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Ask A Therapist: Recently Laid Off & Feeling Like a Failure...

Personal Growth, Coping Skills, Career, Ask a Therapist
4 min read

Dear Therapist, I just got laid off due to the economy/business struggles, and it’s making me feel like a failure. I’ve always been a high achiever, and I didn’t think I would ever get let go. It’s now making me afraid to apply to new jobs. How do I stop from feeling like such a failure?

Frame therapist Rebecca Holohan weighs in…
I’m so glad you wrote in with this question. Losing a job, especially when we are used to feeling successful at work or the loss is unexpected, is a really painful and difficult experience. I hear the big impact it has had on your sense of self and ability to move forward.  

Here are a few steps you can take to process this challenging life transition:

Allow Yourself to Grieve the Loss
The first step is to acknowledge the emotions that may be present, such as sadness, fear, or anger. When you feel a wave of emotion rising up, practice moving your attention to the physical sensations in your body and letting yourself breathe and feel the sensations as they pass through.

For example, allowing yourself to stay present with a sense of heaviness or ache in your heart, perhaps bringing a hand to rest on that part of your body, and letting yourself soften or cry if you need to. It is normal after a loss to feel many different emotions, and it’s important to give yourself time and space to grieve. There is no one “right” way to grieve and some tools that many find helpful include journaling about our experiences and feelings, creating personal rituals to mark the loss, or talking to friends, family, or a therapist for support.

Write a New Story
It’s common for many of us to think in all-or-nothing terms (“I’m a success or I’m a failure”) and when we are thinking in extremes, it can keep us stuck in painful emotions and make it difficult to move forward. The truth of a situation is usually more complex, nuanced, and somewhere in the middle.

You can practice recognizing when all-or-nothing thinking is happening and challenge it by exploring other possibilities. For example, you shared that you are a high achiever, so you could remind yourself of past times when you have succeeded, other obstacles you have overcome in your life, or even question whose definition of success you have been using. You can explore what aspects of the situation were in your control, and what aspects you had no control over (such as how the pandemic has affected the economy) to create a new story about what happened that is a more realistic, whole view.

Find Support
Lastly, I would encourage you to find support from others so you don’t have to be alone in this process. That could look like finding a therapist, meeting up with a friend who is also in the job search process to work on resumes, or connecting with people in your network who may be able to let you know of new opportunities. While you may not have wanted or chosen a life change such as this, it does present a chance to get clear on what you want for your life and to explore new possibilities.



About the Author: Rebecca Holohan, LPCC is a somatic therapist in Boulder, CO specializing in social anxiety, trauma, and relationship challenges. She helps individuals 18+ develop confidence and positive self-esteem, heal from past trauma, and create lives with joy, connection, and purpose. Learn more about Rebecca's style and reach out directly by viewing her Frame profile here.

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** This blog series is not suited for people who are in immediate crisis. If you are in crisis, please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or contact Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.