Twenty years ago, loosing your job felt much worse than it does today, because it happened much less frequently. It may have been caused by personality clashes, politics, bad luck, or not measuring up with job skills. Instead of outsourcing or company restructuring.
Fast forward to five years ago, and lots of good people started loosing their jobs for lots of reasons, including a major recession. So people who found themselves “in transition” were in excellent company. Even now, the recession lingers, and I think that wonderful, seasoned, and talented professionals are still not getting jobs, not rejoining the employed sector of our economy.
Many people are feeling “less than” they actually are. When self-confidence disappears, shame may insinuate itself into that empty space.
Noticing feelings of shame in job search and facing them are tremendously important. Shame can cause your steps to drag, and your head to hang low. It can also stop you from acting at all. It can exist as separate metaphysical place, separate from the land of the “living.”
I will never forget how I felt when I saw a woman sitting on a bench in total abject shame, in a French city where I was on vacation two years ago. What I saw was self-exhibited, public shame. Her shame was a visible weight, holding her down, keeping her totally still, as if she weren’t breathing.
I saw a woman not so young, maybe a little plump, wearing a pastel dress. She sat on a bench with a sign in her lap asking for money. Her legs were carefully arranged before her, not crossed, her knees close together. Modest and decent. Not a loose woman.
I couldn’t see her face, because she was looking down at the ground. It appeared that asking for help, publicly on the street, had cost her honor.
Another connection I see is to something I read in Ursula LeGuin’s book The Language of the Night.1 In her essay “The Child and the Shadow,” LeGuin analyzed a Hans Christian Anderson story about a man and his shadow. The man allowed his shadow to leave him—that is, he gave his shadow permission to seek out a beautiful young woman he was too shy to court. By giving power to his shadow that he would not own for himself, he became his shadow’s shadow. And then he lost his own life.
Negative emotions can have terrible costs. Challenge yourself, and confront your own shadows.
1. Ursula LeGuin. The Language of the Night. Essay “The Child and the Shadow,” Susan Wood ed. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1979), 61.
Photos credited to the morgueFile.com
Cynthia Simmons is a publishing and communications professional.
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