Quitting has become a bad word, but it shouldn’t be stigmatized. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s OK to quit, and put your energy and effort towards something more fulfilling […] You’re not quitting or escaping your life, you’re embarking on a new chapter with the fruits of your last chapter.Julie B. Rose, Money and Mindset: How to Take a Sabbatical, by Julie B. Rose
I’ve been a quitter all my life.
But only recently have I become unapologetically proud of that.
When I was a kid growing up in Minnesota, I was enthralled by the Winter Olympics. Like many young girls, I decided that I wanted to be a figure skater. I had a frozen pond near my house… so, totally doable, right? I dragged my mom to the secondhand store to buy me ice skates.
I went once. It was dark and cold, I fell on my butt too many times to count, and my toes were frozen. I wasn’t any good at it, and I didn’t have fun. I quit, never to go again — still, I felt a little bad about the shiny, white ice skates my mom had bought for me that sat in the back of the entryway closet until I outgrew them.
I felt bad about the ice skates; but not enough to go back or “stick it through.”
And then, I kept quitting.
I took three years of piano lessons through childhood, and then quit. I joined the softball team as a freshman in high school, but quit after one season. Like most high schoolers, I cycled through A LOT of part-time jobs, and I broke up with my first boyfriend because I stopped liking him — I had zero interest in “working things out,” despite his many pleas. I quit track after two seasons, and didn’t even go to my final senior track meet!
In college, I quit my marketing minor halfway through, and decided to pivot towards a minor that was more appealing and interesting to me: international relations.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t “good at” the piano, or sports, or making coffee or serving food, or being a girlfriend, or certain college subjects… instead, I was clearing my schedule to make room for other interests or new horizons. But still, I was sometimes made to feel like I gave up too easily or lacked commitment.
The stigma of quitting: Perspectives from older generations, internal pressures, and shame
I don’t know if my dad understood how I couldn’t stick with a sport or how I hopped from job to job. Born in 1942, he came from the older generation — the one that tends to value perseverance, dedication, and a strong work ethic. When I was laid off from my first professional job in 2009, even when it wasn’t my fault — I felt the weight of disappointment and failure. My dad held the same professional job for almost 40 years — a stark contrast to the employment landscape millennials have experienced!
Previous generations and societal thinking emphasize duty and responsibility, especially towards family, community, or organizations; there is a perception that quitting is being selfish, shirking responsibilities, or not fulfilling obligations. Our society also places a strong emphasis on perseverance, success, and not giving up — and as such, quitting has been seen as a sign of weakness or failure.
Just check out this quote by some nobody named Vince Lombardi (kidding): “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” The implication is that quitters throw in the towel too early and too easily: If only they were willing to work a little harder, for a little longer… success would finally be in their grasp.
Only… that is rarely true. (Goodbye, dream of Olympic figure skating stardom!)
It’s why people stay in dysfunctional relationships, keep working themselves to death in sh*tty jobs, and generally keep doing things they don’t want to do — they don’t want to “look like a loser” and feel embarrassment and shame — when in reality, half of marriages end, most people hold (and lose) a number of jobs over their lifetime, and many people die with regrets of the things about the things they didn’t do because they were stuck doing over things. We won’t be successful at EVERYTHING.
And because it’s human nature to care what people think, the fear of being judged is incredibly powerful.
Remember the episode of Glee where the football jock with a fantastic voice admits he actually hates football but won’t quit because of how it will look to his teammates and classmates? Quitting is also often associated with a loss of status, particularly if the activity or endeavor is highly regarded by others or carries a significant social or professional standing.
This pressure we put on ourselves is so strong, and our personal expectations may be so high, it can be difficult to accept quitting as a valid option. But quitting is not inherently wrong, negative, or shameful.
There are situations where quitting can be a healthy and self-empowering choice: it takes courage to evaluate a situation and make the decision to quit when it no longer aligns with your goals, values, or well-being.
Quit… so you can get to the good part
There are a lot of things I don’t want to do, and a lot of things I do. So why would I waste my time with the things I don’t like, when I could be spending my time on the things I do? (I battle with myself on this ALL THE TIME!)
(Do you recognize a common theme on my blog: that TIME IS PRECIOUS and the FUTURE IS NOT GUARANTEED?!)
- I’ve quit jobs that stopped fulfilling me and left employers that didn’t value my contributions.
- I’ve quit relationships that were unhealthy and emotionally burdensome.
- I’ve quit responding to or engaging with people that demand emotional labor from me, cause me negativity, or give nothing back.
- I’ve quit allowing things I don’t like and don’t interest me to consume my time and my mental energy.
I’m proud to be a quitter… because you know what is worse? Sticking with something that’s not fulfilling, fruitful, or dysfunctional.
It’s OK… to wash your hands, fold your cards, and lose the pot — because then, you are dealt a new hand, and can begin again.
“You’re always one decision away from a totally different life,” said Mark Batterson. And if that decision includes quitting, that’s not only OK — it may be necessary and the key to the life you desire.
Everyone faces challenges and makes choices that are right for them. If you reframe your perspective on quitting, focusing on the lessons learned, personal growth, and the opportunities that arise from embracing new directions in life, career, and love… when you choose your own path, challenges and problems become opportunities and pending solutions.
“Quitting is not giving up, it’s choosing to focus your attention on something more important.”Osayi Osar-Emokpae