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Coping with Job Loss: Breaking the Stigma of Shame

Losing a job is a significant life event that can shake our sense of identity and security.  Beyond the financial strain and practical challenges, there is frequently an emotional toll that accompanies job loss. One of the most pervasive emotions is shame – a feeling of embarrassment, unworthiness or not belonging, that can weigh heavily on individuals during this vulnerable time and lead to a decrease in self-esteem.  Additionally, the experience of job loss can trigger a grieving process similar to mourning a significant loss in one’s life.

Understanding the Impact of Job Loss:


Job loss can cause an avalanche of negative emotions, including shame and grief.  It is natural to feel a profound sense of loss, not only for the job itself and all we invested in it, but also for the routine, relationships, and sense of purpose that it provided. It is the realisation that perhaps we don’t have as much control over our lives as we thought.  However, it is also important to recognise that job loss is not a reflection of our worth as an individual.  Economic factors, organisational changes, and industry trends often play a significant part in job loss. However, individual personality clashes, which we cannot control, may also have an important role and leave us feeling vulnerable.


Challenging the Stigma of Shame:


Shame and grief frequently go hand in hand during periods of job loss.  They can thrive in silence and isolation.  Grief, unlike shame is a natural response to loss, and the individual should allow themselves the time to reflect on and accept their grief, feeling and expressing their emotions in healthy ways such as crying, talking, meditating, journaling or even tapping into creativity, sports or other physical activity.  It is important to recognise that experiencing these emotions does not diminish our worth as individuals.  By shining a light on our experiences and sharing our stories, we can challenge the stigma surrounding job loss and break away from the grip of shame.  This may allow the individual to realise that they are not alone and that there is no shame in facing challenges or setbacks.  


Finding Meaning and Purpose:


While job loss can feel like the end of the world as we know it here are a few tips to help find meaning and purpose:

  • Surround ourselves with supportive friends, family, or professional networks. They can provide comfort and validation during this challenging time

  • Focus on self-compassion. It can be a kinder way of dealing with adversity. Speak to yourself the way you might speak to a friend.  It is likely to be more understanding and caring

  • Challenge the negative thoughts that threaten to derail us further.  Ask yourself is this thought fact or fiction and where is the evidence to back it up? This allows us to take control of the narrative in our head

  • Cultivate a positive mindset by reframing those negative thoughts. Instead of thinking, “I’m not good enough to get this job”, turn it around and rephrase it to “it may be challenging to get this job, however I have valuable skills and experiences to offer”

  • Re-evaluate values and career goals.  This is a great opportunity to re-assess whether our career path is fulfilling and in line with our values.  Think about values you would like to live by and compare these to the values you actually live by

  • Talk to a professional


Navigating this process while we look for purpose and meaning can take time as we lick our wounds. However, if we can recognise these setbacks with a positive mindset and by embracing self-compassion, it can help us to find our path going forward.


Journey from Shame to Growth:


In conclusion, job loss can evoke feelings of shame and grief; however, it is important to recognise that these emotions are a natural part of the healing process.  By acknowledging our experiences, confronting the stigma surrounding job loss, and practising self-compassion, we can navigate through this challenging time with resilience and dignity.  This will allow us to come out the other end with new-found growth and self-awareness.


Remember we are not alone and there is no shame in seeking support or asking for help when needed. 


Lucy Bello is a counsellor and psychotherapist as well as a career coach

 +44 7787 283895

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