Just got a job after 7 months of unemployment. So why do I still feel like a giant loser in life?
February 6, 2011 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Just got a job after 7 months of unemployment. Yay! Why do I still feel like a giant loser in life?

After months of searching for a job after getting laid off, I finally got a job offer, and accepted it, this week. I thought this would help me get out of the slump of depression/anxiety I've been struggling with since the lay off, but it seems to be the same, or maybe even worse.

Here are some of my thoughts on why I feel like a loser:

-The job is only part-time (but with health insurance and benefits.) I have another part-time job that I can still work at and piece together some semblance of full-time work.
-I'm taking a pretty sizeable pay cut from my previous position.
-I'm 37, single, and have burned through any savings I had while unemployed.
-I'm living with roommates because I can't afford to live on my own (Boston area is extremely expensive)
-I will likely have to ask my parents for a loan in order to make it through the next year or so.
-I got a Master's degree in 2009, was laid off from the job I got after the degree, and don't want to work in that field anymore.
-New job is in a field I was in many years ago, and it's a huge come down in responsibility. Struggling to feel positive about being back in a low-paying job that I could have gotten years ago without an advanced degree.

Here are some positives:

-Working on all of this in therapy
-Working towards a new graduate degree which I will finish in 2012.
-I'm not homeless, I have a car, and friends...

But seriously, I know the economy sucks and I should feel fortunate to find a job. Is this just a matter of reframing the situation in my mind?

I also worry about dating and how to present all of this to a potential match without feeling like a loser.

Help me see this differently!
posted by Sal and Richard to Work & Money (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you define yourself by your work. What else do you like to do? Work is not the end all/be all of life, it is just a means to do what you love (IMHO).
posted by TheBones at 8:53 AM on February 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also you just got the job! Maybe you'll feel better when you get into the groove and start to get to know the other people in the company? I was also unemployed for a long time, almost 6 months, and it was a bit of a shock to rejoin what seemed to me like a 'normal' life, I almost felt like an imposter. Then after about 3 months it was like it had never been otherwise.
posted by doobiedoo at 9:01 AM on February 6, 2011

TheBones - I didn't think I defined myself by my work, that is, until I became unemployed. At that time, you realize how much people DO define themselves by work and how much it contributes to self-esteem, etc. I have a lot of things that I like to do, hobbies, etc., but not much money to actually do them anymore.
posted by Sal and Richard at 9:04 AM on February 6, 2011

I'm a little younger than you but I've been piecing together work for awhile. I was really hard on myself for a long time for freelancing and holding together several part-time jobs and/or job hopping, but when I realized having a lot of different projects was actually fun and exciting and who cares if I don't have one "real" job, it made all the difference. It's all about how you frame things

Also, the economy gave me an excuse to really focus on the freelance stuff, because I couldn't find a solid full-time job anyway (well, one that I really enjoyed, anyway)

Since you now have a solid, part-time job with benefits, maybe you could just decide not to be so hard on yourself. Use the other time for friends, creative pursuits, or just pleasure.
posted by Rocket26 at 9:09 AM on February 6, 2011

Possibly the only good thing about the high unemployment rate is that you know you're not in this alone. So many other people are in similar situations, so everyone should have some sort of understanding that your layoff and 7 months of unemployment are not because you're a "loser," but because that's the way things are right now for a large percent of the population. Do you think all those people are losers? I'm sure you don't. Employers are hiring over-qualified workers for a lot less pay just because they can these days. It's not your fault. Cut yourself some slack.

Focus on the things you have been doing in that time---the effort you put in to finding another job, any side projects you might have taken on, etc. And remind yourself that this is a transitional period for you. It's not going to be like this forever.
posted by zerbinetta at 9:12 AM on February 6, 2011

I also worry about dating and how to present all of this to a potential match without feeling like a loser.

Take this with a big grain of SnoMelt if you want, but I have only ever heard the concern that a less than impressive job and/or salary is a dating impediment for a woman expressed by women in the Boston area. (And I've lived in, and had friends who lived in, places that were far more judgemental and high-pressure in many other ways.) It always struck me as unusual when I heard it before, and it struck me as unusual again just now in your post. If there is in fact something to that, maybe it would help to remember that you chose where you live because it has all the great things you like about it, but it also has the potential to make a person feel like a loser in certain ways. And that people in other places would not look at your situation and think "loser" at all. (I think most people where I live, for example, would think you're resourseful and educated and impressive in the way you're working to improve your life.) Personally I tend to fall into the typical way of thinking of wherever I happen to be living, and forget that even a few hours away, things are totally different. And it helps me to remember that sometimes!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:28 AM on February 6, 2011

Your question is a lot like asking "I've spent the last seven months being violently kicked in the ribs by a giant, but now he's stopped. Why do my sides still hurt?"

No reasonable woman will hold your job situation against you, especially not in this economy. A woman who is both reasonable and ambitious will feel safe with someone who keeps putting the effort in even when he feels under-rewarded. They'll be able to see that you have good problem-solving skills.
posted by tel3path at 9:56 AM on February 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

The greatest thing that leaps out at me from reading your summary and why you judge yourself now..this is all temporary. When you finish that degree in 2012 and have the skills you want for a new job, you may then have a $XXXXX per year job in a field that you want to work in – and you are taking steps to get there, so why judge yourself for a temporary blip in life?

I had a big blurb written out for everything, point by point, but I'll just put the conclusion.

