It seems obvious, but may be a good reminder…
As Walt Whitman said, we are all multitudes. We all have all qualities in ourselves that we see in the outer world. Some unfolded and obvious, others as only potentials. And the unfolding and expression of these qualities is a mysterious process, partly dependent on our life experiences and situation.
Still, there is a tendency in our culture (maybe universal) to identify people with what is expressed in their lives. And not only what is expressed, but what we are aware of as being expressed.
So from the vastness of potential, we select out a small portion. And from this portion, we select out an even smaller portion. And we identify others and ourselves with it.
There are of course good reasons for this, and mainly an evolutionary one: People do tend to follow certain patterns, at least over shorter time spans. And it is good to know about these patterns so we can make appropriate choices.
But there are also two serious flaws in this that we need to keep in mind.
Everything is in flux. Nothing stays the same. And this seems to be true for all phenomena. We all change. None of us are the same as what we were. This is true for all of us, whether we try to hold onto fixed images or views or not (and we all do to varying degrees and in different areas).
We are all multitudes. What is expressed at any time is only a small fraction of the multitudes of qualities in us. We can at any moment choose to express different qualities, if we have the awareness and experience to do so.
In practical terms, an easy place to start is to not identify individuals with their work. Instead of saying, “I am a baker” we can say “I bake pastries for a living”. Instead of saying “She is a medical doctor” we can say, “she works as a medical doctor”. It opens up our awareness of the larger potential in each of our lives. It also reduces distress when we no longer have that particular work – we are already used to thinking about ourselves in a larger way.