In 2021, my life changed overnight; on June 4th I was suspended from work and escorted from the premises and on June 16th I was fired and released from the company. For legal reasons I cannot discuss the company or the details behind it but I can certainly discuss how I felt.
I was f*cking furious.
I felt unheard, unsupported but most importantly I was utterly ashamed of what had happened.
I'd never been fired before and my career had been my number one priority, working my way through the ranks with a lot of energy, sacrifice and time. I worked hard to make things happen, to build relationships, to support my team and develop them and now it had been for nothing. The hard work I did was going to take longer to see the full fruits of my labor and ultimately I failed to achieve the goal I had been assigned. I. Had. Failed.
The following 3 months were like a dark cloud to me. I completely lost any sense of routine; I was eating and sleeping at strange times, I didn't want to get out of bed, I didn't know how to fill my time and I felt like maybe it would be better if I wasn't around anymore… I couldn’t see a way out of the darkness. I felt completely lost and I didn't know who I was or who I wanted to be. I pulled away from friends because I didn't want to tell them what happened, as I was scared that they would make me feel like I deserved it because 'that’s what you get when you're a show-off'. I felt like a woman down, bloodied and bruised, not able to pick myself back up again. I was living in another country where I had not built up a good friendship network. I was alone and I knew that I had to get help. I tried a few places online and then met Camila, who was also studying to be a coach whilst running her counselling support business. Her advice on our first session has stayed with me,
'Just because you feel like you don’t want to be around right now doesn't mean that you want to die. It means there has to be part of you that has to go, because it is no longer serving you'.
In our time working together, I feel like I have had to remove every part of the armour that was protecting me; my job, my home, my ego, my friends, my sense of self. It has all been under question and I've had to peel away each part piece by piece only to rebuild it in a new form. In parallel with coaching I've used this time to really tune into how I feel and what my heart and gut is telling me. "How do you feel about your failure", Camila asked in another session. I felt like it was not an option and to fail was one of my fears. I still felt embarrassed about what happened and when I reflected, I felt like a child put in the sin bin without knowing that this could have been a possible consequence; I didn't know the rules of the game. It felt unfair and I felt rejected, without any possibility of being supported or developed. I felt like I had been working for spoiled children who, when I didn't play by their rules, I was eliminated from the game. I felt hopeless, disempowered and still very, very angry. I had felt that I had been doing all the right things for the project and the team, but it hadn't mattered. The key issue I was facing was that I looked at the actions I had completed and attributed them as my failure.
I couldn't separate my actions from my sense of self. I felt that the opinions of others and what they regard as a failure, was more important. They were the ones with the power, so they had to be right…. Right?
Camila continued to ask, 'When you failed, what were you BEING?' As a manager, I always put the interests and mental health of others in my team first. I was being a caring boss, who listened, cared and took action for the team. I always strive to build relationships with other departments to ensure that a project can run smoothly. I was being a professional team player and respecting the challenges that other people were facing. I was being a good listener. I was being a good, kind and respectful person. This is not a failure. My failure was that I couldn't deliver a difficult project on time. Its my choice how to react to this situation and how to tell the story. I need to become the main and only character as including others in the tale only gives them power that doesn't serve me in my healing.
Ultimately, I failed a difficult task that I did not have a lot of experience in previously and my values and personality did not fit with what is deemed important to the company. This is it. When I discussed my processing of failure with my boyfriend, he said 'If it wasn't for your failure, we would never have met'. It is completely true; I had been dating someone else when I was fired and he had told me that it was all my fault and had no means to support me emotionally. I knew that my future was not with him and I had ended the relationship and found my new boyfriend straight away. I was looking for intimacy and support and I feel like he responded to the frequency I put out into the world.
My failure made me rethink my position on work, what is important to me and what I feel I am able to achieve in the environments I have worked in before. I know for sure that it is possible to find a company which values personal development more than product development, but on the whole it is very rare
My failure made me reassess my relationship with work and my mental health. If I did not take this time to retrain and rebalance, I would have continued to work to another burnout and continue to feel like something was truly missing.
My failure brought me to coaching, a field that I am naturally skilled and can bring all of my experience and personality together.
My failure gave me the space to think about where I wanted to live and made me realise that I would continue to choose Italy above other locations in Europe and the UK.
My failure led me to move forward with honouring who I am.
This is not a failure. This is a blessing and for it I am truly grateful.
I am still writing my story when I am the main character for my failure, it keeps me grounded and calm without misdirected blame and anger. I have no doubt I will fail again, at some point, but I keep these thoughts as my anchor to recover quickly and positively.
If you want to know more about my wonderful counselor, check out her website at https://www.innercarecenter.com/contact or follow her at @innercarecenter
5 Tried and tested methods to improve your confidence at work
Download my free workbook here