Shame

“We just…don’t think you’re a good fit for this team.”

Those weren’t her exact words — I have a terrible memory for conversations — but it’s what they were saying. I remember the awkward, uncomfortable moments of silence; the shame as I tried unsuccessfully to keep back the tears from my eyes. They watched on, tense, wondering how I would take the news.

Seven months into a job, and here I was, getting fired. I had never been fired before.

The worst part was knowing it was coming — I had spent weeks in this shaky, nervous state, anxiety a constant fire in my gut, a dampness on my skin, electric buzzing in my chest. I had briefly considered quitting the week before, confiding in sympathetic coworkers, but I could never quit. Quitting was a sign of weakness. It meant I was giving up. More importantly, how would I pay for my loans, my rent? How would I survive without a job?

I drove home in a daze, trying to keep my hands steady on the sticky, peeling wheel of my car. It was June, and sweltering, and my car had no AC. I barely noticed the heat.

I parked, went inside, and immediately made myself a drink. I was still crying. My phone was in my hand. Twitter was already open.

“…I just got let go.” Pause. Did I really want to tweet this? Did I want to make my humiliation public? My desire for comfort outweighed my shame. Within an hour or two I had friends over, sitting on my porch, bringing their laughter and their good humor. I am a lucky person to have such good friends.


In the end, I only spent two months unemployed. I spent the first month desperately searching for local work, but there were no jobs to even apply to. I gave up, and my partner and I decided to move.

Once I knew I was moving to Boston, finding a job didn’t take very long. I was hired on as a UI designer for an early stage startup. I liked my coworkers, I liked what we were building, and I fit in well with the culture.

I’ve since moved on from that job, but I look back on it fondly. That startup helped me start to look past the shame. I was able to separate myself from the shame of failure and see it for what it was: the right decision for everyone involved, especially myself.

It really was the right decision. I wasn’t a good fit for my previous team, and I didn’t have the right skill set for the job. This caused me enormous stress; each minor failure kept compounding until I questioned everything I did. Every minor misstep or poor design choice felt like a disaster. My performance suffered. My relationships with my coworkers suffered. I was starting to totally shut down. It wasn’t healthy for any of us.

What I’ve come to realize since moving on is that there will always be places you don’t fit in. There are jobs that you’re not meant to do. My skills were not what this company needed. Conversely, they were what my startup needed. I knew where I fit in, and I understood what was expected of me. It was an immense relief.

Now that I’ve realized all of this, I’ve been able to make better employment decisions moving forward. I have a better understanding of myself and my capabilities. I feel nothing but admiration and respect for my former coworkers and the great work they continue to produce, and I’d like to think that, despite me being fired, I could sit down with my former bosses for some beers in the next time I run into them. We just weren’t a good fit professionally.

Yes, I was fired. But I’m no longer ashamed.

Originally posted on Medium.

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