Handling Guilt Around Quitting
Ep. 258
| with

Follow Along:

On today’s episode of Lessons from a Quitter, we’re diving deep into handling the guilt around quitting. It’s a topic that resonates with so many of us, especially those of us who have been raised to prioritize making others happy. We often find ourselves ready to move on, with a clear vision of what we want to do, yet held back by the overwhelming guilt of leaving behind our bosses, coworkers, or even clients we’ve developed deep connections with. In this episode I want offer you a new perspective, recognizing your own needs and priorities while acknowledging the reciprocal nature of relationships. By learning to sit with discomfort and overcoming the fear of others’ negative emotions, we can make choices that align with our true desires.

Show Transcript
Hey, welcome to Lessons from a Quitter where we believe that it is never too late to start over. No matter how much time or energy you've spent getting to where you are. If ultimately you are unfulfilled, then it is time to get out. Join me each week for both inspiration and actionable tips so that we can get you on the road to your dreams. Hello my friends and welcome to another episode. I'm so excited to have you here. I wasn't planning on doing like a series, like a three-part series, but I realized when I was planning out the next couple of episodes that I wanna talk around various topics that have been coming up a lot in the Quitter Club in my membership about quitting and preparing you to quit conversations around quitting, actually quitting, what to do when you quit. And I realize that I wanna break these up into their own episodes.
So over the next couple of weeks it'll sort of be a series around quitting. And today I really wanted to focus on handling guilt around quitting. This comes up a lot for my people. Pleasers a lot of people who have been raised to believe that they have to make everybody happy. And if people are unhappy then something is wrong. I find so many people come to coaching because they wanna quit, they're ready to quit, they're ready to move on to do something else. Maybe they even know what they wanna do and they keep holding themselves back because of the guilt that they feel for leaving their current boss or coworkers or company that they've worked for. And we gotta talk about it. What typically happens, the situations I have encountered are people that have worked somewhere either for a really long time or just have very deep meaning.
Relationships where they have worked, maybe they have a mentor that has helped them navigate the structures in that office. Whether it's coworkers that they've become really good friends with that they've helped each other out, they've sort of had each other's backs, whether it's clients that they feel really connected to that they don't wanna, the work that they're doing, that they don't wanna leave. There's something that is stopping them from being able to go after what it is that they want to do. And I see a lot of people that are ready to leave but then need a lot of coaching about the guilt cuz they feel so much guilt around leaving this place. So I was thinking about the things that I want you all to think about when, if this comes up for you, and this does tend to come up for a lot of people who have been used to putting other people's needs first, making sure that nobody's upset, you know, the quintessential kind of people pleasers that so many of us have been raised to be.
And so I want us to think about kind of how can you reframe or even really understand and gain awareness around this guilt that you have. Okay, the first thing that you really need to understand, which may not feel great in the beginning, but it's just something that is important to get with respect to your job and employer, is that it is business. It's a transactional relationship. And I understand that you might be feel really called to be doing the start of work. You might have really great relationships. And it's not to say that it can't have other secondary gains, secondary effects of working somewhere that you can't love being somewhere that you can't have really true meaningful relationships. But at the end of the day, it is a transactional relationship, right? You were hired to do something and you are paid to do a specific task.
And if that runs its course on either side in that transaction, it's okay for it to end. Okay, we all know this because layoffs happen, right? And this becomes a very stark reality and it's a reality that we all have to really grapple with that if they have to fire you, they will. And you know, we can discuss how terrible that might be or the wrongs and rights about it. It's just the nature of the way our capitalistic system is structured. So if they have to, whether they're making cuts, maybe the company gets bought out, maybe they just can't stay in business, whatever it is, like they will get rid of you if they have to. And the reason I wanna bring this up, and I it may seem a little harsh, is that I have seen so many people stay somewhere. They don't want to be only to be laid off later, maybe much later.
