future and we judge them according to that…that judgement prevails throughout our whole lives.
Therefore, we shouldn’t allow labels to define ourselves…. Or if we feel we need to…how about we strive to be about good, kind, or empathetic instead.
Would we be better to do exactly right by societal standards…only to realise it’s never enough…?
The goal posts are always changing…
So set your own…and preferably have them only fixed temporarily in place so you can move them whenever you need.