I need to quit something. It’s a something that is a net good thing for the world–it brings me extra income, it accomplishes positive things for people–but it is a something that is not good for me.
Lately, I’ve been challenged to think about the dangers of people pleasing and its negative health consequences. Fellow do-gooders, nonprofit professionals, and people pleasers of the world, I’m here to tell you: if something isn’t feeding you, it’s okay to quit. That thing–that volunteer gig, that second job, that thing that helps you 10 percent but runs you ragged–can survive without you. I am replaceable, and you are replaceable. That’s a really freeing thing if you’ll let it be.
When contemplating whether to quit an extracurricular time suck in my teenage years, my dad gave me this advice, “Think of not quitting. How do you feel? If you feel anxious or exhausted, it may be a sign that you need to quit.”
Maybe the thing you need to quit is a person–a draining friend, a controlling partner. Maybe it’s an addiction or a time waster. Maybe it’s a noble thing that keeps you from buying that cocker spaniel you’ve always wanted or conquering that next step at work.
People might not understand. But it is important to understand yourself, above all else. It doesn’t matter if someone else understands. If you want to discern whether an activity or gig is right for you, take some time to reflect. Be absolutely selfish for a minute. Does this contribute to your life’s narrative? Is this accomplishing good things for you? Is it giving you the skills you want to develop? If the answer is no, consider quitting.
In her book The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show, Ariel Gore writes:
"If you've abdicated your right to create your own life story, vow to take it back. If you're ruled by your possessions, give them away. By a toxic lover, diplomatically take your leave. By addictions, wean yourself with compassion, and if that doesn't work, go find a quiet shelter on a mountaintop, far from liquor stores and dealers. Welcome angels as you breathe through your parade of demons."
It is hard to say no, or rather, it’s hard to say no after you’ve first said yes. I find myself chasing possibilities at full speed and six months later, pausing to wonder how I got started on this thing. I am trying to cull out the things that don’t contribute to the narrative I want to tell people about my life.
So here we go. Say it with me now, “I quit…”