Why is “unemployed” such a dirty word?

So I am currently unemployed. GASP. Quick, look at me like I have two heads! That might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s actually quite sadly not. Everytime I am asked (well meaningfully) what I “do” for a living (often it’s when I encounter someone in the public world, register assistants at stores, meeting friends of friends etc. Usually the question is: have you finished work for the day? Are you on your break from work?), and I respond “I am unemployed/not working currently” or some variation thereof, I get this look. This “confused because the person in front of me doesn’t look like the stereotypical “unemployed” person/trying not to judge but can’t help it/feel sorry for this person in front of me/etc” look. Anyone who has been in this situation knows the kind of look I mean.

It is no one’s business where I get my money from, but for all intents and purposes I am unemployed. I did have a job earlier this year, it was a casual checkout operator at a department store (I got about 3hrs a week because I am “too old” for retail, which is ridiculous but true) and I have been employed for the last decade. I was terminated by this employer without even being told, because of a technicality (long story), I found out four months after the fact that I was no longer actually employed.

It was a major major shock and it really hit me in the ego. I have always prided myself on being self sufficient, providing for myself. And money is a bit of a touchy subject with me, so many people have offered their advice on how to save and budget. And I appreciate all that.

But I am always so embarrassed and uncomfortable when people ask the question “lunch break/finished for the day/what do you do for a living” and usually I just lie and say oh yes I am/I work in retail etc. Just once I would love to be able to say “I am self employed, I’m an artist”. But as I have never made a cent off my work I feel like that’s just another lie.

I don’t understand why I should feel so ashamed when I have to lie. But why should I feel ashamed? Why is being unemployed such a shameful thing to be? Why is it that the stereotypical image of someone “unemployed” (at least here in the Land Of Oz) is an image of someone who is lazy, doesn’t want to work, spends all their money on booze and drugs, doesn’t give a flying fuck about anyone else.

But I don’t fit that mold. I dress well (I love the store Dangerfield, google them, your life will be changed forever), I love to wear bright coloured makeup, I always look “well polished” for lack of a better term. And people assume that I waste my money on expensive clothes and makeup, they only see the photos of my outfits and not the novel thick wad of layby receipts that enable me to buy the beautiful clothes that I have that make me so happy.

I am not lazy, despite what my inner voice wants to tell me, I am actually ill. I have a physical disability and a mental disability.

I am not lazy. I do not (not always anyway – mania from any mood disorder can lead to snap decisions such as excessive spending, which I am getting better at though!) waste my money on frivolous things. The make up I buy and use is inexpensive yet still good quality. I am able to sniff out a good deal anywhere! I have tattoos yes, but those I saved up for and any and all future ones (I have many planned) are also going to be saved for.

I have not been to the dentist in three years because I can’t afford to. I haven’t gotten new glasses either for the same reason. I can only just barely afford the health insurance that helps keep my illnesses (mostly) under control. My partner (he is more than my “boyfriend” but “husband” – though legally we are defacto which is common law married so he is technically my husband – and “spouse” just don’t work for me. Yes he does a lot for me and our little family and often more than I can do, but I still like to think we are partners in this together – off on a tangent, I’ll discuss this more in another post) works fulltime and is my fulltime carer so he does shoulder a lot of the responsibilities in our relationshio]p.

I am unemployed. Shock horror.

From now on, I’m a self employed artist whether I make money off it or not.




11 thoughts on “Why is “unemployed” such a dirty word?

  1. HALLELUJAH! Amen!
    Why is that ‘what do you do?’ is the default question when you meet someone? Does it determine a person’s level of self worth or something? Did I miss the memo that says “Judge the people based on what they DO, not WHO they are!”
    Why is it so important to even question whether someone is employeed or not? It’s private business, nobody’s needs to know but yourself. You don’t see me walking around asking “So when was the last time you had sex?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get that people are just trying to be polite and make small talk, but what happened to the old faithfuls, “how about that weather/local sportsball team”? Or even “do you like potato chips?”? Infact, that’s going to be my new go to, when I meet someone new I’m going to ask if they like potato chips.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well.. I understand why people ask “what do you do?” question. It is a convenient question to go off of if you are trying to network and decide on “your priorities”. And what you do does often reflect who you are or changes who you are. So “who you are” and “what you do” are not mutually exclusive ideas. They are connected. However, with all of this said, acting rude to somebody based on what they do (as long as it’s not something immoral or illegal) is bad, wrong, and stupid. Also, there are loads of other things that you can discuss with somebody apart from the “what do you do?” question and it shouldn’t be an “end all and a be all”.


