Self-worth is often tied to the amount of money you make, and jobs also provide a key means of self-identification, so being unemployed can be a real blow to self-esteem. If you are actively searching for work and failing to get it, this can exacerbate the problem, as every rejection is a further blow to your self-image. To maintain your self-esteem while unemployed, you need to develop a strategy for coping with unemployment, find alternate sources of self-esteem, and feel like you're taking steps towards finding another job.
Method 1 of 3:Coping with Unemployment
1Develop a strategy for answering “what do you do?” People will ask you about your job, so you need to be prepared for it. One solution is to answer the question literally. “Lately, I'm spending a lot of time working on my golf game.” Or, “I'm taking a course on computer programming.” If you do decide to discuss your unemployment, you will want a response that explains your situation while also reinforcing your own self-worth.
Do not blame yourself. You cannot control economic conditions. Unemployment is a normal part of life for millions of people.
Emphasize the positive: you get to spend more time with your family; your catching up on your reading; your getting in shape; you have an opportunity to change careers.
Mention the steps you are taking to get a new job.
Frame your job loss as an opportunity to evaluate your career and to do something different or better.
2Keep a schedule. Work provides structure to your day, and losing that structure can leave you feeling aimless, which in turn can lead to feelings of depression and worthlessness. A schedule will motivate you and keep you feeling productive:
Pick a block of time for your job search. Do it every day, and be done with it. This will both keep ensure you keep up with your job search and prevent you from feeling like you should spend all your time on it.
Schedule time for self-care activities like reading, working out, or hobbies.
Make sure you schedule daily activities that take you out of your home.
3Set achievable goals that you can directly control. Getting a job is important, but it is not a helpful goal for building self-esteem because it depends on people other than yourself. Instead, set goals like editing your c.v., reading 3 books a month, or working out 3 days a week. Achieving goals regularly will help to boost your self-esteem.
4Take care of yourself. When unemployed, many people begin to cut out activities not related to finding a new job because they are worried about money, feel guilty about having fun when they should be getting a job, or are simply embarrassed about being unemployed and don't want to go out. It is important to your mental health, however, to make time for pleasurable activities that replenish you physically and psychologically, such as:
Keeping a diary – Write down both negative and positive thoughts.
5Get out from in front of the television. The average unemployed person spends more time watching TV and movies than doing anything else. Watching television can lower self-esteem in two ways. First, it exposes you to images - attractive, successful people - that make you feel worse by comparison. Second, it can make you feel like you are wasting your time and failing to be productive.
6Create a comforting and productive environment. Our environment has a huge impact on the way we feel. You can help yourself to feel productive and connected to your career by maintaining and seeking out the appropriate environments.
Keep your home clean and tidy.
Dress for work when you do job search activities.
Perform job search tasks in public spaces like a library or coffee shop. Activities performed in public have a greater impact on our self-image.
Play relaxing music when working.
7Cultivate positive relationships. Being unemployed can be traumatic. It is important to have people you can turn to for emotional support. Most people will be empathetic, but a few people, even good friends and family may look down on you, secretly blame you, or deliver subtle digs that undermine your self-esteem. It is important to avoid such relationships as much as possible and to surround yourself with people who are supportive and non-judgmental.
Method 2 of 3:Finding Other Sources of Self-Esteem
1Focus on the positive. High self-esteem typically occurs when an aspect of oneself – like one's job – is both considered highly important and positive. If you lose your job, the importance may remain, but the positive turns to a negative, harming self-esteem. Psychologists believe that the best way to restore self-esteem is to focus on other positive aspects of oneself. In other words, elevate the importance of the positive areas of your life, such as
Your relationship with your spouse
Intrinsic factors: intelligence; appearance
2Volunteer at a local church, charity, or other non-profit. Volunteering not only keeps you active and provides fulfilling work, it also gives you another positive identity around which to build self-esteem. And the right volunteer activities can help you land a job. To get the most out of your volunteering:
Network – Volunteering is a great way to meet people with common interests and to grow a network that might help you get a job.
Offer Your Skills Pro Bono – Whether you help balance the books, create a fundraising strategy, build an addition, or cater an event, putting your skills to work for a non-profit will keep them sharp and allow you to display your worth. Check out VolunteerMatch, Idealist, Taproot Foundation, Catchafire, or Voolla, all of which match non-profits with volunteers.
Work as a Career Coach – There are many non-profits that offer job training. Offering your skills will give you a chance to help others, while also reconfirming your own skills and thus boosting your esteem.
3Spend time with your family. One of the silver linings of unemployment is that it gives you more time to spend with your family. Whether you are a mother or father, husband or wife, son or daughter, engaging with your family provides you with psychological support and shores up an important aspect of yourself that can help to compensate for the damage to your work identity.
4Get more involved with your religion. In countries where being religious is the norm, including the United States, religious believers tend to have much higher self-esteem. Religious communities both emphasize the value of the individual and provide a network of likeminded people that can help to overcome the isolation of being unemployed.
5Pursue your passions. One of the worst parts of being unemployed is the feeling that you have lost control of your life, a feeling that can be particularly intense if you are looking for and failing to find work. A hobby that you are passionate about gives you something that you can control. It is also something that you can improve at and see tangible progress. All of these things can help to boost your self-esteem. And in time, your hobby might even grow into a job.
6Join a sports team. There are many studies that show participation in team sports improves self-esteem. A team gives you a social outlet, provides exercise, and gives you a chance to demonstrate your value to people engaged in a common pursuit. Studies show that even rooting for a team can boost self-esteem, particularly when done in public forum like a sports bar or at the stadium.
7Spend time in the garden. Studies show that gardening can significantly boost self-esteem. Being outside elevates mood, while successfully raising plants gives one a feeling of accomplishment.
Method 3 of 3:Pursuing Another Job
1Be prepared. Preparing to apply for jobs, interview, and work will not only increase your chances of being hired, it will give you a sense of purpose and a chance to display your competence to yourself.
Polish your résumé.
Draft several versions of your cover letter.
Practice interviewing. Prepare for common questions and create a compelling narrative to explain why being out of work actually makes you a better candidate.
2Take advantage of not working to engage in professional development. Catch up on work-related journals or books that you have been meaning to read. Attend conferences. Take courses. Learn a language. If you treat your unemployment as an opportunity to improve your job skills, you can both shore up your self-esteem and make yourself a more attractive candidate.
3Network with people in your field. Networking is the best way to get a job, and it will keep you engaged with your field and feeling constructive. Here are some tips for staying in touch:
Keep a list. Make a spreadsheet with the contact info of people you respect and would want to work with professionally in the future. Depth is more important than breadth. Save these spots for people who want to help you as much as you want to help them.
Schedule follow-up. Put entries in your calendar reminding you to follow up with contacts every two or three months. Ask them how they are doing, and if you can help out in any way.
Stay in touch in other ways. Pass along blogs or news stories you think your contacts would like. Connect to them on LinkedIn and keep track of their status. If they are promoted, congratulate them. If they are laid off, offer support. If you have a recreational activity in common, send them articles about it. Thank them if you take their advice and it helps.