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“Life isn’t always fair. Some people are born into better environments. Some people have better genetics. Some are in the right place at the right time. If you’re trying to change your life, all of this is irrelevant. All that matters is that you accept where you are, figure out where you want to be, and then do what you can, today and every day, to hold your head high and keep moving forward.” ~Lori Deschene
Like millions of people these days, I have lost my job. But unlike millions of people, I’ve now lost the same job twice within a year. Which, strangely, makes me feel somewhat prepared for it. And that’s why I’d like to share with you how I dealt with the situation then, and how I’m dealing with it now.
I learned I was being made redundant the first time on March 26, 2019, and this time on the March 26, 2020, both times due to a “lack of business.” The law in Sweden says the last ones to join a company should be the first ones out, and I happened to be one of the last ones in.
After being let go the first time—having an uncertain future in front of me and dealing with feelings of unworthiness, lack of direction, and grief—I was told I would be rehired a couple months later due to an increase in the volume of business.
What a relief. After all that inner turmoil, I was considered worthy again and welcomed back. Back to a life that I knew well, that I would return to refreshed, after having had a break from it—and having been “on the other side,” looking at what I’d lost, now appreciative for what I’d regained. Not a perspective many have had.
It felt like a rollercoaster of an experience that made me braver in the face of abysses. I began to stare down from the top realizing that if I’d felt pushed to it again, I’d eventually fly. Being laid off, after all, was not a fatal fall. Not even a failure. It was a test for my wings.
You can have many different reactions to being laid off, depending on how much you like your job, how much you depend on it, and how much you have invested in it. I believe that for most of us there’s a bitter feeling, a sense of betrayal and failure. That after you have dedicated yourself to your company’s mission, day after day, hour after hour, you are suddenly seen as disposable, unworthy.
And it’s a strange thing, that even for those who didn’t enjoy their job, there’s a certain nostalgia when they think that they won’t be returning to that place again, and won’t meet the people they used to despise seeing on Monday mornings.
Pretty much like one of those breakups when all of a sudden, the person you hated when you broke up, turns into a person you can’t live without.
That wasn’t the case for me when I got laid off. I enjoyed my job and wasn’t happy about the news.
However, I have done enough personal development work to help me to take what happens in my life with a grain of salt, and just enough distance to handle the situation gracefully. That’s why I want to share my perspective with you.
Here are some of the thoughts that have helped me through being laid off, both times.
My job is not my life.
I have always strived to create a routine that would remind me that my job is a part of my life, but not my entire life.
It’s easy to get immersed in all that’s happening at work—all the personal dynamics, all the challenges, victories, projects, meetings, trips, etc.—to such a deep level that we perceive our work as our entire life. After all, many times work is what we do, what we talk and think about, the whole day, every day.
But I noticed that every time I would feel most frustrated with work, I was doing precisely that: looking at work as if it was my entire life. And if things were not going well at work, I’d feel as if my whole life wasn’t going well. Every time I and saw work as just one part of my life, my frustrations would soften.
At the moment, after being laid off, this kind of strategy is absolutely essential. We need to see our employment as one part of our life (an essential one, of course), and we need to see what our lives are beyond our job. Now is the perfect opportunity to see what’s there, beyond that big chunk of time and energy we call work.
And if you feel like nothing is left, pay more attention. Who do you have around you? What are the things that interest you the most? What are the things that you’re happy to do even without a paycheck? And what gives you some pleasure or relief when you’re feeling down? This is a time to pay attention to yourself and discover who you are under the veil of old routines.
My career doesn’t define me.
To a certain extent, you might feel your career defines you, especially if you feel that your job defines your life, or if you have spent most of your life building a career that aligns with your interests. However, the status of your career doesn’t make you a better or worse person, or a more or less valuable person to society. And this is a crucial point to take in.
Losing our job might make us feel that we’re no longer useful in the community, and that can give a deep sense of unworthiness. But, how the world is being shaped right now, hopefully, we’ll return to work that is more conscious, relevant, and less harmful to all.
If you feel like you lost your sense of identity when you lost your job, work on finding your identity in this crisis. Aren’t these the times that truly define us? How we deal with uncertainty and tough times?
It’s okay to grieve.
With so much advice on positivity everywhere, it’s not surprising that we feel bad for feeling blue or lacking energy and patience, and we think we should somehow be instantly productive. When we’re struggling, it’s helpful to stop and ask: Is it reasonable what I’m demanding of myself? Is it reasonable today? Can I take a break? Can I be a little kinder?
No matter how well you take losing your job, you’re still going through a massive life change. The people you used to meet, the places you used to go, and what you used to do every day will all change. That’s massive. So it’s okay to grieve that loss. Give yourself space to experience the pain, without judgment and unrealistic expectations.
The unknown is the birthplace of possibility.
Every time I took a leap of faith in my life, I was met with both tough times and gratifying achievements. And life has always felt sweeter in the face of those setbacks and victories because it was then I felt truly alive.
Sure, it’s great, and necessary, to have security in life, but our true nature is wired for uncertainty. In reality, every morning, no one knows what the day will hold. You might fall in love that day or lose a loved one. You might be promoted, or maybe lose your job. That’s the nature of life, unpredictable. But it’s also that unpredictability that holds space for great things to happen. Or else, why would you buy a lottery ticket, take a trip to an exotic place, or start a new relationship with a stranger you fell in love with?
Can we rewire our thinking to see this tough time through the lens of possibility? I believe so.
We just have to have faith in the unknown and be patient and kind to ourselves. We can believe the world is ending, or we can believe the world is transforming. We can cry because we have lost our job or smile because we have gained an opportunity.
After all, the universe is always hiring, and you’re only a short time away from being rehired.