The Effects Of Unemployment On Men And Their Manliness
Art of Manliness recently wrote on Dealing With Unemployment Like a Man. It’s a great site and a great post. Since I am in this situation at the moment, I thought it prudent to comment in my own way.
If you choose to be unemployed, you may find this article not as relevant at the beginning. However, you will find it poignant at some point during your self-imposed sabbatical. This article is written for those of us that did not choose to be unemployed. It was out of our hands and now have to make the best of it.
I have never been unemployed before. It was a HUGE adjustment. Imagine going 100 miles per hour for 20+ years and then nothing. The only thing I’ve experienced that comes close to the feeling is finding out your mate has not been faithful. You go from “everything is great” to the “world has ended”.
I am certain this is the same feeling people get when they retire. It’s like driving along in your car and suddenly, unexpectedly getting hit by another vehicle. You take the drive, the car, the action for granted – then your entire perspective on everything, literally everything, changes instantly. It certainly shakes things up.
This article focuses on 5 effects of unemployment men often take for granted. I am sure there are many more, of course, but these 5 aspects of manliness were affected greatly during my layoff. My intent on discussing this is not to tell you how to deal with your situation – everyone is different. Also, AoM did a fantastic job in identifying a plan, albeit obvious ideas, which we all need to remind ourselves of during unemployment.
What you lose as a man
Responsibility - Some guys might like the idea of being unemployed. I won’t pass judgment on anyone, but for me, not providing for my family or myself through productive work is the polar opposite of manliness. Accepting that responsibility is a core manliness trait. When you do not have gainful employment, a sense of responsibility is lost.
It is only human to fall into a mode of less responsibility. We tend to look at the greater economy or some outside factor that has caused this situation and then turn to others to help out (namely the government). When we start getting handouts/charity/whatever you want to call it, our level of responsibility in our own minds often slides. It can be a vicious circle that men have to be extremely careful.
Sense of purpose – All humans need to be loved, accepted and respected. It is a human emotion and a need – not a want. Having a sense of purpose is an affect of these three human needs. When you lose your job, as a man, it puts a huge dent in this effort.
Men, in general, relate to this much more than women. We identify who we are as men by what we do for a living. Think about that. Men often shape and carve their personalities, friends, colleagues, after work activities, and much more based solely on what they do for a living. When we lose this core foundation of our identity, it crushes our manly egos and our manliness takes a serious hit.
Dignity - Webster defines dignity as the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed. It simply does not matter if you chose to be unemployed or it was chosen for you – you will at some point lose a portion of your dignity. It may be all so slight or even at a subconscious level, but it will happen.
In my case, I became unemployed not by my own decision. It simply happened. My sense of worth and the idea of not being needed any more was a huge blow to my ego. The company did not make it so I know there were other factors at play, but it still forces one to think about their value.
Money - I have always subscribed to the notion that I would not work if I didn’t need the cash. I now know that statement to be only partially true. I need the cash, but this little episode in my life has taught me that I would continue to work regardless if I needed it or not. The work might be completely different, but having an affect in people’s lives and making my own life worthwhile through meaningful work is as core to me as being a man itself. The compensation for my time and production is an essential part of the equation for obvious reasons – my family and my other habits/vices.
Testosterone - This is often overlooked in this predicament. We all know the pitfalls of the obvious – self worth; sense of purpose; responsibility; dignity; etc. However, men thrive on competition, the chase and eventually the battle. Over time, men have tried to suppress this inherent need, but it is in our DNA. Being unemployed has affected my level of manliness in ways I am embarrassed to discuss, but do so to ensure other guys don’t feel alone in this regard.
Being unemployed has wreaked havoc on my sex life and my ability to perform in competitive situations. All men, married or not, live for the chase. The chase is in constant play and testosterone is a key ingredient. Women (and specifically sex) are the prize. My wife has noticed the difference and it is clear I’ve lost an edge in our relationship. Also, in all my sporting activities, it has become much less important to win and compete than in times past.
Cause vs. Symptom
Living without meaningful work and employment is a cause of this lost manliness. The other items listed in this article are symptoms. This is a very important distinction we men who are faced with this issue have to distinguish.
There will be people who don’t agree with me, but gainful employment and sense of purpose is the root cause of how we feel during this time. It is not a symptom of deeper rooted issues or something that happened during our childhood. That is an excuse in my opinion.
My friend said it best as I was contemplating a few offers recently. I was splitting hairs and trying to justify my thoughts around these offers. He stepped up as all good friends would and said, “Shut up and get a freaking job! You need to take care of your family and get your edge back. It is MUCH easier to find the right job when you already have one.”
This doesn’t work for everyone, but it sure resonates for me.
If you have any thoughts or differing opinions, leave a comment. I would love to hear them.