Well-being: Why losing your job doesn’t mean losing your worth

In this month’s Well-being column, C4 creative mentor and corporate wellness coach Tracy Forsyth explores how to deal with the ramifications of Covid-19 on your self-worth.

When I was a freelance TV exec, I got an amazing job – a maternity cover for a commissioning editor at the BBC. I loved the work and the fancy title. I felt super important. Secretly, I hoped the new mum would decide not to come back so that I could keep the role permanently. She did, and after nine months I found myself out of work.

Previously as a freelancer, I had hustled and bounced from one role to the next, only taking breaks if I knew the next role was lined up. Somehow it had all worked out.

But this was the first time I was out of work for what would be three months. I was absolutely miserable. I felt worthless because I couldn’t get a job. I felt with no job title that I didn’t even exist.

At the time I had two young kids, a loving husband, a roof over my head, parents who cared about me, my health and lots of friends. Somehow, that didn’t matter. I felt wretched.

I realise now that my self-esteem and self-worth were entirely wrapped up in my work. My happiness and fulfilment were linked to something I couldn’t control – someone else giving me a job. What’s more, by then I had had 15 years’ experience in the industry working on amazing series all over the world. I felt it didn’t count. If I wasn’t working, I was useless.

I can’t lie – that feeling continued until I got my next role. But several years on and, as a freelancer, I am again facing uncertainty over the future. But this time, I don’t feel miserable and wretched. I’ve learned that my value and self-worth go beyond my job title and income.

So, in these extraordinary times, if you are doubting yourself and your value, here are some things to consider.

  • #BeKind has been very much on the agenda and so it should be. But it also includes to being kind to yourself. Practice being kind, compassionate and encouraging to yourself, it will increase your mental resilience. If you don’t knock yourself down so hard, you won’t have as much difficulty getting up again.
  • Remember, you work in one of the most competitive industries in the world. The fact that you’ve worked in this industry at all means that you are already talented, hard-working and driven. Just because everything is on pause does not mean that you are not still all of those things. You are talented and have huge value. Even when unemployed. This time, it’s really not you. It’s the situation.
  • Recognise that you have value beyond your job title. As a family member, friend, community volunteer, pet owner – you are treasured by many people who don’t have any clue what you do for a living. Count all the ways that you bring joy, pleasure and use to the world outside of your job. You are not just your career; it is just one part of you.
  • Don’t suppress your negative feelings. Let them up and out. Honour them by listening and taking them seriously. There is no right or wrong in feelings, they just are. Whatever the emotion – anger, fear, anxiety – acknowledge that no matter how uncomfortable, that’s how you currently are. Show yourself some compassion and care. Process those feelings, don’t repress them.
  • Finally, try reframing the situation you are in from a different perspective. In the same way an object can look very different from another angle, so can your thoughts on an issue. If your current perspective is ‘end of the world’ then try looking at it from a ‘silver lining’ or ‘unexpected benefits’ perspective. If you were forced to say something positive, what would it be? I know that you are creative and resourceful, so make sure you put those qualities to good use when it comes to yourself.

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