Knowing when to Quit

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 2-24-2021

“I can spend year after year building and cementing a life for myself, and in an instant, walk away from it like it never mattered. But it’s because I know how to admit to myself when something isn’t working for me anymore. My life is wherever I want to take it. -EaE

“You have to finish what you start, there is no quitting,” one of the many famous lines my parents loved to lecture. They were applying this concept/ value to school, projects, chores, sports, professional development and so on. They both grew up poor – lower middle class with parents that never had enough money. They grew up seeing the consequences of many mistakes and admitted to the mistakes they had made. I am forever grateful for their wisdom, despite the fact that their endless lectures caused me to dissociate into some pretty deep mental states with no return in sight.

I took the value of ‘not quitting’ with me everywhere I went: the military, martial arts, college, writing, relationships etc. Obviously like any value/ rule that is cemented into our survival program, there are times it is absolutely crucial and effective, and times that it causes us to spiral into a slow/ miserable spirit breaking death. Anywhere from being ‘alive’ but in ‘auto pilot’ where nothing feels worth it anymore, all the way to actual death. Yes, sometimes people should quit, so that they are not led to an early grave. The difficulty is how to gauge when something is NOT WORTH IT ANYMORE.

The quote I wrote in the subheading, I would like to pretend that I lived by this quote. I wanted to believe I did, but I’m only just learning, when to actually pick up and walk away from something. Due to my no quitting ‘survival program’, I was led down some pretty self destructive paths, then forced to pull myself out. Sometimes exes harmed and/ or helped, sometimes sports, sometimes family, and sometimes friends. Sometimes I was alone and needed to make the decision for myself. I learned that I am a repeat offender of pushing myself to the limit, and persisting in something way beyond the expiration date. I suppose I am an expert in this topic because I have been a victim of the toxic ‘no quit attitude’ that some of us carry for far too long. Let’s discuss the benefits as well as the trade offs of the classic NO QUIT ATTITUDE.

The Benefits:

  • Your professional development will be spot on, if you don’t quit and apply yourself you can earn degrees, certs, vocational training experience, OJT etc.
  • People will pretend to love you (and for a while it will feel genuine), you will get along with others because you are a person that works hard and has their shit together.
  • You will get to know yourself better as you tackle, and never give up, on difficult projects.
  • You will sharpen your critical thinking skills because your stubbornness and tenacity will far surpass your fatigue.
  • You will most likely be financial stable, stability often requires that we sell our soul to the capitalistic working devil (I still love capitalism, I can’t help it :))

The Trade off:

  • Your creativity will slowly die along with your dreams. Ambition toward difficult worker tasks can often hinder our time for solitude, creativity, self expression etc.
  • You may lose your sense self & identity. Ex: Am I doing this for me? Or because it’s what’s expected? Or because it’s what I was taught to want?
  • Your free time will be so limited that you will likely experience dozens of burnout episodes throughout your adult life.
  • Your family, friendships and intimate partner time will absolutely suffer, it may cause a build up of resentment from those that care about you.
  • You may regret some of the time wasted doing what ‘you were supposed to not quit’ vs the things you actually/ secretly wanted to do all along.

When to Quit:

I believe one of the hardest things for a human to admit to themselves is when they need to quit doing something. The reality is that the more time we invest in something or someone, the harder it is to let it go. This goes for jobs, relationships, hobbies, sports, friendships and so on. We want to see that our hard work wasn’t ‘in vain’ or a complete ‘waste of time’. We equate staying with something or with someone to the very end as a win, and equate ending something to ‘quitting’ and/ or ‘failure’. The reality is, we fail ourselves when we cannot see that it’s time to stop. We fail ourselves when we stay in something for the sake of staying in something despite the mental/ physical/ spiritual damage it is causing us. It is quite simple and also quite hard: You need to quit when you feel your spirit, mental and physical health dying everyday. Some of the signs of this include depression, substance abuse, emotional disconnect, pessimism, feelings of entrapment, crying spells, anxiety, irritability, isolation and so on.

I tell everyone, especially fellow military members back in the day, “only you can know when you are done. Do not let anyone talk you into anything or out of anything.” You personally know when you are done, when something is not serving you anymore or giving you a sense of meaning and purpose. This requires us to listen to our emotions vs our logic sometimes, which is an ass backwards way of looking at something according to most people in America. The reality is, when the emotions go haywire to the point of severe mental distress or suicidal ideation, it is more important that you quit at whatever it is that is harming you, vs ending your life all together just for the sake of not quitting.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

2 thoughts on “Knowing when to Quit

  1. Knowing when to Quit via @wordpressdotcom. #ThinkLikeAMonk @JayShettyIW sounds similar philosophy 💭 💕 👀🥰🥰🥰 Love the insights that came from a place of reason, love, and loved loved in hardships. You help us to continue to grow spiritually and expanding horizons. Will carry this to my next place of giving back to society, through our similar but parallel training.

    Liked by 1 person

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