Renew Your Faith in YOU!

Look, we need to talk.

Looking for work has never been looked upon as a “shining moment” in Americans’ lives. In our culture, unemployment can wreak havoc on our self-esteem, almost like a “workingness is next to Godliness” belief system. Why is this so? No matter who you are, life has its own natural ebb and flow. Most of the time, if you’re a professional, you have a job… and sometimes you don’t have a job. Why is the “sometimes you don’t” part of life looked upon any differently than the “most of the time you do” part? Well, there are many reasons in our culture, and if you are experiencing a true lack of confidence and esteem derived from your job loss, maybe this short discussion will help.

Most of us learn as soon as we’re out of school to “define” ourselves not by who we “are,” but by “what we do.” It’s the standard party conversation starter. “Hi, I’m Di! And you are – -? And what do you do?”  Okay, right there, if you’re unemployed, you want to fall through a trap door. For most of us, social introductions are totally dreadful and humiliating when you’re unemployed. You’ve heard stories of people who’ve lost their jobs who come home and lie to their families and everyone they meet, and literally never tell anyone they have lost their jobs. It sounds drastic, and it IS, but it is part of this difficulty with verbalizing the loss. Who can forget the Michael Douglas movie where he played a guy who lost his job, but never told his family? Every day he got up, got dressed, packed his brown bag lunch in his briefcase, and kissed his wife goodbye when he supposedly went to work. The movie’s a classic.

We’re never more aware of how our value is assessed in this culture than when we are out of work. That’s because our country was founded on “every man/woman for herself/himself” and rugged individualism. We are steeped in traditions that tell us that we’re “less than” if we are not following societal norms of how many hours we should be working each week. Think about it. In our culture, even if you have a devastating illness, you are expected to go to work each day. Heaven forbid if you have the flu. Why aren’t you at work? If you lose a family member, you might be given two or three days time to grieve. Two or three days!!

And we haven’t even touched upon the issues of how much we earn, and how that is considered the true measure of our value to our family, friends, and society. It can feel like it doesn’t even matter if you are a wonderful human being…. if you’re not a high income earner, you can actually feel invisible in America. So, here you are – unemployed, and you’re not earning any money at all. Again, “Ouch.”

Add to this obsession with work and monetary wealth the current barrage of “reality entertainment” in our country, which focuses on belligerent and berating interaction, and you have a real recipe for a whole atmosphere of fear and anxiety that enforces loss of self-esteem and faith in your abilities when you are job hunting. Everyone’s a cynic and a critic these days, and they’re often happy to publicly remind you of your shortcomings. Consider the popularity of books “for idiots” in the last several years. Am I the only one who’s offended by the idea of putting that in the titles of a series of books that are meant to help us?? And what about the proliferation of radio and TV programming that basically embraces the rude behaviors of hosts who tell their guests to “shut up” or yell at their guests non-stop without allowing a word in edge-wise.  What has happened to manners? And is the lure of earning power so enticing (and the lack of earning power so stigmatizing) that people will resort to such inappropriate behavior to make sure they’re on the “right” side of the equation, and they’ll end up on the “top of the heap?”

I realize that human nature often trumps any societal emphasis on proper behavior. I totally know that when you are the person being escorted to the door with your box of belongings under your arm, most fellow employees back away with horror like you’ll give them the plague. Whew. They’re so relieved it’s you and not them. It seems to be programmed into our all-American genes. Darn straight.

So, here’s the biggest take-away of this discussion: keep your head high, and believe in yourself and your abilities. So what if you’re off the beaten path for a while? BLAZE A TRAIL.

Happy hunting!

Di Chapman

Words to Your Advantage Speaking and Writing Service

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