Staying in a toxic environment won’t automatically make you strong.
Every week, at least one person asks me what quitting their job says about their mental strength. Many people worry that quitting a job they don’t like serves as tangible evidence they lack mental muscle.
While one person will say, “I feel like I should be mentally strong enough to deal with my job instead of quitting,” others insist, “I just don’t have the mental strength to last another day.”
But every once in a while, I hear from someone who perceives quitting as a sign of strength.
Just the other day, I received an email that read, “I finally found the mental strength to quit my job. I’d been miserable for years but I didn’t have the courage to leave.”
So which is it? Does quitting a job you don’t like mean you’re mentally strong? Or, is real strength found in the ability to thrive in a tough work environment? Well, it depends on your attitude.
The Environment Plays a Role in Your Mental Strength
If you wanted to be physically strong, working in a gym would likely inspire you to build muscle. Being surrounded by people lifting weights all day, may motivate you to get fitter. And if the gym offered access to personal trainers and opportunities to use the equipment whenever you wanted, you’d probably find it easy to build muscle.
If, however, you worked 14 hour days in an office setting, it would be tougher to get buff. It’d be especially tough if the workplace cafeteria only served junk food and the boss expected you to do hours of work from home each night. The workaholic mentality would lead to fewer opportunities to lift weights and you’d probably find it much harder to get physically strong in that environment, compared to a job working in a gym.
Well, mental strength is much like physical strength. The environment plays a huge role in your ability to build mental muscle.
Working in an unhealthy environment will drain your mental strength. Studies show working for a toxic boss increases the likelihood that you’ll grow clinically depressed. And if you’re surrounded by rude co-workers, research shows their behavior will wreak havoc on your productivity.
So it’s important to consider, does the job you have now support your efforts to build mental strength? Or, does the workplace–and the people in it–make it much more difficult to be your best?
Remind Yourself Quitting Is a Choice
If you quit your job with the mentality that you couldn’t hack it, you’ll struggle to reach your greatest potential. You might take a new job that’s beneath your skills either because you think it’s all you deserve or because you hope to find some success to boost your confidence.
If you really feel you can’t stand your job, prove to yourself that you could stand if you wanted to. Work one day longer than you think can, and you’ll see that you’re able to tolerate feeling uncomfortable more than you give yourself credit for.
Just make sure you aren’t working to prove something to someone else. Thinking, “I’ll show my boss I was cut out for this,” is about acting tough, not being strong. When you walk away knowing, “I could do hack this job if I wanted, but I don’t want to,” you’ll reassure yourself you’re still strong.
There’s a lot of power in saying, “I’m quitting my job because it doesn’t suit my needs,” as opposed to thinking, “I can’t stand to be here for one more second.” Acknowledge your choices and step away in a manner that will empower you to become better.
Quit to Better Your Life
If you are committed to building the best life you can, quitting may open the door to a better opportunity. Whether you seek more flexibility in your schedule or you want a more positive work environment, stepping into a healthier situation could promote your growth.
A new position may also be more in line with your values. A job that pays less money but allows for more time with your family, for example, may give you a better sense of meaning and purpose. And a sense of purpose is key to being mentally strong.
Turn Quitting Into an Opportunity to Build Mental Strength
Staying in a job you hate may say more about your mental strength than quitting does. Is your self-worth dependent on how much money you make? Are you afraid of change? Have you convinced yourself you can’t possibly be successful doing something else?
Of course, some people have practical reasons for sticking it out. Feeding a family or paying off a huge burden of debt may be the payoff. And sometimes, working a job you don’t like for a short duration makes sense.
Quitting every job because you think the grass is greener on the other side also won’t make you mentally strong. There’s no such thing as a perfect job and working hard to overcome workplace challenges could help you build muscle.
But, don’t be fool yourself into thinking that quitting a job you hate means you’re weak. Although many internet memes will tell you that you should never quit, mentally strong people know when to walk away. They recognize when a situation isn’t productive and they’re willing to move on.