      2. I see what you’re saying, and I agree to an extent. But recently I had an experience where a person came to my home (door knocking for fundraising) and as it was a weekday and during standard business hours, she asked if I was on a day off. What followed was an awkward back and forth. I said ‘no, I don’t work’. She replied ‘wow you must be relaxed’, and I simply said ‘actually no, I have a disability’. Perhaps I could have just said ‘yes day off’ but it’s my home and I should be able to say what I want about my life in it.

        Also I agree that what a person does for a living does not necessarily determine who they are as a person (it can, one of my brothers is a commercial pilot. I think that says a bit about who he is) but I have always, since my first day at my first job at 17yo, prided myself on my ability to provide for myself and earn my money for doing hard work, rather than being given it because I am unable to work, which to, sadly, a lot of people being unemployed DOES equal who they are: lazy.

        That is what upsets me the most. The fact that a huge amount of people, even people I know personally who I thought were knowledgable, and frankly, better than that, believe that people who are on ‘government handouts’ are only on it because they are too lazy to get a job, and that they don’t WANT to work. Just google it and you’ll come up with thousands of badly made memes about how lazy people like myself are.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. No. I agree with you. Which is why I said, “It’s stupid to be rude to someone based on his/her job”. I think this question should just be used in the networking context, which absolutely makes sense because when you are trying to build connections within a certain industry, you have to prioritize and asking this question allows for you to do so faster and more efficiently. (It’s not a perfect system but you do not want to spend 30 minutes talking to someone in hopes of getting that person to argue for you during the recruiting process only to realize that that person doesn’t even work in the industry that you are interested in and doesn’t know anyone who does when you could have spend that time speaking to the right person.) And while what you do for a living doesn’t determine who you are, it does influence who you are. A job requires significant time and you get certain experiences from it, which in tern, influences who you are. It might not influence you in the same way as your coworkers but it will still have some sort of an influence. I also think that it’s bad to stereotype people based on their jobs. There are always a lot of exceptions to the rule so treating everybody based on stereotypes usually doesn’t work and backfires.


      4. That’s sweet, but you can be doing something creative, like writing a blog, and still depressed. Not sure if you perused my bio page, but I live with a chronic illness, called Bipolar Disorder. It’s not quite as black and white as the tv and movies make it out, I deal with depression daily.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I’m sorry. What I was trying to say is that it’s good that you are doing something even though you lost your job. A lot of people just sit around doing nothing in this situation.


  2. Hmmm, but don’t you think ‘potato chips’ is a little too risky as well? I mean society is so deluded and ignorant that even potato chips could potentially backfire as people these are days are like: “Is it gluten free?” -“Does it have soy?” -“Is it vegan?” -“I’m on a diet” Blah blah ? *AWKWARD*

    I like using a compliment for a starter, cos people just jump straight into an explanation as if they have to “justify” why they have it; (Haha the sad truth of reality) Seriously, it’s almost as if a compliment (something good) translates into a sin, a crime that needs to be defended (something bad).
    -“Oh this old silly thing? I’ve had it for age!” -“I got it for my cousins wedding.” -“It was was on sale”. -“My husband bought it for me in Kuala Loompa on our Honeymoon.” etc. etc. While my head is thinking: I DON’T CARE ABOUT ITS LIFE STORY, I JUST WANTED TO SAY IT WAS PRETTY!

    Whatever the case, it gets the attention away from me and my “employment status”, so at least it works! 😊👍


    1. That is true, and at least then you get the other person talking about themselves and the focus is off you. However, once I had my outfit complimented and then I was asked “Do you go to work like that?” so yeah it can work but it can also not work. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I 100% cannot stress how much your blog post relates to me specifically, I feel exactly the same
    and do exactly the same with clothes and/or other things im interested in at the time… like vaping right now. especially when I can zippay them. ^_^

    This resonates with me to a tee.
    I think its why I started uni this year even if I was only JUST bordering ready for it
    so I had something to “say” to people.. instead of the norm… Im not working atm… or that Im an artist even though I havent made any money either.. I give my work away as gifts essentially.

    I am a month behind due to my mental health and if I drop out now I will go back to being “unemployed/unfir for work right now” conversation.. Idk why but I feel it is impossible to ‘lie’ about who or what I really am if asked specifically.

    I usually change it up and ask what their view on life is or what kind of morals or values they have, what they do in their spare time or what their hobbies or interests are.. Something a bit more personal than just “what you do for a living”. I do like your potato chips question though hahaha. Gave me a little giggle.

    I have actually had in depth conversations multiple times over the last few years with my psych about how it makes me feel bad or ashamed and she assures me it’s okay and that if we ALL had jobs those who have jobs in centrelink and job seeking agencies would be out of work. So all in all I shouldnt feel bad or ashamed, especially if I am working on my mental health and I know that you are the best that you can in your situation (but we wont go into that, because that’s a whole other issue altogether re: inpatient treatments ect – if you dont mind me saying that on your public blog.)


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