On Monday I quit my workout halfway through and I’m not afraid to admit it. A year ago, I wouldn’t have even told my coach because I would have been so ashamed (such a powerful word, right?!) that I didn’t finish. The word QUIT has terrible connotations and our culture has perpetuated quit’s ugliness by praising the work-till-you-drop mentality. Well, I f’ing quit on Monday and I’m not afraid to say it.
Last week at The Women’s Fitness Summit (which was amazing and you must go…it’s for every woman even remotely interested in fitness and even if you’re not, you should come next year!) Cassandra Forsythe was giving a talk on the hard stuff. You know what I’m talking about, periods, depression, and quitting. It was the last talk of the weekend and everyone was a mix of adrenaline and exhaustion, but something about this woke us up. These are the topics that we all want to talk about, but no one ever brings up, and God do I love to talk about that stuff…please ask me about my IUD. Anyway…
(Almost) Everything I Quit
I can remember the time I quit the 6 year old softball team and the time I quit club gymnastics (both times) and the 8th grade basketball team, and then, I remember when I quit the high school gymnastics team, the junior orchestra, my professional job, my coaching job, and my interim massage and front desk job. And, this isn’t even an exhaustive list including all the non-life changing things I’m thinking of. The fact that I remember these is quite remarkable because if you ask me about the time I won a medal or played the flute really well during a concert or finished a great project at work I CAN’T TELL YOU THE DETAILS because I don’t remember them well. But, I can certainly tell you the events surrounding all the times I quit.
Quitting feels so hard because we, and I mean our culture, see it as failure. Cassandra, in her talk, was describing a conversation with Erin Brown and these powerful words were said:
You’re not a failure when you choose to quit.
The room was silent. We were all soaking in this permission and acceptance that it’s ok to do something that has been taboo for a really really long time.
I feel disappointment when reflecting on quitting – from myself and, honestly, from others. Disappointment is a truly difficult feeling to reconcile because it’s the feeling that your expectations and outcomes aren’t reconciled and that sucks. It feels like failure, and it feels like that even when situations aren’t positive. Like…we have to be conflicted about ending a not-good-for-me job, relationship, or (any)thing because quitting is failure and failure is “I give up”. We are a culture that pushes through when things are tough because we relish in the suckiness as if it’s a badge of honor.
We put so much weight on every else’s opinion of ourselves, valuing it greater than our own. And perhaps without realizing it, others’ opinions influence ours. No one shared what it was like to be me as a gymnast. I am the only one who knew what it felt like, on the inside, during my job. And, I am the only one who knew how I felt on Monday trying to push my body through 5 sets of squats when I wanted to be recovering. Me. That’s it. Sure, we can all relate, I get that. But, you’re not me and I’m not you so let’s stop judging other’s decisions to quit because it’s. not. helping.
For you, my friend
And, for you… it’s not going to be easy. We have to change the idea that quitting=failure. I don’t have the magic pill, but what I can say is that we can all use a little more self-compassion. And, again, I don’t have all the answers, but the practice that I use is pretty simple.
I pretend like I’m talking to a friend about their problem and I respond to myself in the way I’d speak to them.*
Would I talk shit to my friend for quitting a sport when the coach was toxic? Or, be disappointed in a friend for leaving a job to pursue something else? What about if she quit because she needed to take 5 for rest and recovery? (<–I think there’s enough material there for another blog!)
No, I wouldn’t. I would listen to her with compassion and acceptance and respond with support. So, now, I do that for myself. It’s ONE THING you can work to change (I’m a big believer of changing one thing at a time, because, you know…research) that can have a big impact. I didn’t start doing this overnight either. It’s taken time for me to first recognize and accept all the feels and, second respond to myself in a gentle and accepting way. If you can at least recognize when it’s happening, you’re already ahead.
It’s hard to go back and change my feelings about something 10 years ago, although I still to this day work on it (Hello, Therapy!), but for something like leaving the gym on Monday, I’ve learned to trust myself and know that it was a good thing to quit. Don’t get me wrong, I still talked to a friend about it, but I’m not thinking I’m a failure, in a global sense, because I left the gym without finishing my front squats.
*And, I know I’m not the only one who tries to do this – I know someone mentioned this at the Women’s Fitness Summit and if I’m lucky enough to have you reading my post, please let me know so I can credit you with speaking to it!