Writer: Lisa Schoenberger | This article is the first time I am sharing this experience publicly. While I know it will be difficult to write and I will probably shed a few tears, I hope that telling my story will provide comfort to someone who may have had a similar experience and also be a way for me to start gaining some closure.
My followers know me as a successful and independent professional CPA, CA by day. For almost 20 years I was blessed to do what I love (yes I love accounting!), working for only 2 firms and moving progressively through the ranks, reaching a level that I thought was my permanent role where I would continue serving my clients, growing my practice and being a leader. But at the end of October I had the rug pulled out from underneath me when I was “downsized” because due to restructuring my position was eliminated.
I was left feeling completely shell shocked and I experienced all of the emotions you would expect in the situation. But what rocked me to my very core is that it made me question my sense of self, it made me feel inadequate and embarrassed. You see being plus size basically all of my life I really wasn’t great at sports, I had a hard time making friends, and I never really developed any hobbies or interests growing up. But the thing I was good at was school. I was smart, it came easy to me and it made my family proud.
My success in school translated into success at work and my career became my focus because I felt like a failure at everything else. I pushed myself and achieved many things despite some setbacks along the way because I persevered and as someone once told me I was resilient. Did I sometimes feel overlooked or that I had to work that much harder because I was fat? You’re damn right I did! But I wasn’t a quitter and I always wanted to prove them wrong.
So who was I now that I had lost the one thing that I was great at? What did that say about me as a person? Sure I have come a long way in the last few years on my road to self love and acceptance and I know that I am not defined solely by my career just like I am not solely defined by my weight but this loss weighed heavily on me and I fell into a deep depression and I am still trying to find my way out. I was so ashamed that I couldn’t even tell my parents. My father found out because he called my office and they told him I no longer worked there.
As I spent time trying to make sense of it all, figuring out what I wanted to do next and doing the interview circuit I realized that I still care too much about what other people might think, that I am still looking for self validation from others. But the reality is I have nothing to be ashamed of, I am damn good at what I do and it’s their loss. And thankfully I had some good friends who reminded me how awesome I really am. I honestly don’t know where I would be without them.
And while I still am looking for a full time position (if you need a good accountant, I’m available!), I am doing some contract work and in the short month I have been there I have already regained so much of the sense of self I had lost.
Many women have contacted me for advice about how to be successful in their careers, particularly when you are fat. And well it is not easy at times, I believe progress is being made in changing public perceptions and we need strong women who are willing to fight the good fight. I want the next generation to not have to go through what I have gone through. So I will continue to be resilient because when one door closes another one opens.
And while I am still in the process of healing, I remind myself the one thing I always tell women who ask where my confidence comes from – you are worthy of self love exactly as you are, you deserve to be happy, you deserve to take up space and we are all beautiful in our own unique way. So here’s to seeing where the next chapter will take me…