What child never dreamed of what they would do “when they grow up”? Our dream jobs may change as we get older and develop, but they usually still characterize and resonate with us today. Why? Because they often reflect a facet of our personality.
It is quite common for these jobs to be idealized during childhood, as they often reflect a desire to conform to the expectations of society and family. Indeed, the initial inspiration often comes from the parents. Our parental role models are our primary source of identification—we are made to reflect their behavior and attitudes. So it’s normal for children to want to grow up to “be like Dad” or “like Mom.”
But there is also a gender aspect to the dream jobs of our childhoods. This means that, often, young boys will dream of being a firefighter or police officer, as they see themselves being in the heart of the action, playing the role of hero. Girls, however, may dream of being a dancer or teacher—professions that are more artistic or seen as being more oriented towards helping others. Therefore, as with the choice of toys, dream jobs can reveal a child’s desire to conform to the societal expectations attached to their gender.
These professional aspirations also reveal aspects of our personalities that can be forgotten or set aside when conforming to societal or parental wishes during our development. However, these dream jobs also reflect the passions, talents, and needs expressed by the child we once were.
A reflection of your personality
Let’s take a look at some of the more common dream jobs and what they say about the dreamer…
Being a teacher or professor is a classic dream job. This ambition often comes as a result of having a teacher who is a positive influence. It also indicates a willingness to share and occupy a position of authority, which may appeal to some children, especially at an age when they are seeking more autonomy and freedom.
Children who dream of becoming a vet have a clear love for animals and, first and foremost, their own pet(s). They dream of saving and helping animals. As with children who dream of becoming a doctor, it suggests empathy and altruism.
Firefighter or police officer
Being a firefighter or on a police force is often cited by young boys because it is still today considered a “masculine” job. These roles are popular because firefighters and police officers are seen as heroic figures, overcoming danger and rescuing people. This type of dream job often echoes the child’s need for reassurance about being able to overcome bad events and to have the power to put them right. These occupations reflect the need to help or save others, but also the need to be right in the action. The main character traits expressed by those dreaming of taking on these roles are therefore empathy, as well as mental and physical strength, but also a need to have authority and power.
An increasingly popular dream job among children is that of athlete, especially given the strong media exposure sports personalities now enjoy. This choice reflects an ability to overcome physical and mental limitations. However, some jobs (such as that of a footballer) also suggest a growing desire to “be famous” and, in turn, a certain narcissistic need to be recognized as a star and enjoy the social status this entails.
Actor / singer / dancer
Artistic occupations such as dancers or singers are often cited during childhood as “beautiful” and spectacular jobs. Aside from the physical and technical skills they require, they also reflect a desire “to show off” and nurture a certain sense of narcissism. As such, the child manifests their wish to be acknowledged as “good” at what they do by everyone and to be admired. Aside from this narcissistic characteristic, these dream jobs enable the child to live directly off their passion or creative talent.
As we can see from this list of only a few childhood dream jobs, each one reflects something about our personality and our needs, whether that’s to do with saving others or about feeling loved and finding your place in the spotlight. So, while we may feel far removed from our childhood dreams now, they do undoubtedly share aspects of our professional life today and allow us to express certain facets of our personality.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Is it really so different from what you’re doing today?
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Photograph by Welcome to the Jungle
Translated by Matthew Docherty
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