Think about the last time you met someone new. Maybe it was at a party, your child’s school event, a friend’s birthday dinner. Chances are, you were asked this question: What do you do?
Society places so much emphasis on what you do that it’s hard to disassociate yourself from this. The lines become blurred and you start to feel like more of an officer than you, the individual.
When you think of the characteristics of a police officer, what comes to mind?
Ethical, authoritative, respectful, honest, serious…
Without even being aware of it, you might start to embody some of these traits, even when you’re out of uniform. And most of these qualities are great, when your job starts to define you, it’s a dangerous place.
It becomes less about what you need and more about how you are being perceived. As officers, you’re taught to be leaders and to be strong. Your job is to keep the community safe. You’re the people called upon if the community is in trouble.
The thing is, when your job starts to be engrained into your identity, you become a leader, always having to be strong, and the peacemaker. Yes, this sounds like great qualities to have, but what happens when you’re the one who needs help?
You become too proud to ask for it. You might feel embarrassed because you think you’re the one who gives help, not receives it.
So, what’s the solution?
Go on, get a life.
Nurture yourself and don’t forget who you are outside work. You had a life before you started in the force, so make sure you continue to live it. Invest your time in activities and creative pursuits that are just as important as work. Be conscious of that work/life holy grail and recognise when you’re starting to get emotionally tied to work.
Remember, in the end, you’re going to be recognised and honoured for the person you are. And while being an officer is a badge you wear proudly, you have other accomplishments to sew onto that shirt.
Take the time to understand and define who you are, not just what you do. Have fun with it the next time someone asks what you do.
‘Oh, I’m the chief carpool organiser for my kids.’ If anything, you’ll make people laugh.
Humour, that’s another one to add to the list.