You may be unemployed at the moment. Or, if you are fortunate enough to be employed, perhaps you can recall a time in your life when you were out of work, between jobs, or the threat of unemployment hung over your life, like a dark cloud on an otherwise sunny day. You know then the feeling you’ve got just now? The anxiety, frustration, anger and possibly persecution?
Maybe just for a second you felt a stir of some memory of your unemployment you’d told yourself you never want to experience again. Just for a moment, thinking back to that period in your life you felt it there deep down; maybe the shame and embarrassment, the low self-esteem, the loss of dignity. And if as I started this off, you are currently unemployed, you may be experiencing this daily and wondering if it ever will get better.
For a large number of people, (I think it’s safe to say the majority of us) our employment status is closely associated with our personal dignity. If we have a good job and we do well in our job, we perceive ourselves as successful and that then is how we interact with others and thus become perceived by others; ie. he or she is successful. We hold our head high, feel good about ourselves.
The reverse is that if we have no job, we may perceive ourselves as failures, different from the norm, not measuring up or pulling our weight financially, and this too can affect how others see us. Hence, we are seen and perceived as unsuccessful, our heads drop, we shun gatherings, isolate ourselves and feel poorly about ourselves and lose our dignity.
Now while this may or may not be the case for everyone, it tends to be the case for a majority of people. But is it possible to distinguish the two things; unemployment and dignity, and see them as two different things that don’t impact on the other? In simple terms, can you be unemployed and out of work but still hang on to your personal dignity and truly convince yourself you are a person of worth? I believe you can.
For starters, a good exercise in rediscovering your dignity is to identify your strengths. What is it that you are good at? I’ve been fortunate to have a look at some of the past performance evaluations some of my clients have retained over the years when I’ve been working with them to find their next job. In those evaluations, while there have been areas in which to improve, there is always some reference to tasks the person performs well. It may be the case that in addition to tasks, other traits are evaluated; overall attitude, working with others, communication skills, attendance and punctuality etc.
These strengths are good to get down on paper. Even in a case where the same person whose name at the bottom of your evaluation is the one who released you from your job, this person was able to identify things you were good at and that they recognized in you.
One of the key things to understand is that your worth as an employee in one company doesn’t necessarily carry over to who you are to others. So even if you got fired as an Outbound Telemarketer with a large telecommunications company, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you are a bad parent, a poor spouse, a disappointment as a son, or a poor influence on friends. It’s too often the case that this does in fact get into the head of the unemployed person; and it’s not a healthy thought process because it can unfairly lead a person to make poor decisions in those other roles, and what you think can be in turn what you become.
So in other words if you fail in a specific job with a company, you might succeed in the same job but with a different company, or you may determine that the job is not for you no matter what company you are with, but it doesn’t follow that you should see yourself as a failure in all jobs. Nor does it follow that you should be a failure in other parts of your life just because you failed in one job with one company.
I’ve known people who are actually very much relieved when they lose their job; jobs they couldn’t bring themselves to quit on their own, but the release they feel on being fired makes it a positive experience. One such person worked in a store selling Adult video’s and kinky sex items. She hated the job as it went against her personal morals but at the time needed the money. She was grateful after being fired as her heart wasn’t in the job and she underperformed. Her dignity rose as she walked out the door.
May I suggest that you acknowledge your work is only one part of who you are. Taking stock in all parts of your life, from the personal hobbies, your role in your family, with friends, in your community etc. are all small parts of who you are as a whole. It is unhealthy to allow your employment or rather lack of employment and the dignity you feel in this one area, to dominate the other parts of the person you are.
There are a lot of good people out there who just lack employment. Maybe your one of them?