Confidence low

“Older tech writers are just not hired. My mother went through that – despite excellent experience, she could not get a job….I’m depending on my husband’s income for security in the future.”

Someone wrote this on a list email, and that’s all it took to send my confidence plumetting this morning. I have finished a contract and need to find another. I think I’m unlikely to find anything in the two summer months, so I haven’t really been looking so far. I’m a middle aged woman without secure employment.

Reading this was enough to send me into a tailspin. I have visions of myself eaking out an existence on welfare, feeding too many cats, in ancient skirts.

My family is an academic family, and I am looked down on as a sell-out, as I do not have an advanced degree or prestigious employment. Kind of ironic, to be a sell-out who struggles financially. I’ve got this internal severe critic, echoes of my father, for whom nothing I do is enough. Even when I aced all my school classes, I got no praise from him.

No ordinary job is considered worthwhile by this parent. No matter that I struggle in ordinary jobs because of flashbacks and anxiety. According to him, I should be a corporate lawyer, or prize-winning writer like Margaret Atwood, if I can’t be the only thing in this world worth being, a university professor.

I think earning a living and making my way in this world is worthwhile. Every job has it’s struggles and triumphs. Would we wish to live in a world where no one will serve the coffee or pick up the garbage, where everyone is a nobel prize winner?

For me, it will not be easy to find more work. The economy is depressed. Interviews scare me. I hate calling people on the phone.

Somehow, I will do it. I have in the past. But it would all be so much easier without that critical voice in my mind, telling me that nothing I have ever done is worth anything, that I am useless, that being just a tech writer is a useless occupation for losers.

When I make some moves to finding work, that critical voice zooms into action, so I avoid looking. Parents, why do you handicap your children like this. Treating a child like this is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So I am in a crisis of confidence. Just from reading some anonymous email. Stupid. But it is my reality. Now I have this huge job of climbing out of the anxiety hole before I can even begin to look.

This is one of those depressing posts – enough to send you off to some popular sites where you get uplifting advice.

Fractal art from: Digital Expressionism

  1. alice said:

    hii expect your father felt like this himself, and has passed his low self esteem onto you. now your mind is set. try acting otherwise, and after awhile you will believe your new self. i know easier said that done. we all seem to think others are thinking things about us, and they probably are.try to find a new self, your self.good luck with the job hunting. your worth more than you think.x

  2. Some companies 'only' hire greybeards. Age and experience can be seen as a real benefit. Go look!For one client having me on the team lowered the average age a little and I'm no spring chicken….

  3. Oh, Ellen, I do know how you feel, still struggling to this day with the idea from MY father that the only thing worth being in this world is a medical doctor.But here's the thing: that man was a hateful, mean, sad, small person. Period. I am not him. YOU are not him and so WE have accomplished more than either of them combined.PERIOD.That person who sent you that email should think before they speak. You are not her mother, and you have no idea what else was going on in that person's life, you have no idea that her age was not just her excuse.So, press on — like you always do.

  4. Ellen said:

    Thank you dear commenters. So nice to have your wisdom.@Alice – Very nice to meet you, and thanks for the comment. Yep, low self-esteem all around seems right. And if I can, I will act with confidence. If humanly possible.@Mike – Good words of encouragement, thank you. But you are so a spring chicken :-)@Christine – We do seem to have an amazingly similar backgrounds, as far as family is concerned. I like your point that we have not turned into controlling small-minded people like our fathers – it's a good thing to keep in mind, thank you. Yeah, I need to ignore the internet. You can find any point of view whatsoever there if you go looking.

  5. Ellen: Maybe on mars! On this planet the big 4-0 is in my distant past…

  6. Nechtan said:

    Hi Ellen,I find one of the biggest benefits of blogging is to get out your frustrations and fears as well as the feedback you get from that. So I hope if feels a little lighter from letting it out.As you say its not a great time for anyone given how the economy is at the moment and I think even those used to being headhunted will have their anxieties too. It will pick up though and you sound very much like a person who will do all in her power to get that next contract. And that is all you can ask of yourself.It is a shame that your father is not a bit more understanding concerning your chosen career path. I for one would rather be a tech writer than a Prof- just a personal preference. Personally I have always been of the relief that we spent most of our adult lives either sleeping or working so along with a comfy bed we should choose the career we will enjoy most regardless of prestige or salary. All the bestNechtan

  7. Ellen said:

    @ Mike – :-)@ Nechtan – Yep, that is exactly right. Getting the frustration or block out where I can look at it really helps me move beyond it. It's very nice to get supportive comments too of course. Since I posted this, I took some small steps towards finding more work, which I couldn't before.Thanks for the kind words, and it's interesting that you would prefer to be a tech writer…in my heart, I think I still believe that it's best to be a professor. Such is conditioning.

  8. SA D. said:

    Hi Ellen,I know exactly how you feel. I'm in my 40s and have been out of work since the first week of May. I have a phobia of rejection, so getting laid off was a real blow. I am also a product of my upbringing. My father treated me very poorly. He had no respect for my accomplishments and was the first to point out my failures.Next week I have a meeting with the government and have to provide a list of jobs I've applied for. But I have applied for very few, frankly. Mostly, I just don't have the energy or motivation to put myself out there and risk more rejection. I might get cut from EI for it.Take care and try not to be too hard on yourself. That's what I'm doing. Life goes on, right?

  9. Ellen said:

    Hey Dave, long time no hear! So we are in the same boat. Maybe you should read the comments on this post and take them to heart also….With social anxiety, we fear rejection, but it's not an option to give up forever. It's OK to take a break though. At least you know you were laid off because of the economy, not for other reasons. I was on EI two years ago and was also summoned to that government meeting. Do not worry – it is a formality. You have that form to fill out? Just list a few job ads you have replied to. If you haven't replied to any, just reply to a few before you go. They do not scrutinize the form. Then they give you job search tips or some such, and that's the end of it. You will definitely not lose your EI!Thanks for your comment and take care

  10. Hi, Ellen -uh oh – You go through that too? I'm all empathy when you talk about putting off looking for contracts. Enhanced interrogation! Marketing myself? Front and center out there with self-promotion offers – great prices every day – total bargain! I'm the guy you can't do without and let me tell why. (Why? Why would they be stupid enough to hire you, O Worthless One?) You've got your father in your head, I've got my mother – close parallel there. They seem to say quite similar things. I just sent a handful of short emails to good friends/colleagues asking to use their names as references. Hardly a big deal, but it took me two months before I could walk through that wall of shame to do this simple thing – even though I know these folks would love to help me. No matter, tailspin time!But we do seem to fight back at some point. We've both gotten contracts before, and we'll do it again. I've gotten quite good at shutting down that vicious voice taking down all self esteem. The only problem is I'm doing this about ten times an hour. But it's great practice – keep at it!All love — John

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