I am solidly pro-quitting. Simply put, as a therapist, I have seen too many individuals wasting too much time on things that they feel they “should” be doing. Jobs, hobbies, friendships. Exercise regimens. Diets. High school students sleeping five hours or less to engage in “extra-curriculars” that they no longer love, or even enjoy, to meet some arbitrary college admissions standard. “Quit ’em all!” is my impulse suggestion. Yes, I realize my advice might not be realistic. And, for obvious reasons, it is not often met with enthusiasm.
We live in a culture that pushes us to participate, in an excellent way, in everything We are somehow expected to remain focused, driven, and productive for a minimum of eight hours a day, five days a week, without question. We must keep our bodies to a societally-dictated size and shape (whether or not our particular body is meant to BE that specific size and shape is apparently irrelevant). We must attend all the perfunctory events so as to not look selfish. We must keep up with all acquaintances, regardless of whether they actually mean anything to us. We must send cards for every occasion. We must score “above average” in all of the categories and subjects, though objectively speaking it’s nonsensical and impossible that everyone be above average in everything.
It’s no wonder so many of us are walking around with our hearts pounding out of our chests! The weight of these expectations results in poor physical, mental, and emotional health.
So why not reject them? Here’s a few very good, completely reasonable reasons to throw in the towel.
There is no joy.
There are plenty of reasons to keep doing hard things. The thrill of progress, the satisfaction of meeting a goal, the delicious pride of a finished product – all of these are great reasons to persevere when the going gets rough. However, when an activity becomes an obligation and nothing more, it loses all the thrill, satisfaction, and pride attached to it. When the joy goes, it’s a good indication that it’s time to take a break, or quit altogether.
Here’s how this sometimes plays out: an individual commits to too many things and begins to experience fatigue and burnout. They have to give up balancing and restorative activities in order to keep up with their commitments. They begin to resent the activities that are eating up all of their time and energy. Should this persist for a long time, they might begin to lose interest in many things. They are going through the motions rather than “living” life. This is often when (hopefully) they seek therapeutic support, and show up in my office, where I gently suggest that they quit some things. But, because of societal pressures, they believe that the problem lies inside of them; that they just can’t keep up because of a personal deficit, or they must have a mental illness.
Of course, they are perfectly fine as they are. But the system they are running around in needs some work, and some of their commitments need to go.
Your health is suffering.
The body is very good at letting us know that we are stressed before our brain catches wind of it. Headaches, digestive issues, fatigue, and muscle tension are our body’s helpful clues that we are unhappy and overextended. While it can be annoying to feel unwell, it’s also great information for us as to how much is enough for our individual makeup. We are all built differently, and what is reasonable for one body might be way too much for another. Luckily, our bodies will let us know when we’ve over-extended ourselves.
Also, and I apologize for my candor – there is NO scenario in which I will ever agree that five hours’ of sleep or less an evening is reasonable. If an individual is suffering from a lack of sleep due to too many commitments, something’s got to go, immediately. That is a health emergency.
You are trying to satisfy or impress someone that is not you.
Thanks to social media, television, and advertising, we are bombarded with the seemingly perfect lives of those around us on a near-constant basis. Comparison is status quo. If we aren’t measuring ourselves against our peers, how do we know if we’re doing it right or not?
A very brilliant secret is that the answer to that question lies inside each one of us (I apologize for how corny this sounds, but that doesn’t make it less true). When we take the time and energy we are expending keeping up with everybody else and turn it inward, we build a practice of noticing how things feel to US. What we find might be very different than what everbody else is doing and thinking. How fantastic! This insight gives us the opportunity to build a life on our own terms – and to lose all the “extra-curricular” fluff that’s been holding us back in the process.
There is nothing wrong with any of us that cannot or don’t want to keep up with the exhausting list of expectations that are placed upon us. Can we can design a life filled with activities, things, and people that we truly love and enjoy, and cut the rest?
What can you quit today?
Originally posted on my blog, Common Humanity, at Psych Central.com. To read more, visit https://blogs.psychcentral.com/common-humanity/