July 6, 2017
Sometimes Quitting is the Best Self-Care
You know that old story about the guy who was hitting himself with a hammer:
“Why are you hitting yourself with a hammer?,” asks his friend.
“Because it feels so good when I stop.”
That’s a brutal story, but it cuts to the heart of what I think we do so often, as people who want to make a difference, want to make the world a better place, want to heal. We make ourselves small, hurt, less-than, all for the cause.
This is something that took me forever to learn, but I know to be incredibly true:
Sometimes Quitting is the Best Self-Care.
I’m not talking about flaking here. Quitting well has a nobility that ghosting lacks. When offered with integrity, quitting can be freedom, and it can be self-care, in its purest definition. It can lead to healing, sacred action, and deeper impact.
But all the same, I want you to know that sticking it out indefinitely, in a bad situation, is not what your life was meant to be.
I have two stories that prove this point.
- I got a job that I thought was my dream job. It actually was my dream job. But the specifics of being in the day-to-day reality of the job made it a not-great fit. I was crushed. I felt like I was doing good work and I was learning a lot. The work itself was varied, challenging and impactful.But being in the job itself, with its very specific constellation of characters, was… not good. I started having anxiety attacks, dreading going to work, and booking myself into windowless conference rooms to escape the reality of being at the office. It was a bad scene.The worst part? I knew I wasn’t being as effective as I could be, because I was going through the motions with a hearty mix of stress and indifference.
- I had a relationship with someone I cared for deeply. Except he didn’t care about me at all. AT ALL.It was this strange pendulum swing of “I love you/go away” that I held onto for more than two years.I really have nothing more to add to that than: YIKES.
Quitting isn’t easy.
In both of these situations, I resisted quitting. I wondered who I would be without the piece of my identity attached to each of these: job, relationship. I wondered if I would be just as miserable out on my own. It’s in my molecular makeup to stick it out, try to make it work, and muscle my way through to a solution that works.
But in both cases, quitting (with grace, with kindness, and with clear communication) was the healthiest, best thing I could have given myself. Often in work that’s geared toward healing and making change, we trick ourselves (or others trick us) into thinking that if we really cared, we’d put up with anything.
We’re bamboozled into thinking that making a difference needs to be hard. We think that if we quit one job, one project, one relationship, that we just don’t care enough. But I think it’s the opposite:
Quitting lets us devote ourselves to what truly matters to us.
It lets us find our real dream job. Our actual right-fit relationship. We find the place where we can truly dig in and make the positive impact we were meant to.