A Barbie Girl, in a Human World

Management Monday: Managing Personal Identity and Career Identity

How different is the overworked executive from the “real-life” Barbie doll? Human Barbie, Valeria Lukyanova is a model who has shown the world it is possible to look like a Barbie. However, it has taken a liquid diet and surgery to get there. It seems possible she’s proven that the danger of being sucked down a career path, making ultimate sacrifices and losing sight of one’s identity is not a myth. It isn’t a stretch to see why many people feel her ideas and image are radical. In addition to her surgical alterations, she hopes to sustain herself on air and light, rather than food. Recently, she also expressed to GQ’s Michael Idov that the standards of beauty have changed because of “race-mixing” (Huffington Post). Her idea is that women were more beautiful in the 1950s and 1960s before inter-racial relationships and children became more prevalent. Furthermore, she’s quite happy with her doll-like appearance. Though she’s claimed in the past to be a spiritual person, her image and words might beg the question of her spiritual and mental well-being. The big question is whether her modeling goals shaped her current state of mind or if she had these ideas and lifestyle before her modeling career?

 Credit International Busienss Times

Image from International Business Times

It’s impossible to know for sure if Valeria has made such permanent alterations to herself solely for her career success, but it seems likely and would be one of many similar situations. Plenty of models have lost sight of themselves in their career pursuits and even compromised their health, some dying from anorexia. One study suggests that of the patients that are sick with anorexia for more than 20 years, 20 percent die from the disease (Marie Claire). But this isn’t about singling out models. Valeria’s situation serves as an illustration of a psychological challenge faced in many professions.

If an executive works 18 hours a day at the office and they spend all of their time conditioning themselves to surpass all standards, are they any different from Valeria? Valeria’s story is a cautionary tale for many aspiring professionals. At what point in pursuing a successful career do people lose their values or completely change themselves? It happens all the time. And some people might argue that if the person is happy, then it’s not a problem. There are a couple snags with that statement though. For one, that person probably isn’t actually happy, which is why they push themselves harder and harder to unhealthy limits. Secondly, these situations can easily result in a complete psychological identity crisis. What happens when Valeria is too old for more surgery and grows out of her youthful looks? Her looks and job as a model that form her identity disappear. She’ll be left empty inside. Similarly, the executive that sees himself only as an executive and invests himself completely in a job will be left with nothing when he loses that job or retires.

This is why people must be cautious not to lose themselves in ambitions and careers. Below are a few quick tips for avoiding the “Barbie world” Valeria has found herself in.


How to Balance Personal Identity and Career Identity Tips:

  1. Take time to understand personal values.
  2. Develop strong emotional intelligence.
  3. Focus on establishing work life balance.
  4. Frequently make a priority list of roles in life such as husband, son, volunteer and employee.
  5. Try to recognize reasons to be happy in the moment, not just happiness that goals will bring.
  6. Always take time for big decisions and evaluate values before big commitments.


The list above may seem trivial, but it’s amazing how often these basics are overlooked. People like Valarie often realize late in the game that they’re a fabricated shadow of a person they once were or hoped to be, because they didn’t pause to step back and truly assess their values. Hopefully that won’t happen to her, but it seems like a real possibility in her future. Unfortunately, at the point that people realize they’re knee deep in mistakes, they often feel trapped and sometimes this results in tragic outcomes. On the other hand, plenty of executives like Angela Ahrendts and small business owners around the country prove that personal and career identity can coexist peacefully. In fact, Hunter Walk, former Google employee and current Partner at Homebrew, explains in a Linkedin article how he once struggled to find identity outside of his career before he realized he has value in many more roles than just as an employee and business man. As Albert Einstein said “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value” (Forbes).


Related Reads:

The Next Oprah Winfrey: Goal Alignment
Emerging Leaders: Sandi Vidal, the Moderator
St. Patrick’s Day Pot of Gold
Lions and Tigers and Confidence, oh my!


This Blog has been featured by the West Orange Chamber of Commerce. Sources such as HLN have also been home to publications by Dr. Farnaz Namin-Hedayati and she has been cited by the Orlando Business Journal


Center for Work Life of Orlando, Florida is an award-winning executive development firm providing leadership and management training to executives and organizations. Our main services include executive coachingleadership developmentexecutive succession planningemotional intelligence trainingcareer planningstaff development, and communication in the workplace.