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How to balance unemployment with yourself worth

By Rachel Parodneck, LMSW

Whether we realize it or not, most people’s self-esteem and self-worth are very closely tied to their jobs. We tend to determine our self-worth by what we do for a living. One of the very first questions asked any time you meet someone is “what do you do?”

So what happens when you’re unemployed? And how does that affect your self-worth? Do you value yourself any less for being unemployed?

Selfworth is defined by Merriam-Webster as: “a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect.” So why are self-worth and your job linked? 

Often, people have trained extensively for their profession, sought higher education for the field in which they work, and/or have a certain skill-set differentiating them from others. Whether you’re a lawyer, a retail employee, a chef, you name it: the skill-set necessary to achieve success in any industry sets one apart. So how do you hold on to who you are when you don’t have that job?

Your job does not determine whether or not you are a good person and everyone deserves to be treated with respect. It’s easy to be hard on ourselves, play the blame game and attribute unemployment to intrinsic characteristics. Reality check: Unemployment is the highest it’s been since the Great Depression! Unemployment rates soared due to COVID-19. As of May 2020, New York state unemployment reached 14.5%. Being unemployed says nothing about you as a person but it can certainly feel like it’s your fault. So how can you get out of a rut when you’re unemployed?

1. Build structure into your day: Having a routine is exceptionally helpful in feeling productive and purposeful. A routine can look like making your bed, brushing your teeth, having your morning coffee, and applying to jobs. Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it.

2. Set aside worry time: Try to avoid worrying as worry is not productive. If you find it hard to avoid worrying, compartmentalize the worry by choosing a set small period of time in each day to put your worries in one place. Journal about it. Try not to let the worry spill over into the rest of your day.

3. Lean on your support system: Call your friends, family, or anyone who helps you to feel uplifted. Something as simple as a friendly voice is not to be underestimated in brightening one’s day.

4. Do activities that recharge you: In the midst of job applications, which can be utterly exhausting, take some time for yourself to do something that will leave you feeling refreshed. Whether it’s cooking, taking a walk, doing an at home workout, meditating, yoga, or knitting, find what makes you happy and do it.

5. Book a therapy appointment at Refresh: Our mental health professionals are here for you, offering flexible Telehealth sessions from the comfort of your home.