And the level of resentment and anger because we have this thought of like, I did all of this for you, I stayed because of you. Right? They didn't ask you to, I mean maybe they did, but they didn't require you to stay. You chose to stay. This happened with my mother. If you are a longtime listener of the podcast, she was on the podcast many, many episodes ago and we talked all about how she had been at a company for 19 years and she had sacrificed so much for that company. She had given up vacation time, she had given up, uh, family time, she had not rested, she had burned herself out. She had literally like done things like let them borrow money. Things that like you uh, sort of crosses the line of employee. But it was, there was a friendship, there was a relationship and she helped build that company from a small company to a really big company.
And then right before she turned 60 they laid her off because things had been restructured. There were, you know, it doesn't really even matter why, but I remember how much hurt and anger there was and underneath that it was this, how could you after I've done all of this. And so the reason I say this is it is not to say that you have to keep really cold relationships and I don't want you to get close to people. It's not that at all. But it is important to understand the nature of this business. They love to make us believe that we're a family, okay? That everybody's a family, that we have each other's back or whatnot. And that might be true more so in some places than in others. And maybe they do really like care and look out for you, which is great, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are not a family.
You don't just kick people out in families when you're falling on financial troubles, right? We are a business and if the bottom line can't support that role, that role will be cut. And it's important just to know that because if you're letting your like fate be decided by people who are focused on the bottom line, you have to also understand that like you get to prioritize your bottom line, your needs, the thing that is most important to you. So that's one is like just getting really clear that you owe them what you signed up in that transaction. You owe them that as long as they pay you and they keep you there and they keep their end of the bargain, you'll keep your end of the bargain. You don't owe them more than that. And I think what becomes really gray area and what people struggle with is when it bleeds into more, when we believe we owe them more loyalty, more time, more, you know, work more of our life, then we actually owe them.
The second thing I want you to understand is that I think a lot of people want me to understand, like tell me how much they invested in them and how much, you know, maybe they paid for conference and training for you to develop certain skills. Maybe somebody like I said, mentored you and helped you really figure out the path within that ladder that you were climbing. Maybe they just spent the time to teach you and train you, right? And we get the this feeling that like, well they have invested this much in me, I can't just leave, right? I want you to understand that when they invested in you, it was for them too.
Okay? So hear me on that. They get a benefit too by investing in, you don't get that twisted. I think a lot of times we love to believe that like they did this from the bottom of their hearts because they're just really good people and they might be, they might be lovely people, but it is in a business interest, best interest to develop your talents, to have you build skills. Hopefully if they're good leaders they invest in you, right? For most leaders they know that like if they can help you gain certain skills, it will help them in their business. Cuz you are their employee. If they put in the time to help you kind of fit in and learn how to navigate the culture and learn how to climb the ladder, it helps them. There are all these stats about like how much companies pay for employee turnover and how much it saves them when people can ma basically like stay in the company and climb the ladder within it and how much they can save by not having to retrain, right?
So it is in their interest to try to keep their employees and they might do that by helping their employees develop professionally better by giving them certain skills, by paying for certain things. They're not doing this outta the kindness of their hearts. Again, they might be lovely people but they are investing in this and they're spending time in this relationship because it also helps their business. And again, not to say that you can't be grateful for that, you can't have a good relationship. It's not, this isn't like a, you know, be skeptical. They're doing it for themselves. I don't mean it like that. I just mean a lot of times we love to believe like they gave me so much so I owe them. But you have given them also by working as an employee, you have given them a lot. You have likely saved them a lot of money and helped them through a lot of, I dunno, work and tasks and hard times and transitions and whatever it is that you were brought on to do.
Okay? So we have to really understand that like this is like the baseline of understanding these relationships. And I only say this is because our thoughts oftentimes like to run the other way of like no as if we were just given some gift as if they just did this and now we are indebted to them. Which brings me to number three. We have to understand the way that the human brain works and relationships work, okay? There is reciprocity in relationships and this has been something that has been proven obviously, where it's like it feels good and it is good most of the time to want to give and take. We don't want to be narcissists and psychotic people where it's like, I will only take, take, take, take and never give, right? That's gonna usually leave you lonely and alone in our relationships. When somebody gives us something, there is a psychological effect where we feel the need to reciprocate, okay?
