The fact that a man is unemployed has nothing to do with his masculinity or value as a human. This should go without saying, but I don’t think it does.
Men’s social conditioning, starting from a very young age, often goes something like this: go to school (so you can get a good job), get a good job, get married, get a better job, have kids (maybe), and retire while you still have your health (so you can finally spend time with your family). This is an over-simplification, but nonetheless I struggle to recall any insight from my formative years on what a man should be beyond external achievements and materialism. Indeed, men continue to neglect their internal reality well into adulthood as a consequence. I have argued before that the primary measure of a man in Western civilization is his social status. While this claim is self-evident, the question that follows is ‘what is an unemployed man to do?’ Will his intrinsic value save him?
My answer is to not worry what others think. Not only is self-confidence attractive, having it is necessary to succeed in a job and in life. A man is ultimately defined by himself and himself alone. His internal definition, if negative, will be used against him. He will manifest that negativity in his body language, words, and (in)action, and then others will be repulsed by him or see him as less than what he is capable of being—since he already sees himself that way. On the other hand, if he carries himself with pride, rejects self-pity, and improves himself daily, others will respect and admire him—and unemployment becomes a mere obstacle on the path to fulfillment.
Unemployment, in the temporary sense, could even be re-framed as a necessary step toward becoming more of a man. It’s not as if manhood is akin to smooth-sailing: many men define themselves based on their struggles, particularly based on those struggles they have overcome. I have never once heard a man praise himself for having an easy life. A story, after all, needs a conflict. There is much meaning to be discovered through hardship.
Yet, I am not suggesting that suffering is noble or that anyone should glamorize unemployment in particular. The point is not to ‘accept’ unemployment in the passive sense but to withstand it, to render it powerless over your self-worth—to conquer it if possible. I do not have a formula for this, but it starts with self-control. Make sure your thoughts and actions work in your favor and not against you. Whenever you’re tempted to binge on Netflix or booze because you’re feeling down, read a book or go for a hike instead. And if you must binge, do it in celebration. Look on the bright side, while you’re unemployed, at least you (finally) have time for you.
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