'You’re just not good enough': Mental Health and Work

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Emma HToday is World Mental Health Day and the theme this year is young people and mental health in a changing world. For many young people, figuring out what you’re good at, what you want to do, how to find a job and even being in work can take its toll on our mental health. Young Women’s Trust’s annual survey found that 52% of young women said work has had a negative effect on their mental health and 31% said that their mental health has affected their ability to find work. 

I would say that, despite the occasional workplace breakdown, my mental health is far better when I’m in work than when I’m out of it. Job hunting while depressed (or, indeed, suffering from any form of mental illness) sucks, to put it bluntly.  

I’ve seen a statistic thrown around that men apply for job postings when they believe that at least 60% of the criteria applies to them yet women are unlikely to apply unless they feel they are 100% quailfied. I can relate. At times it feels as though I talk myself out of applying for jobs even if I fit 99% of the criteria. Recently, a job arose in a nearby vegan cafe. It would be a great place for me to work and allow me to interact with endless amounts of customer’s dogs. Even though I have tons of experience in customer service, including food service and Christmas shoppers, I chose not to apply as I don’t know how to use a coffee machine. My boyfriend assured me that this wasn’t a big deal but I was convinced that I wasn’t good enough and would simply be wasting the manager’s time by applying.

Given that I genuinely enjoy customer service, I go back and forth on the idea of working in a call centre, however, I‘ve talked myself out of this more times that I can count by deciding that my accent is too difficult to understand and that I would annoy people who phoned me. 

That’s more or less what it comes down to - believing I’m good enough. For anything. Looking through job sites and finding ways in which I am lacking often leads to a downward spiral about things I “should have” achieved by now and being almost positive that I’ll never progress far from where I am now. 

Another dreadful tenant of job seeking is claiming job seekers allowance, where you’re made to feel - somehow - even more worthless for your inability to get a job like a normal person. The quota of completed job applications you must parade each week allows for no consideration of the dark thoughts that a harmless “why are you right for this role?” can cause. Because, after all, all I seem to tell myself is “you’re not. You’re not right for any of these roles, because you’re not good enough, and you never will be, and your existence is meaningless, and it’s probably better for everyone if you just close the tab on job hunting for another day.” The jobcentre fails to understand that so many young people feel this way and that there’s a lot more getting in the way of us finding work than they seem to realise.

This World Mental Health Day, I’m joining Young Women’s Trust in calling for better and more holistic employment support for young people.