Like a lot of people, I go through life trying to avoid failure like it's some sort of plague. Just the word "failure" conjures up all sorts of frightening images: a big, red F on an exam, blundering through a job interview, your Fitbit letting informing you that you didn't meet your step goal for the day, a supervisor informing you of a major mistake you made at work, and so on.
For me, giving up on something automatically equals failure. It's just the way I'm programmed - and when I think about it, maybe it's the way that society has programmed most of us. When I think of giving up, I think of not being good enough to continue doing something. I think of not having the strength or the ambition to excel in whatever situation or position is at hand. Giving up is seen as bad. Something we shouldn't do. And if we do indeed give up at something, we are supposed to feel shame and guilt and experience a loss of confidence in ourselves.
But honestly? As hard as it is for me to realize this for myself, giving up is not always the worst thing in the world - sometimes it's exactly the thing that you needed to do. Recently I've come into a situation where I know haven't been excelling in the position I've been holding, and despite all the hard work, time, and effort I invested in order to meet the rather high expectations and standards put on me, I just could not for the life of me get all my hard work to shine. Instead, it appeared as if I wasn't even trying. I found myself feeling so stressed out over something that used to give me a sense of satisfaction. The pressure I felt on myself to perform in a way that, despite my best intentions, felt completely unattainable to me was staggering. It's a cruel thing when a positive aspect in your life turns into a viciously negative thing.
Over time, I started to realize that this was becoming a toxic thing in my life. I was starting to feel completely resentful and felt like I was just going through the motions. All the stress had completely zapped away any passion I had felt for my position originally. I began to question my leadership skills and just my entire work ethic and personality in general. I watched as my colleagues were thriving while I felt like I was drowning. As soon as I made any progress, the metaphorical finish line seemed to move even further away. I felt like I was failing at being an effective leader, and couldn't help but analyze all of my perceived shortcomings. Basically, all of this burns down to one scathing question: why am I such a failure?
But then I realized: we are all failures. You're welcome, I just labeled every human being ever a failure. But really think about it. Nobody is perfect, and we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. We can't all be great at cooking. We can't all be doctors. We can't all pen bestselling novels. We can't all be marathon runners. We can't all run large corporations. We can't all pass our driving test the first time. But why focus on all the things we can't do when we should be focusing on all the things we can do?
Even though there are things about my position that I do enjoy - things that also play towards my strengths - I have to realize that I'm not the best person for the job. That, for whatever reason, my personality is not fully equipped to find immense success in certain professional settings. And that's okay. It's okay to give up because sometimes that's the best thing you can do for yourself. If you find yourself in a toxic, stressful situation that doesn't seem to be changing no matter how long you're determined to stick it out, do yourself a favor and change courses as soon as possible. If it makes you feel better, don't think of it as giving up; think of it as letting go.