How to silence your inner critic and be kind to yourself after a layoff

Unemployment rates skyrocketed in 2020 – but pandemic or no pandemic, getting laid off is never great for our confidence and mental health.

For those of us who have experienced it, a layoff can be absolutely gut-wrenching. One minute you’re flying high, doing interesting work, enjoying the company of your colleagues, and adding considerable value to your organisation. 

Then suddenly, you’re packing your office belongings, you’re back at home, you’re staring at job boards and wondering how this could happen to you. It’s devastating, lonely and life-changing. 

Yet it’s increasingly common. 

The hard truth? More than a third of workers will be made redundant during their careers. No one is likely to forget the economic disaster of 2020 – it is estimated that the US unemployment rate reached a whopping 16% in May of last year, while Australia’s workforce fared little better, with the number of people out of work rising from 104,500 to 823,300 in April 2020 alone

Despite the surge of unemployment in recent times, losing your job can feel like a highly individual, personal experience. It can feel like the end of the world, leaving you vulnerable to deprecating slights from your dreaded inner critic. 

You’re a failure, it might tell you, and your career is now over. 

So how do you silence your inner critic and ensure you bounce back, stronger and better than ever? 

Distance yourself from your critic

When we experience a layoff, it can unleash many of our worst fears. These can include practical concerns, such as how we’ll pay our mortgage and support our families, and more ego-related fears – we wonder what people might think of us, or fret about what our status is now that our career has been (temporarily) halted.

Although our practical fears are valid, our ego-based fears are at risk of falling victim to our inner critic. Layoffs always feel personal, and it’s common to blame yourself, question your worth, or believe that you’ll never get a job again. 

When your inner critic is getting you down, the first and most important thing you need to do is distance yourself from these thoughts. Remind yourself that your inner critic isn’t you talking. Instead, it’s the sum total of your past experiences, including the voices of others who may have criticised you, and is the mental manifestation of what you feel society expects from you. 

A great exercise is to try giving your inner critic or her a name, and when you feel doubt creeping in, tell your critic off. No, Karen, it WASN’T my fault that this happened, you might say. 

Remind yourself that a redundancy is normal, and soon you’ll be back on your feet 

A layoff is a kick to our confidence, but in reality, redundancy is rarely personal. It’s important to remember the facts if you find yourself in this situation:

‘Redundancy is a business decision, not a personal decision,’ says Jarrod Hastings, Recruitment Consultant at The Source. He’s right – as emotionally difficult as the experience might be, losing your job is not necessarily about you, nor is it in your control to change. Businesses have to make these unfortunate decisions frequently, and the best thing that you can do for yourself is to face it with a proactive mindset

What’s the best way to bounce back from a layoff? It’s all about getting back on the horse after you fall off, says Jarrod, whatever that looks like for you. His top tips?

‘The key things are setting a plan, and resetting your goals,’ he says. ‘It’s all about deciding what’s best for you.’

If you’ve been made redundant recently, there is comfort to be had: according to a recent poll by LinkedIn, seven out of ten people believe that the stigma around redundancy has reduced since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. A mindset shift is definitely in motion –  redundancy is increasingly recognised as part and parcel of working life, and more people feel able to tell their family and friends and utilise their networks in their job search as a result.

This mindset shift has already influenced the hiring process of many managers as well as recruiters, who understand that layoffs are common and always prefer you to be honest when discussing the reasons for leaving your last role. 

Show yourself some compassion 

The research proves what we all know to be true: that a layoff is really hard. You almost immediately lose the feeling of control over your life, your confidence takes a huge hit and you might feel ashamed or unwanted. Stress and anxiety are common experiences, and may exacerbate already-existing mental health issues. Given this, it’s unsurprising that our thoughts can turn against us. 

Another important way to quiet our inner critic is to show yourself some compassion. Regardless of what is going on around you, you need to look after yourself and your mental health, and seek help if you need it. Giving yourself something to focus on besides your layoff and job searching, such as regular exercise or a creative hobby, can be a great way to silence those unhelpful thoughts. 

If your inner critic flares up, ensure you remind yourself of the fact that you’re not experiencing this alone, and that it certainly isn’t your fault. Be honest and upfront with your story, and do what feels right for you. Show that inner critic who’s boss!