And this is manipulated by people by the way, like by salespeople, by people in marketing and psychology because they know this is why like if you go into a store and they give you a bottle of water, again, I'm sure they're lovely people and they're kind, but there's a reason they're doing it because when you take a bottle of water from someone, you automatically feel this sense of like a bit of reciprocity is oat, right? You might feel more inclined to buy something because you feel like, oh they gave me something that was nice, right? So people do this on purpose and they can use it to manipulate, but it's just good to see that this is where our relationships are based on this type of reciprocity. And in a healthy relationship we can care about both people's needs. Okay? We can care about their needs.
Like if they give me something or if I'm getting something from this relationship, I also wanna give in this relationship. That's a beautiful thing to have happen and that's typically like the foundation of having a healthy relationship, right? The problem happens with my people pleasers, myself included, where it's beyond the reciprocal relationship. It's uh, that I simply have a huge discomfort with other people's negative emotions. I just cannot stand other people being upset. Okay? This is a really important point to understand that oftentimes with people pleasing, it's not that I really wanna make people happy, right? It's not that I wanna go be above and beyond and make sure this person's happy. It's that I don't want them to be upset. And the reason that's important is because you have to really become aware at how uncomfortable you feel when somebody else is experiencing a negative emotion at the lengths that you will go to bend over backwards and make yourself into a pretzel to make sure somebody else avoids feeling upset or angry or if there's tension, if they're neutral, you're kind of okay.
It's not like I, I need to make them love me or I need to make them. And sometimes it's like that, but not always. But the reason that's so important is because it becomes really glaringly obvious how little we are able to sit with discomfort, other people's discomfort. And this is like the one of the biggest things you have to be able to learn how to do, build that muscle, learn how to like sit with it. Because the more you can sit with other people being uncomfortable or having a negative emotion and realizing that it's just a human experience, the easier it becomes to do the things that you genuinely want to do. Knowing that, yeah, some people might be uncomfortable, ok? And part of that discomfort might be like, I don't want them to think badly of me. I don't want them to not like me, I don't want them to not love me, right?
And if they have anger or if they have disappointment or sadness or whatever the feeling is they're feeling and that reflects badly on me, then I have to become this person. I have to do all these things that I don't want to do or wouldn't normally do or feel really reluctant to do, but I just have to do this so this person doesn't have these negative thoughts about me. And when we do this, so many of our relationships are, for lack of a better word, lies like they're based on lies because it's not the things that we actually want to do, it's just things that I think I have to do to make sure that you are not upset. So we have a lot of these shoulds, like I shouldn't do something or I should do this because if I do this, this other person might be mad, they might be upset, they might be disappointed, they might feel jealous, they might have these thoughts and this doesn't mean that you've actually done anything wrong.
This is the important part of understanding this. You can decide, like let's say there's, there are tons of things that you might want to do that will make other people upset simply because they want you to do something else. So let's say like as an example, you might wanna move to another city because you wanna experience city life, you wanna move to New York and see what New York is about. And your parents might not want you to because they want you to be close and they love you and they want to be around you. And so they're gonna feel really upset about you wanting to leave and break up. You know, the family dynamic of everyone being in the same city. Does that mean you shouldn't go? Does that mean you're doing something wrong? Does that mean in some way you're betraying them? No. It simply means that you guys have different wants and needs and you have different ideas of what your future should look like and you have different motivations for them.
Of course if they're staying, they want their child to be close to them. That makes perfect sense. It's logical. That still doesn't mean that you shouldn't move because they're gonna experience negative emotions. That doesn't mean you're doing something wrong by leaving. I think a lot of times people pleasers where we get messed up where there is this, what's the word, like misinterpretation of what's happening is we believe I'm doing something wrong because this other person is upset I'm a bad daughter or I'm, you know, whatever, because I'm leaving and that makes my parents upset. That doesn't make you a bad daughter, that doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong. It just simply means that two people have two different wants and someone's gonna experience something negative. And so sometimes taking care of yourself or doing the thing that you want to do and experiencing the life you want to experience means letting other people down means letting them have their own experience and own their own emotions and have their own negative emotions.
