by Anat Dubin, LMSW – JCS Therapist
I remember the first time I had to re-think my attitude about “quitting.” I was talking with my four-year old daughter’s preschool teacher. We were discussing my latest novice parenting crisis – how to handle my daughter’s resistance to school, ballet, soccer, napping, even sitting through an entire meal! My approach had been to stand my ground- “you started this, you will finish it.” Isn’t that the party line?
I assumed my daughter’s teacher would give me the encouragement, validation and positive reinforcement I needed. Instead, she said something very unexpected, which I’ve never forgotten. She set the stage for the lesson she was about to impart by sharing with me her passion for being a girls’ basketball coach and then, unexpectedly, said, “I always teach my teenage girls they can quit.” She explained that she wants the girls to know that just because they start something, it doesn’t always mean they have to see it through to the end. This was not just her coaching philosophy; it was her life philosophy. She had developed this ideology over the years witnessing young people struggling to stick with things, and people, that made them unhappy just to avoid being labeled a quitter. In her game of life, she was changing the rules.
That simple talk helped me see “quitting” in a whole new way. What does it even mean? Are we allowing ourselves to be pushed to the brink of potential mental and emotional breakdown because we subscribe to the myth that quitting is weak, bad and unacceptable? Are we allowing ourselves to feel trapped because we think starting something automatically obligates us to finish it?
Ask yourself, what if the entire game of life was played with the empowering, thoughtful and healthy skill of “I quit!” Suppose we developed and executed, with confidence, the ability to jump in and out of the game without labels and judgement.
It’s okay to quit, or in more positive terms—to empower yourself, if you can:
- Increase Self-awareness: Healthy travel outside your comfort zone is an important part of nurturing positive mental health. Appropriately push and challenge yourself, but continuously and consistently monitor your feelings and emotions. Know when and where to push on and pull back.
- Be Accountable: In my house, this is referred to as “tell me your thought process,” the equivalent to math’s famous “show your work.” If you can explain how you got from points A to B in your decision-making practice, then you know and understand the terms and have accepted accountability.
- Commit to Practice: As with anything, we build strength and grow with repetition. Start small and repeat. “Little wins” is my daily mantra. Self-determination, within our day-to-day routines, evolves into healthy life practices. Confidence is the consequence of success.
Anat Dubin, LMSW, is a therapist at Jewish Community Services.
JCS has highly trained and experienced licensed mental health professionals (social workers, professional counselors, psychologists, psychiatric providers) to help adults, older adults, children, adolescents and families. We provide brief consultations, individual, couples, family therapy, as well as psychiatric services, psychotherapy groups and psychological testing.