On Becoming an Expert Quitter

Remember that class you hated in college? The one where the subject was so boring you fell asleep, and it was right after lunch (so you fell asleep), and the professor was so monotone that you wanted a marching band to march through the room, just to add some excitement?

Did you quit that class, or did you stick with it?

I stuck with it. I learned that you stick to your commitments, no matter what. No matter if it’s boring, soul-sucking, demeaning, abusive or just not fun. And then that if you decide not to stick with it, you’re a failure.

Our culture teaches us to praise ourselves for hard work, for accomplishing, for sticking with something through thick and through thin. So we often become hard workers, high accomplishers, and dedicated people . . . to a fault.

Sticking with something that no longer serves you isn’t virtuous – in fact, it’s self-punishing. I’ve spent 34 years focusing on hard work and accomplishments – I know I can be good at that if I want to. But something I’ve not always been good at is quitting.

Quitting is letting go of something that is ultimately not serving you and your best interests – which means it requires discernment between knowing what’s in your best interest (what serves you and what your needs are) and what only serves your ego, how people think about us, or an outdated goal we’ve just become fixated on.

Quitting is not the same as giving up. Quitting can actually help you speed up your achievements by honoring what’s present in your life now and what your needs are. Giving up requires very little self-awareness. Quitting, on the other hand, requires a great deal of self-awareness and can be one of the healthiest things to learn.

Not quitting is painful and constricting. Life can become disempowering very quickly when we tell ourselves we “can’t” do something – quit that job, leave the relationship or fire that client.  Not quitting is like waiting for someone to give you a permission slip to use the bathroom after a chimichanga experiment. Not quitting is putting yourself and your current needs last. Not quitting is slaving day after day for something that, once accomplished, means nothing besides a pat on the ego.

Giving ourselves permission to quit happens when we are no longer ashamed to quit. Our soul knows when to quit, but our mind fights it so that we can avoid shame. So if we can give up associating quitting with shame, and see life as not a set of successes and failures but rather effort and result, or action and consequence.

I’m ready to be a better quitter. I’m ready to give myself more permission to be ME.

Here are a few of the things I quit this year:

  1. Feeling awkward at restaurants when I place an order that creates a Portlandia moment (you know the one).
  2. Defending my profession.
  3. Trying to make other people understand me.
  4. Believing it’s important that my parents understand me.
  5. Trying to be strong all the time.
  6. Wearing underwear with holes in them.
  7. Believing I wearing underwear with holes in them saves a great deal of money.
  8. Washing my hair
  9. Not washing my hair
  10. Trying to separate the healer side of me from the playful side of me.
  11. Valuing beauty over health.
  12. Apologizing for having needs.
  13. Letting my calendar run my life.
  14. Working on evenings and weekends. And Fridays.
  15. Apologizing for not working evenings, weekends and Fridays.
  16. Dialing back sarcasm – or anything – that I thought might make me “too much.”
  17. Believing I can be “too much.”
  18. Trying to do everything in my business myself.

What have you quit? What do you want to quit?


One Comment on “On Becoming an Expert Quitter”

  1. I quit:

    1. Apologizing for being “too sensitive” (this is important because I just apologized for being too sensitive when I felt a co-worker’s sadness and cried with her, and then she told me it makes her sad when I do that so I apologized to her – no more!)
    2. Wearing “period” underwear, even on my Niagara Falls flow day
    3. My sick and twisted sense of humor
    4. That my mind firmly resides in the gutter
    5. For having sex when I want to have it and with whom I want to have it
    6. For being brilliant
    7. Defending my decision to pursue a career outside academia
    8. For exploring unconventional career paths
    9. Beating myself up if I don’t quit #2 because I don’t want to bleed out on my beautiful panties

    I look forward to quitting:
    Anna’s #14

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