Dear Luise: I have been unemployed for the last 8 months now. I have been on a 13-week course to help me get back to work. I have been on the web looking for work and its getting me down. I feel very defensive when people say, “Got a job yet? You have been looking for a job long enough. Have you had any interviews?” I feel like I am being interrogated. My brother works like 24/7. I have a 17 year-old daughter. My family criticizes me because my parenting skills are crap. I left my night job after I held it down for 10 years. I feel I can’t get anything. My family just stands there when I get upset and looks at me. WHAT’S THE PROBLEM? I usually don’t back down when my back’s to the wall but walking away seems the only option. WHY DON’T PEOPLE UNDERSTAND I AM NOT LAZY? Why can’t people give me positive vibes instead of negative ones? If anyone can offer some positive advice it would be welcome. S. (UK)
Answer: Dear S.: We all have a different levels of tolerance for criticism. I have always struggled with that. At one time, a dirty look from another diver when I was out on the road could devastate me. Especially if I felt I hadn’t done anything wrong. Then one day I noticed that when my best friend got what I saw as crippling criticism, she would just laugh and wonder why the other person didn’t see how wonderful she was. She was amused and would laughingly say, “What’s wrong with them?”
It took me forever to realize that the reason criticism dropped me in my tracks was because I already felt “less-than.” Maybe that’s not a good way to describe it but that’s the best I can do. My friend feels really good about herself…so that stuff just bounces off of her.
What others are saying to you is about them…not you. You are studying, actively looking for a job and have a strong work history behind you. Also, a lot of us have poor parenting skills…there is no user’s manual and it’s often a tough job.
Walking away isn’t the only option. We always have multiple options but we often don’t like the consequences of some of them. Still, putting some distance between you and those that seem to enjoy putting you down might be a good idea for a while, if you can manage that. For a sensitive person, all that negativity can feel pretty darn abusive. Good luck; better days are coming. Blessings, Luise