Dear wonderful person who has been laid off

Want to get your bother on starting now?

Read the first chapter from my new book for a jolt of fresh perspective and possibility, and a radical reframe on what to do when you are feeling lost, blah, unmotivated, or burned out, in any area of your life or for any reason — even success!

Did I just put your teeth on edge already by calling you wonderful?

So saccharine and self-help author of me.

Please, allow me to explain.

Is it possible you might not be speaking to yourself with much kindness or respect right now? Is it possible there are dark mutterings in your mind, especially at 3 a.m., about how you suck because you got laid off, how you won’t ever find a new job, and how if you were really good at what you do, you’d still be pulling down that paycheck and title?

And perhaps there are also mutterings of despair, as in why bother to try to get a new or better job?

During my own dark times of personal and professional failure— and I’ve had some doozies— I discovered that I stayed stuck in despair and lassitude waaaaay longer than normal because I continually beat myself up. I was the queen of internal haranguing.

Or, as I write in my new book Why Bother? Discover the Desire for What’s Next, “Every act of self-harshness stoppers the flow of life and creativity that brings you to what’s next.”

The more you believe flagellating yourself motivates you, the faster you’ll find yourself hunkered down on the couch playing Minecraft covered in potato chip crumbs, and the more you will believe there is no reason to bother about your future.

I’m not talking about reciting cheery affirmations; the research on positive affirmations is decidedly mixed. Instead, try these science-based ideas:

  • Remind your so-called lizard brain (the oldest part of your brain) that you are physically safe. This calms down your brain’s not-so-helpful shenanigans that make it hard to take consistent action on getting a new job. I like to look around my environment — including above and behind me — while exhaling long and slowly, and asking myself, “Is there anything here that can eat me?” It’s a silly question, but your lizard brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats and this simple 15-second practice helps calm your feeling of being prey.
  • When your inner heckler tells you that you suck, you won’t, you can’t, etc., instead of accepting that inner heckling without question, get curious. Ask yourself, “Hmmm… what is this voice trying to protect me from?” Like Toto in The Wizard of Oz, pull back the curtain on your “emotional immune system” (a concept I explore in my book), and notice how your self-talk is trying to keep you defended from future disappointment.
  • Ask yourself, “Why bother to get a new job?” We think of “why bother?” as a defeatist question, one already answered by resignation and resentment. But I discovered in researching and writing my book, it’s one of the most powerful and important questions we can ask; as long as we actually ask with curiosity and courage, instead of assuming we already know the answer. You may not say “why bother?”, but instead, you might say or think, “I’m too old, it’s too late, everybody else does my position better, it’s all been done, there’s no point in trying for what I really want.” This kind of internal — and external — dialogue does not invite curiosity, wonder, and desire. When you default to believing there is no reason to bother– another way to keep yourself defended from future disappointment–you cut yourself off from the very qualities that spur you to apply for the jobs you really want with confidence. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to bother to get a new job? Why does this type of job matter to me? What do I really want to do?”
  • Put a daily time limit on worrying, bitching about why you got laid off, outrage at the handling of the pandemic, and anything else that is reinforcing the story the world sucks and screwed you over. Anger feels righteous in the moment while it’s slowly poisoning you. Create spacious zones of outrage and anger freedom by using Internet blocking software to stay off news and social media sites. Try setting a timer for 15 minutes, and using that time, and only that time, to worry and bitch.
  • Practice mindful numbing. We all need downtime when we aren’t being productive, and that’s especially true when we’re feeling uncertain about our future and our identity. But if we aren’t careful, the numbing can take over our lives (cue Minecraft and potato chip crumbs). What activities can you engage in to calm and soothe you, rather than drain you and feed the mean voices in your head that insist you’re a loser? The key is to think ahead. What do you really want? Then truly savor that without judgment. Check in with yourself from time to time and ask, is this what I really want? Is this still feeling good?” One caveat: most tech-based activities are harder to break away from because of how they are designed to keep your dopamine receptors firing. You might need to set a timer for Netflix, etc. and put it across the room to break the tech-trance.

Being laid off is a blow to your identity. Even if you hated your job, or you feel excited about finding something new, you also might feel ashamed, disrespected, and sad, as well as afraid for your future. Putting extra time and attention to taking care of your brain and heart is essential to mitigate these feelings and help you get your bother on.

Beating yourself up, and indulging in anger and despair, can feel like a good idea in the moment. I can be difficult as hell to tear yourself away from, but every time you do, you’ll find it gets easier. Practice the habit of being kind to yourself. It’s not fluffy, it’s science.

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