Our culture is obsessed with perseverance it seems. Whenever you hear star politicians, athletes, or even your favorite author talk about their journey, the message is always the same: Just keep trying, even when it’s hard. That’s a good message…for some people…in some cases. But there are also times with it’s totally OK to quit something you’ve been working at, whether it’s your career, a new DuoLingo level, or your marriage. Sometimes giving up on something actually sets you up for success.
There are a lot of things that hold us back from quitting something, even if it’s making us miserable.
We might have a lot of time invested in something, like a ten-year relationship. A 2016 study found that people will actually stay in terrible relationships, for example, based on how much time and money they’ve thrown into it. When you’ve made some memories together and split the rent, it feels like it might be worth working through the tough stuff instead of just calling it quits. It’s the same for short-term relationships, too. You might know deep down that you’re not going to settle down with the new S.O. you met on Tinder, but you’ve already dropped hundreds on dinners and bought Beyoncé/JAY-Z tickets, so….you wait it out, when you should really feel safe to quit.
The same logic can be applied to other relationships, our careers, the cities we live in, and even the seemingly healthiest hobbies, all of which we should make ourselves feel free to walk away from when the time is right.
Here are some examples of when no one should judge you for throwing in the towel and starting over.
1When it’s making you sick.
A lot of good things can end up making you physically ill. Maybe it’s a job that gives you so much anxiety that you forget to eat or sleep, or a long-time friendship that wears you out. It’s amazing how we can talk ourselves into sticking with things and people that hurt us. Just because you finished law school doesn’t mean you have to be a lawyer, and just because you’ve known someone since high school doesn’t mean they get an invite to your birthday party when they’re actually toxic AF. If it’s keeping you up at night or activating your IBS — real talk here, people — you need to get out. Your loan payments and Facebook friends will get sorted out.
2When you know it’s not burn out.
Everything deserves a second chance. If something is making you miserable, you’ve likely taken a step back from it. Maybe that’s a long weekend away from your S.O., skipping a holiday with the family, or asking for a promotion at work to switch things up. When you’ve literally done everything you can do to make the situation more amenable to your life and you still drag your sweet butt to get it done: Give it up. Burn out is real, but sometime’s there’s only so much a gal can do.
3When you start avoiding it, at all costs.
There are times when we pick up good habits and don’t stick with them that we should think long and hard about. Like, if you’re avoiding quitting cigarettes or drinking too much, you should probably face the chore of dealing with your addictions. But there are other seemingly “good” habits that you shouldn’t feel bad about ditching if you will literally find any excuse to not attend. Like that dumb kickball league you joined with your bestie, or the piano lessons you swore you wanted to take.
This counts for friends, too. If you keep canceling on someone you keep saying you love, think about why. Your time is precious — it might be worth losing the deposit for the yoga workshops if you seriously dread going every time you have to.
4When the other choice really scares you.
Often, we know that we need to pivot to another career path, or that we hate the city the live in. Yet, we can’t picture what the next step *really* is or imagine ourselves doing anything different. It takes a certain amount of financial freedom and privilege to do so, but one of the best courses of action in these cases is to just do it.
Quit. Tell your landlord you’re not renewing the lease. Sometimes the best time to make a huge move is when you can’t quite put your finger on what the future holds. It’s OK to be scared, but channel that energy into doing something nice for yourself instead of worrying all night long.
5When your only reason for sticking around is someone else.
Again, there’s so much pressure to *keep going* even when we don’t want to and have a feeling that it’s not the right thing. A lot of that is just plain old peer pressure and insecurities. Don’t be afraid to admit to your friends and family that you made a huge mistake and need to take a detour. Sure, they may roast you for bidding adieu to all that when you swore you would live in Paris until the day you died and now want to move back home. But Carrie Bradshaw did it, right? This counts for even smaller moves, like promising to babysit as a side hustle even though you have no time to really do it. Anyone who loves you will understand why you might have to let them down (or come crawling back) sometimes.
Life is too short to waste time doing things that make us sad, anxious, or beholden to some silly expectation. It’s alright to quit things you don’t want to do.