“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”
- George Bernard Shaw
I wasn't going to write an answer here, but I think there is perspective current answers are missing.
You are not a victim. The way you have written your post comes across as, "so unfair, woe is me, it is horrible." You can't think like this because if you do, it'll lead you to the conclusions you are straw-man putting forth in your question.
Yeah, it sucks. No one likes feeling like a failure. But the reality is, nearly all of us feel incompetent at times (especially when taking new jobs). The myth is that most people feel 100% confident and great at their job and comfortable when they take new roles. Imposter Syndrome is well known and documented (especially for women). I'd suggest that if anyone feels that way they are not in a good position. We learn so much more when we are stretched and have to grow.
That being said, some questions to reflect on:
- What did you learn? If you quit before you really tried or learned anything then... ? If you don't feel like you learned anything, at all, either about yourself
- What was your responsibility? What can you do differently in the future? What will prevent your next job from having this problem? Even if you only have 5% responsibility, identify this, figure out what you can do
- Why did this happen? Figure out the root cause for what happened. Not the "I want to blame someone" reason (which is our normal response - we want to blame other people. Reality is most problems/frustrating situations have some level of blame to go around). The five whys technique is good.
- What will I do differently next time? If you need to, write down some notes.
The point is to understand at a deeper level what went on, what you learned, and what you will do differently.
So, what "redemptive story" could I tell the interviewer then?
You tell them the things you learned about it. Failure can be one of the most powerful teachers -- but only if you learn from it.
If you talk through your experience as if you were the victim, without any ability to influence the situation, who didn't try anything, you will tell a really, really not compelling story.
But.. if you focus on the things you tried, the things you learned, and what you will do differently next time? That is a compelling story. It tells the future employer, "wow, this person faced adversity and survived!"
No one wants to hear why it was hard -- and that you just didn't do anything different or try.
Of course it's entirely possible you just had a situation where you acted like a victim, didn't try to learn anything, and walked away rather than trying to learn from it. If this is the case, you want to focus on what you learned from the whole experience. Do some soul searching. Follow the above steps, but you might have more "I did X, should have done Y" as explanations.