Hurtful Comments During Unemployment

A few days ago, I read a blog post on job hunting, written specifically for ‘unemployed job seekers.’ What I found most problematic about it was: its unsolicited advice and argument—out of work persons shouldn’t stop looking for jobs for anything, including the holiday season.

Certainly, nothing’s wrong with the blogger/writer/”expert” advising her readers to continue their job searches during the holidays. But, something about this piece of content screamed insensitivity. Insensitivity toward the plight of those who are actively unemployed. Insensitivity toward the humanity of adult persons who are going through unemployment, despite their desires to work. Insensitivity I’m all too familiar with from my own experiences. Insensitivity I’ve gotten better at mentally handling but still find disturbing.

While reading, my mind went back to all the snide remarks of those who are employed to those who are jobless. Usually, they’re masked as helpful advice and tips. But, in reality, they’re meant to tear you down. To shame you. To make them feel good while making you feel bad.

Without question, these statements can take away your focus from what’s important right now—and leave you freaking out about both your situation and your future.

It happens. I’ve gotten responses to my content from people who are not only dealing with the challenges of unemployment but also struggling to process hurtful comments from people with no regard for one’s efforts and determination to get a job.

I can totally relate, too. For those new to this blog (and a reminder to the rest of you!), I’m no stranger to insensitive comments. I received everything from: “You have a faith issue and need to get it together spiritually” to “You must do some sleeve rolling and take something” to “You’re highly educated, got skills, and can’t get a job? What’s going on with you?” And more. Implied and stated. These words replayed in mind repeatedly. I evaluated them for truth and helpfulness. I questioned whether rebuttals were necessary. Like those who reached out to me, I also struggled to process them.

Snarky Remarks While Unemployed. Criticism Toward Unemployed
Hurtful Comments During Unemployment. Unsplash Original Photo Courtesy of Daniel Monteiro. Edited by Priscilla.

It’s sad to say, but I learned the draining effects of dwelling on hurtful comments. With the passage of time, though, I learned the importance of not letting them reside in my head. I learned the importance of brushing them off because some statements don’t deserve your time and energy nor your response.

Because of my personal experience with unemployment in this job market, I’m still appalled by some comments. The “guru” who says “it’s your fault you’re unemployed.” The acquaintance who responds “there are plenty of jobs available, and some job is better than no job.” The blogger who writes “you’re unemployed and should always be networking because you never know who can give you a job.” The stranger who comments “there are lots of low paying jobs in retail, fast food, and hospitality. Why haven’t you applied for one of those jobs in your area?” The “expert” who insists “you don’t have a job and should be trying harder.”

For some reason, unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, sets you up for all kinds of comments—from acquaintances and strangers alike. Some encouraging, comforting, supporting. Most critical, ill-spoken, nasty, insensitive.

People say harsh things you don’t expect to hear in such a challenging situation. Thing is, generally, these people: have no insight into why you’ve been unemployed so long; have no firsthand experience with looking for a job in this economy; have no idea what it feels like to be unemployed; don’t take into account how factors, such as geographical location, educational levels, race and class, affect unemployment and the job search. Yet, they make troubling assumptions and condescending remarks.

Keep in mind though, you have no control over their words. Care to guess the likely result of trying to control their words? Discouragement, distraction, frustration, stress. In other words, nothing good.

When these types of comments come at you, what you should consider, instead, is: your area of control, which is your reaction. Will you strategize a way to refocus, learn lessons (lessons of compassion, forgiveness, and humility, for instance), and move past the negativity of the comments? Or, will you dwell on them and go through the wide range of negative emotions?

Interested in knowing what I think—speaking (or rather, writing!) from a place of experience? You already have a lot on your plate: managing your regular, day-to-day tasks, issues and emotions plus the toll of unemployment; completing your job search activities and tasks; exploring alternatives and career paths; learning new skills. It’s safe to say, you must spend your time and energy effectively.

To do so, one of the best things you can do is take the appropriate action—even if it means respectfully communicating your hurt after a cooling period, ignoring the know-it-all critic, or limiting contact—for you and your situation, at all times, so these comments have very little, if any, negative affect on you and your ability to get through your day. Be intentional about minimizing your exposure to negativity and its effects daily, to the best of your ability. If you don’t, it’ll only hurt you emotionally. Increase your self-doubt. Hold back your efforts and explorations. Affect your productivity and focus.

Don’t let it.

Priscilla’s Note: Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thank you for reading, liking (here and on Facebook) and subscribing to Serenity Amidst Frustration. If you personally reached out with your story, thank you also for sharing.

I appreciate all of your support.