Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Is giving up the same as failure?

This will not be true of my story, and that's just fine.
From Positive Outlooks Blog 
It's been fifteen months since I left my last job (but who's counting?), and I still obsess over what went wrong.

I left because my body seemed to be falling apart and I was sliding into a depression that was not responsive to antidepressants. I felt like a complete and utter failure when I left. I felt ashamed.

Never in my life had I felt so incompetent. Even when I was learning new skills at other jobs, I felt productive, I felt that I was working toward a positive outcome. I felt like a strong and respected member of the team.

But at this last job, I just felt like Don Quixote . . . trying to be a hero but failing dismally, seeing things that no one else did. And it wasn't because I fell further and further behind in my own work, though that did happen as I tried to pick up the slack for other members in my team, but because I failed as a leader.

I gave it my best shot, but -- for a whole long laundry list of reasons -- I didn't cut it. I was too weak to speak up for myself, too full of self-doubt. I kept looking for a solution that would make everyone happy, when no such thing was possible. I believe I gave it my best shot.

In the end, I had to give up the job so that I could save myself. It really felt that dire.

But quitting went against my personality. "You try too hard," someone once told me, when I was just a teenager. And it's true and it shows. I am earnest and eager, hard-working and enthusiastic. I have a compulsive need for people to like me. And there are people who take exception to that. Worse, there are people who take advantage of it.

For the past year, I've held imaginary conversations with colleagues, saying all the things I wish I'd said. Usually, these happen as I'm trying to fall asleep, and the conversation and feelings of failure make a pretty miserable lullaby. I've even fantasized about applying to work there again, just to get a do-over.

It wasn't until I saw that "motivational quote" today that I realized part of what I'm grappling with: It's not so much that I failed (though that really gouges the old self-esteem), it's that I quit. I gave up. I stopped trying.

But something shifted when I read that quote. Is giving up always a sign of failure? Can it not sometimes be a sign that you realize that you belong somewhere else? That you are strong enough and wise enough to know when to walk away?

Maybe it's a relationship that just isn't working, never has and never will. An abusive relationship, perhaps. Or a project that doesn't match your skills. Even an exercise program that doesn't suit your lifestyle.

I think that sometimes we need to turn around before we can move on. If your compass directed you on a path that took you through quicksand, no one would count you a fool for turning back and finding an alternative route.

I have decided to re-frame my feelings about quitting. Quitting is not failure; it is choosing to take a different path. I didn't give up; I stopped fighting. There's a difference.


  1. I think you've arrived at a most wise and positive conclusion. When we have our heads bent against the prevailing winds and throwing our backs into the stern with all our might; and still we do not go forward -- I think it's absolutely okay to conclude that perhaps you are not on right course. A change of direction, when all else has failed, surely makes more sense then continuing to let that wind beat against you.

  2. Aw! Well maybe that wasn't the right job for you. Everything you felt told you that it wasn't, right? Take what you've learned and mark them down as skills & accomplishments - whatever and move on! You've jot the right attitude now go get 'em! Here's another quote for you too: "never let the past spoil your present or govern your future." Take care Wynn Anne and good luck with your new path!

  3. I whole-heartedly agree with Heather's comment, and love the quote she shared! Wynn Anne, you did the right thing. Anything that's tearing you apart, stealing bits and pieces of your self-esteem, especially when they become gouges and chunks is just not healthy and definitely not meant to be. It's not giving up or quitting really - I have reframed all that and consider it a course correction. It's part of the ebb and flow of life's journey. Marcus Buckingham in one of his books says this, "Discover what you hate doing and stop doing it." An interesting concept, and one that deserves more attention than it gets! Be good to yourself, you deserve it!

    1. I like that: discover what you hate doing and stop doing it. It's like a joke: "Doctor, my head hurts when I bend forward quickly." "Well then, step further away from the wall."

      I didn't mention in this post how I felt better almost immediately after resigning. Well, not immediately, maybe a couple of days later. But my depression lifted slightly, enough that I could see light again.

      But because I decided not to look for further employment, it really feels more like a stopping than a course correction. And I'm fine with that. (Most of the time.)


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