When It’s OK to Quit

“Don’t be a quitter.”

“In this house, we don’t raise quitters.”

“You can’t quit now!”

“Quitting is not an option.”

We are raised to think quitting is unforgivable, even though forcing something beyond reason is the true negative. I’m thankful for parents who gave me the freedom to pursue (and quit) interests, jobs, and even people. While this practice looked as innocent as quitting softball or gymnastics after a day or two of practice, in reality it was essential in helping me hone my judgment, as well as my passions.

There are so, so many times when we don’t quit and we really should. There are probably just as many things that we quit and we shouldn’t. I think the balance is somewhere in there. I know that it’s attainable.

It’s OK to Quit When A Job Is Not Serving You

Dread is a powerful tool. Most everyone has had at least one job that they dread. It’s our duty to figure out the root of that dread, and when the job itself is the problem, it’s time to quit.

Of course, this isn’t (always) an overnight decision. And to be clear, there is a huge difference between dread and discomfort. Dreading Monday because it’s not as cozy as Sunday or dreading an upcoming review are feelings of discomfort, and avoiding discomfort is not healthy.

I quit a sixth grade teaching position because it took an enormous toll on my mental and physical health. I cried every single day for several months before going to school. On Fridays, I could only think about the looming stress of Mondays. I lost four pounds in just a week from the stress, and, it pains me to say it, but I even started driving to work and thinking about crashing my car so that I wouldn’t have to go. I could write an entire blog for why that was, but clearly dreading a job, in this case, was an understatement.

Of course, not every case needs to be that extreme. Sometimes you’re just permanently bored. Or there’s no more room for you to grow. Or the changes that need to happen just aren’t taking place (and likely never will). In those instances, it’s good to start planning your exit.

If you aren’t in a financial place to do so or if you aren’t comfortable with taking on work that’s beneath your pay grade (i.e. working at a restaurant or something), then wait. But I’d encourage anyone who feels that way to take a close look at why that is—speaking from someone who felt immense shame about working at a cafe post-teaching (and who now knows better).

It’s OK to Quit When A Relationship Isn’t Cutting It

Unlike jobs, we tend to dread being single more than we dread the person we’re with, even if it’s not healthy. Here are some signs that this relationship might not be worth continuing—though, of course, take my opinions for what they are. I’m thinking in a very generalized sense, and am the furthest thing from a professional.

  • There are big things (i.e. how you both deal with money, wanting kids) that you both cannot come to an agreement on and likely never will. Thinking, “Well, they might change their mind when ______ happens,” allows for too much speculation. This is more about embracing each other for who you are, and being able to communicate and compromise.
    People change, but it should not be assumed that people are going to change in accordance to your beliefs. If you don’t like when your partner drinks in excess or how much money they spend, there’s only so much you can do before either accepting this behavior or recognizing it’s not going to sustain you.
  • You make consistent allowances for their behavior. Making excuses for your partner or putting the blame back on you when what you’re asking for is reasonable (“I shouldn’t be so needy”) is probably not healthy in the long run. It’s also not good if you think “This thing they do bothers me a lot, but at least they do  _____ or they don’t do ______.”
    Granted, everyone has bad days. We’ve all snapped when we’re tired or cranky. There are plenty of exceptions to this rule, but if on the whole you are lessening your presence to accommodate your partner, it might be good to quit.
  • There is abuse of any kind. Abuse that is physical, mental, verbal, emotional, or behavior that is manipulative is never OK.
  • There is little to no effort. You and your partner should be striving to lift the other person up and to show you care. Listening with full attention, spending time together, making a meal for one another (or cooking together), saying thoughtful things and being thoughtful in general, practicing intimacy—this is what a relationship is about. Just existing together is not enough.
    ALSO: Putting forth effort out of obligation or with reluctance does not count.
  • Your main reason for staying is that you don’t want to be single. Ooof. This is a tough one. Relationships are super comforting. But if you don’t truly love your partner or know on some level that they are not right for you, doing the tough thing could be the right thing. Additionally, if you stay solely because you don’t want to go through the messiness of a breakup (and in many cases, not have to deal with their emotions) or because staying feels easier, it’s not fair to them.
  • You can’t be yourself with them. Man have I been there. Trust me when I say flee the scene. 

People change, but it should not be assumed that people are going to change in accordance to your beliefs.

Again, some of these could easily be taken with a grain of salt (but certainly not the abuse thing). I know that these are general thoughts, and there are exceptions. I just want people to be happy! It’s easier than you think to hold onto something that prevents happiness, but the truest relief can come from letting go.

It’s OK to Quit When Something Doesn’t Make Sense

Humans are both logical and illogical beings. We do plenty of things that don’t make sense, and if we were to rationalize all of our behaviors, we’d be pretty boring.

However, there are certain habits where quitting is in your best interests. Smoking is the first that comes to mind (interpret that how you will). Again, I’m labeling this as a habit that needs quitting, which is far different from the occasional blunt with your friends or allowing yourself a few cigarettes a year. But as a daily occurrence, everyone already knows that the cost and health implications don’t make smoking worth it.

Drinking every day doesn’t make sense. But you know what? Neither does excessively working out. All of our habits have roots that likely trace directly back to those feelings of discomfort. Smoking, drinking, scrolling on phones—these actions numb uncomfortable feelings or pause our need to take on uncomfortable tasks. Working out excessively prohibits addressing discomfort with our bodily image. If you’re continuing an illogical behavior because quitting is too hard, dive into why that is and figure out what’s holding you back.

Quitting can be hard and it can also be easy. For the bigger things, the process of quitting should require lots of thought and reflection. For the little things like a workout class that wasn’t your jam, you already know what to do—though finding an alternative class is preferable to quitting fitness altogether.

The bigger picture involves our reconciliation of what quitting really can do. When we quit for the wrong reasons, we’re left with less than satisfactory results. But to continue something solely because quitting implies weakness is a process that only holds us back. As impossible as it might seem, there is immeasurable relief (and sometimes, even joy) on the other side of quitting.

What’s something you know you need to quit? Mine is procrastinating with social mediashare yours in the comments below!

Photos via Unsplash (minus the feature image)

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