Unemployment and Inferiority for the 20-Something
Imagine this: You are 20-something (in my case, 22). You landed your first “big girl (or boy)” job right before the pandemic hit (in my case, higher education). Then, things start going bad (in my case, a mix of mental health and a toxic workplace). One day, you are called in and fired (in my case, for the first time ever). As you are escorted out, you have so many questions and feelings. How will I make money? Where will I apply next? Maybe this is actually what I needed. What about my stuff? Was I even good enough to do this job in the first place?
Now, let’s give some background. I’m Grace. I am an intern here at Be Fearless You. I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and PTSD in during my undergraduate career. However, the underlying cause of some of my issues was ADHD, which I was recently diagnosed with throughout the last year.
Did you know that ADHD goes widely undiagnosed in women until their 20s? According to ADDitude, 12.6% of boys get an accurate ADHD diagnosis in childhood, whereas only 5.4% of girls are accurately diagnosed. This could be because symptoms present differently. In women, ADHD is likely to be the inattentive type. These are waved away as “character traits” or “growing pains,” especially when it comes to the low self-esteem, chronic stress, and feelings of inadequacy. For me, ADHD was a diagnosis that helped me explain a lot of the things in my daily life. I finally got to put in the last puzzle piece for me to get appropriate treatment.
Okay, now back to the story. For two weeks after I was fired, I tried to take it easy and actually live for once in my life. I had been employed since I was 14, always involved with school and extracurriculars, going every second of every day. I took time to sleep in, play Sims 4, and watch trash TV (I know, I know, for most of you this is not “living,” but we are in a pandemic…).
However, my Type A personality showed itself and I started applying for every job I could find on LinkedIn, Indeed, and any other job site. I was in denial about being on unemployment and held my head high that I would be employed again before I could even tell my mom what happened.
That two weeks turned into a month, which turned into six. By January, my self-esteem was in the basement of a six-story house. I wondered how I ever made it through my undergraduate degree, or held a steady job, or did the daily demands of my life. I fell into one of the deepest depressions I had ever been in. I lost all interest in everything. I’d had a few interviews but was always rejected and it was starting to take a major toll.
Then, on Inauguration Day, I had an interview for a small nonprofit and credit union consulting firm. They wanted me on their team. I was overjoyed, but hesitant. I told them I would think about it (I know, crazy right?). Then I got another call from what seemed like a dream role for me, for a final interview. On Monday, as I sat in yet another interview for this dream position, something that the smaller firm told me was like a warning across my brain: You are worth more than you think you are.
As they debated my qualifications and asked questions, my gears began to turn. What if I had never been in a place that actually valued what I brought to the table? What if it was not my internal shortcomings, but rather the external judgements making me feel inadequate? As soon as the interview was over, I sent a “thanks, but no thanks” to the dream role and called back the consulting firm.
They asked what I thought my pay should be and my inferiority complex spouted out a number I am embarrassed to even admit to you. Then, my now boss looked me dead in the eye through Zoom and said, “you’re worth more than that.” She almost doubled my offer.
I’ve worked there for almost two months now; loving every minute. I even decided to take an additional smaller role that was more aligned with my career prospects at a small nonprofit (the best of both worlds). Every day, I struggle with feeling inferior and think about those times during my unemployment when I was rejected. I still think sometimes that one day, I will make a mistake and get fired, starting the process all over again. If you’re reading this, you might feel that way too.
So, coming out of that experience, here are three things you can do for yourself that might help:
1. LISTEN TO YOURSELF
You know you better than anyone else. If you think your doctor is misdiagnosing you or not listening, get a second opinion! (Be Fearless has a great page with lots of resources) Mental health diagnoses are complicated, convoluted, and can be cryptic. You deserve to be validated in what you are feeling and have a professional be on your side.
2. DO YOUR RESEARCH
We all have skills, multitudes of them. Write them down. Chances are, you have more than you think. Then do your research, specifically market research. Find out what you should be getting paid and stick to that for yourself. You are worth more than you think. I promise. This tactic also helps to battle that feeling of inferiority by telling you, concretely, that you are worth every penny.
3. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
We all go through rough patches, some more often (and lengthier) than others. You are allowed to feel the way that you feel; recognize that. If you feel angry, sad, happy, or any other way, that is your right. Just because a situation does not traditionally warrant the emotion you are feeling, does not mean it is not valid. Say it again. Cherish the feelings you have, let them run their course, and know that however you feel is the right way to feel.
Putting yourself first is often the hardest and most daunting first step, but I promise you it is worth it. If you are having feelings of inadequacy or inferiority, our team is here for you. Be Fearless You has resources if you need help with any of these things and more. Please reach out to us by email, even if it is just to talk. And always remember: YOU ARE WORTH IT.