The stories of people who go days and weeks pretending to their families and friends to have their jobs after being laid-off are real. The fear of losing self-esteem is real and can be all-consuming. I heard the story the other day of the senior executive who was laid-off and wouldn’t go to her book club because she was embarrassed. This is all about self-esteem and what can happen when we lose our jobs. There are no easy answers, but there are easy actions that can be taken to ensure that the fear of loss of self-worth is mitigated:
- Stay active. If there’s something that represents “who you are,” then keep doing it. For me, I am long-distance runner and when I feel like my self-worth is challenged — decreasing or questionable — I hit the road and count the miles toward my goals that helps me feel healthier and better. Set goals for yourself now versus later.
- Write “your story.” Grab some alone time to think and write down who you think you are. This is pretty important since we’ve been conditioned for as long as we have worked to answer the question, “what do you do?” with our job title and our company. Seldom do we answer with the things that are really most important to us like, “I parent, I volunteer, I worship, I exercise, or I love.” When we are without a definition of who we are we can feel lost. Most of us never take the time to get out in the wilderness by ourselves and learn who we are when no else is looking. The rest of us may be afraid of doing so for fear of what we might learn. Take some dedicated alone time to write down what and who is important to you and answer the question “what do you need?” If we can be honest about those things then we can ensure that our needs are being met and be prepared for “that” question to keep our self-esteem bolstered.
- Find your Three. We always hear that we need to be surrounded by others better than us to be our best. That is true. In times where you have lost the surrounding of co-workers, see if you can’t put together a band of at least three great friends who you know you can talk to whenever about whatever. I have a friend who lost his job after his company was acquired and we talked every day for months — sometimes about nothing at all. And other times I had to tell him that he was looking at the wrong opportunities and needed to keep everything in perspective. Identify those three people in your life and tell them that you need them to be there for you. What you may also find out is that they need you as much as you need them.
- Find ways to fill your needs. It may be that you need to work. Not, just because of the money, but because you need to see progress, tasks, recognition and accomplishments in your life…and work fills those needs nicely. If you aren’t working or getting ready to not work, then you need to fill these needs elsewhere. While you’re looking for work, take time to get involved in the charity that you love or always wanted to love. They need you and there is nothing better than being needed. Or get involved in other companies that will let you help out for nothing more than the experience you gain. I know start-ups that don’t have funding but are running with people who are lending expertise to stay busy and gain experience and knowledge that that they otherwise wouldn’t get. Whatever your needs, find ways to fulfill them and your self-esteem will grow.
It’s okay to be fearful of losing your self-worth because you lose your job, but know that the “you” in you can never be removed, replicated or stolen. Remember, you are unique and talented. The solutions for you will be as unique as you are. One size fits one when keeping and building self-esteem. Keep your “you” front and center and you can overcome the fear losing your self-esteem.
Check back in for more on how to help overcome the other F.E.A.R.s of layoffs. The next one: fear of achievement atrophy.
To see Rusty in action talking about the human side of layoffs, see him here on View from the Bay.