Behind the ideal person mask: a narrative inquiry into Dutch young professionals’ image (re-)construction process in the work, private and online settings
The daily lives of young professionals can be thought of as a balancing act, as they struggle with juggling their different work and nonwork roles (Allen et al., 2019). Young professionals do not only invest a considerable amount of time and energy resources in starting their careers, but also in building up a family life. As such, many want to succeed as hard-working, devoted professionals (i.e., the ‘ideal worker’), as well as become, or come across as, involved and nurturing parents (i.e., the ‘ideal parent’) (Ladge & Little, 2018). In addition, young professionals tend to increasingly experience that they need to live up to perceived expectations coming from social network sites on how to showcase oneself in the most perfect way (i.e., the media ‘ideal’) (Shah & Tewari, 2016). Accordingly, young professionals may (re)construct ‘ideal’ images of themselves in the work, private, and online domains which lean towards these ideal selves and away from their undesired selves (Leary & Kowalski, 1990). In the context of the Conservation of Resources (COR) theory (Hobfoll & Wells, 1998), such an image (re)construction process (Dumas & Sanchez-Burks, 2015; Humberd et al., 2015; Roberts, 2005) may play a critical role in the attainment of relevant personal resources, such as pride, status and liking, on the one hand, and the loss of resources (i.e., energy resources), on the other hand.