“I also worry about dating and how to present all of this to a potential match without feeling like a loser.”

Right now, a lot of people have been making statements like “it is the economy, if you hate the job, you must stay, you must accept conditions that are put there and not do anything blah blah blah blah.” Sort of like the dogs in learned helpless experiments that just lay down and get shocked and don’t move.

However, from your description, you are doing whatever I takes to get the job you want. You are going back to school and paying for it. Many, many people would not do that right now – so you are taking charge of where you will be next. You are taking risks.

So I think your potential SO may say someone with goals, aspirations, who tries to do the right thing and be responsible (e.g. to make ends meet you live with roomates, you have tried not to get a loan from your parents for years...and even if you do now it is a "loan" in your eyes, not "give me"), and for the moment you are struggling to get there.. Everyone struggles at some point in life.

With a couple masters degrees at this point, educated!

Finally, if that person judges you and doesn’t want to date because you are temporarily underemployed…would that person be there for you in the long run? What would happen if you enter a relationship and lose your job?

posted by Wolfster at 10:14 AM on February 6, 2011

Congratulations on the new job, S&R, and on having the courage not to stay in a field you're no longer committed to. My heart aches for you, and all the other people -- get ready for howls from a third of the readership -- especially men in your situation.

Even though everyone needs to feel like they contribute, women don't link their sense of femininity to their careers in the way men link all that stuff to their feeling of being "real men." Even otherwise enlightened creatures who share (rather than "help") at home, do stuff without being asked, and are smart and insightful and funny and considerate and sexy can fall prey to this kind of thinking. I know, because my late husband struggled with this far more than I realized. He was unable to work for several years because of his health. It didn't matter to me (the work part, not the health part!), so I felt like it shouldn't matter much to him, but I was wrong not to acknowledge and respect those feelings, no matter how much I disagreed with him.

Those feelings ate him up. I'm so glad you're getting therapy. Please don't slough this off as you get busier and/or struggle with other financial obligations.

Education is never wasted; all the experiences you had while pursuing your Masters -- academic and otherwise -- are part of what makes you the you you are now, who sounds like a pretty cool person. Before you write the field off altogether, have a close look at your heart and examine whether you're just pissed at doing all that work, getting the degree, getting the job and then getting kicked to the curb so quickly. It wouldn't be unnatural, just unproductive. But if you really want to stay out of the field, good on you for not getting stuck in something that doesn't feel right. As for what zerbinetta says, this might not be transitional, this could be reality for a lot of people for a long time. Don't waste your life waiting for things to get "back to normal," (which I did for a good while, but that's another story).

As for the dating thing, don't make excuses. If you present yourself as a loser, that's how you'll be perceived, at least initially. Anyone who has an income requirement on their dating checklist is a person you don't want to date. You deserve someone whose respect, love and admiration isn't linked to your earnings. Good luck, S&R, with your new coursework and with the heart work you have ahead of you.
posted by kate4914 at 10:22 AM on February 6, 2011

Seconding tel3path's "still in pain" comment. You just this week accepted the job - you haven't had time yet to be IN the job or in the new rhythm of things. Some people lighten up immediately when they finally catch a break and then there are others who take a while to let themselves feel the change.

If I met a guy in this economy who was juggling two jobs rather than just shrugging and complacently doing the minimum he needed, I'd think he was a hard worker with drive and ambition. And one Master's degree and another in pursuit? That's more intriguing than some soulless corporate career to an awful lot of academically-minded women. You just need to meet some. Give yourself some time to get into the groove and congrats on the new job.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 10:29 AM on February 6, 2011

I think it's really common to have a sort of paradoxical reaction to good news and the end of difficult situations. You've finally made it to the top of the mountain, and now that you've caught your breath you can look down and see how far down you were, which can be disheartening. Plus, any kind of change can be stressful, even good change.
posted by yarly at 10:45 AM on February 6, 2011

"I've spent the last seven months being violently kicked in the ribs by a giant, but now he's stopped. Why do my sides still hurt?"

It's not easy to make the transition from losing your job to being unemployed to being employed again. I'm one of the many folks on here who's posted about it and having just started a contracting gig last week after 9 months' hustling/being on unemployment, I'm going through the same experience myself. As the previous poster mentions, getting back into the rhythm of working will take awhile. I found myself getting upset the other day because one of the staff members for the project I'm on kind of had a shit fit over my contract/job title. And it's not even so much the awkwardness of having somebody give me a hard time over what I was hired to do (sorry if she feels like it means a lowly contractor has a higher job ranking than her), but feeling like after 9 months of no job and looking, it felt like some jerk telling me all over again that I don't have a job. Not to mention slightly feeling like a jerk because it took me 9 months to land a contracting gig. So it's totally normal to have those feelings of insecurity when you just coming back up after being kicked down for unemployment.

As for dating, personally I'd say somebody who at least demonstrates ambition and is doing things/being a productive person will always be attractive. Although as with the back in unemployment feelings, I know what you mean. The thought of putting myself out there for dating when I've been unemployed and now contracting also automatically makes me feel like I don't have much to offer to somebody. Which is irrational, but as also mentioned, likely when you're somebody who sees yourself through your profession.
posted by gov_moonbeam at 11:26 AM on February 6, 2011

Thanks for all of the great responses so far. Just wanted to clarify, because I think most assumed I was male (given the username). I'm female.
posted by Sal and Richard at 1:15 PM on February 6, 2011

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