Overcoming the Fear of Unemployment: Step 1 To Designing a New Life.

Last week’s post about why I decided to leave my “cool” job got a tremendous response. Amidst all of the notes of “congratulations” were questions. Many of you all want to know what my thought process was. And that is what today’s post was supposed to be about until I realized that before I could go there, I needed to explain how I overcame the trauma of long-term, unplanned, unemployment.

I spent the majority of 2009 without a steady job. This took a toll on my psyche. For months I was frustrated and depressed. I even got physically sick from the stress.

So, how did I, a person who freaked out about unemployment come to the point where I could willingly walk away from a j.o.b. with a smile?

“It’s the story BEHIND the story.”
I’ve never told anyone just how hard that year was for me. I am one of those people who likes to put up a strong front. I didn’t feel as if I could tell anyone about the terror I felt because my fear of looking like a failure is stronger than my fear of actual failure. Even now it’s hard for me to write, but no one is really talking about how the recession is impacting people beyond the stress of needing money.

The months of being rejected in the job market shook me at my core. Recession be damned, I took all of the unanswered resumes personally and it chipped away at my self-esteem. The feeling lingered even after I started working.  After nearly a year of feeling lost, I felt as if I needed my job to validate me. It was a dangerous state of mind. And it was the reason I held on to my corporate existence long after I realized that I wasn’t happy doing the office thing.

The traumatic unemployed feeling was replaced by something new: the traumatic “um, this is so NOT what I want to do” feeling, which was quickly followed by the ” hot damn what am I going to do feeling?”

Too many bad feelings.
I never wanted to feel that sense of powerlessness that I felt in 2009 ever again.  But I did. All of the times I told myself I wasn’t capable of doing something better, I felt it. All of the times I wanted to sink back into my bed in the mornings, I felt it. And every time I felt frustrated because I didn’t have time to work on what REALLY inspired me, I felt it.

Before I could even began to rationally think about how I could make an escape, I had to get to a place where I could be at peace with defining my role in life for myself. I had to stop caring what people (especially the ones I care about the most) think of it because it is MY decision.

I had to get to a place where I am strong enough to say that I’ll discuss my future plans with you when I am ready because I don’t need to validate myself through the approval of others. I had to get to a place where I could handle failing without thinking it was the end of the world.  I had to get to a place where I could define what “cool” is for me.

Most importantly, I had to get to a place where I could actually SEE all of the options for myself without hearing a bunch of “woe is me and the recession” buzz in my mind anytime I dared myself to think about doing something different.  So many of us have been taught to find a job and then grip it tightly and never let go. This blinds us to seeing when something might be choking your spirit.

Many people never find out just how resilient they really are. They make up al kinds of excuses for never seeing how much they are capable of. It’s way too easy to fall into that category. Honestly, I don’t want that to be me.

So how did I overcome all of my funky feelings?

Mostly by reminding myself that life is short enough not to enjoy all of the good things if you don’t act on them, but long enough that it is possible to rebound and reinvent myself several times over.  It was a process that took months. But I must say, it was darn worth it.


  1. Jessica says:

    This is absolutely beautiful. I’ll add one more thing that I’ve noticed (and that has helped me through this time): I’ve stopped defining what I DO as what I AM.

  2. KeKeMichel says:

    My philosophy is–life is foremost lived in one’s mind. What we experience and see externally are manifestations of the life inside one’s mind. The world inside your mind is one of strength, power, courage, etc., etc. Two very poignant statements in your article are: “I had to stop caring what people (especially the ones I care about the most) think of it because it is MY decision;” and “I had to get to a place where I could handle failing without thinking it was the end of the world.” What people think and say about us and our decisions is a very complex and challenging thing to overcome. But, I always say–such people are not paying my rent though. So people can judge and yap all they want–but when June 1st comes around, the only thing that matters above all is the rent money (real talk). The next statement is poignant because decision making is a complex phenomena. In your situation, your conscious mind (the filter/protector) feeds your subconscious mind (ideal self/God self) Your conscious mind only allowed/allows courage and fearlessness inside. Both minds were aligned and you were able to make the move. We have to watch what we allow to influence our subconscious self. There are many who are allowing self-defeating, fear stimuli inside. It is very complex and deep. I could go on and on, but. I will stop back again. Check out my latest blog post @ http://www.blackfemaleandhappy.wordpress.com

    • Amber J. says:

      Hey KeKe

      I love how you get philosophical with it, but then you break it down by saying hey, who’s paying the rent? That is real talk! I truly believe overcoming that urge to care about what others think of us/seek approval is so integral to defining “success” for ourselves. We get so caught up in other people’s definition of success that we fail to realize what we really want. I’ve seen your blog before, and I think you are doing great work.

      Rock on girl!

  3. Gigi says:

    Hi Amber – catching up with your posts. Love how you described everything. I literally felt your words. I commend you for taking the leap of faith and leaving your job. So many people are frustrated with their jobs but the fear of the unknown holds them back. I’ve been there & still ther. Not sure if you ever mentioned what it is that you would like to do and if you did I may have missed it but would love for you to share. Enjoy your travels and look forward to hearing more of your journey.

    • Amber J. says:

      Thank you Gigi!

      I haven’t written about what’s next yet because I felt I needed to get into some back story before I can really discuss my future. But I will be breakin’ it down for you all in a future post. It’s gonna be some of my work done from the road!

  4. Cat says:

    I can relate to this completely. Quitting your job with nothing to fall back on but blind faith that something better will come along is an incredibly difficult process. It inevitably makes you second-guess yourself and question who you are, what you want and whether the universe works in mysterious ways or is simply having a laugh at your expense! But the clarity and strength gained is of course worth it in the end. 🙂

  5. I’m so glad that you were able to see all of your options and walk out on the limb to grab some of them. I can tell by your energy and presence that even greater things are still to come. Happy travels and looking forward to seeing you again back in NYC!

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