It means allowing them to be upset and not trying to change it. Not trying to get them like what I think what we do is we go into overdrive of like trying to get them to understand and then getting angry when they don't understand. Like why can't they just be happy for me? Why can't they just understand why I wanna go to New York? Why can't they you know, love me and support me? And it's simply like because they're upset because they want you to be closer. Nothing has gone wrong here. We just have to be okay with letting them be upset. We don't have to change their minds, we don't have to get them to understand. We don't have to even get them to like agree. We simply have to decide why do I wanna do this thing? And I'm I okay with that, with the reasons why I wanna do it.
Does that align with my own values and my future? And then can I just be okay with other people having a human experience that includes negative emotion. When you really learn this, it changes all of your relationships, not just in work but all of your relationships. It is okay to decide that some chapter is over that I've changed my mind in some way, right? I talk about this a lot, like normalize changing your mind. When you change your mind it will affect people in your life in different ways. Because when you had originally done something in one way and you decide to do it in a different way, it's going to affect the people that were with you when you did it the first way, right? So if I decide that I never have to put up any boundaries and anybody can come over to my house at any time and anybody can ask me to do whatever, and I will always say yes when I decide to change that and say like, no, you know, my time is also important and I can say no and I don't wanna go to all these parties and I people can't come over whenever they want.
Like these are the times they can come over. The people that had all access to me before will likely be upset because now they don't have access and now there's boundaries again, nothing has gone wrong. It's simply that they're gonna have to experience some negative emotions because I've decided to change my mind. I've decided that I'm also allowed to take care of myself, right? So when we decide that we can change our minds, whether that's even like if we think about a romantic relationship first, you know, maybe not for certain, but for the most part, if I decide I want to end it a relationship, if I think this chapter is ended for me, I am ready to move on. I no longer wanna be with this person, okay? Very likely that person's gonna be upset about it. That doesn't mean I have to stay in the relationship because this person's gonna have negative emotions.
Can you see how crazy it sounds to say like, I'm gonna stay in a relationship, I don't wanna be in and I'm gonna lie. Basically I'm gonna act like I love you. I'm gonna act like, like I want to be here. I'm gonna tell you these things and deep down I know I don't wanna be here. I'm just gonna do it so that you don't get upset so that you don't experience a negative emotion. And so many of us do this, so many of us stay in relationships for so many years, years and years and decades and decades just because we want to avoid other people feeling hurt because we don't wanna have the thoughts that I'm a bad person cuz that's what we think. If someone else has a negative emotion, by the way, that's just a thought and it's not true, right? Like we can very easily, if we learn how to manage our minds, believe the thought, the truth that I'm a great person and I loved this person and we had a great relationship and it's time to move on and I'm ready to do close this chapter and we no longer fit and I'm not getting my needs met and my needs matter, right?
All these other thoughts and they're gonna be upset and I can let them be upset and I can hold space for that and I don't have to get them to understand. I don't have to overexplain myself. I say all this because I want you to see in other context too, to then see how crazy it sounds with respect to business or employment where the whole point of employment is not that you have to go somewhere and then pledge your entire life to them. It's like, okay, can I come for this transactional relationship where when we signed up we'd agreed that I will do X for Y, right? I will do these job tasks for this money and then within it, yes, some lines get blurred. We create friendships, we create relationships, we support each other, we go through these experiences. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. We are around each other all the time.
I mean if you think about it with, if you especially work in an office, you're around it, your coworkers probably more than you are your family. And so you create these deep, meaningful relationships. But then you think that that means that if you're gonna leave and they're gonna have a thought about you leaving, they're gonna be upset that you're leaving. They're gonna be like, oh, I put in all this time an effort and trained her or did whatever. Then that somehow means I need to stay. I can't tell you how many people tell me they have wanted to leave, but they just feel guilty. So they keep staying. They know that their growth is somewhere else. They know that this chapter at this job is done, but they can't deal with the discomfort of somebody else having a negative thought or negative emotion. So I want you to really think about like what that does for your future and for your life.
You, what you're saying is like, I will stay somewhere I don't want to be, I will limit my growth, I will limit my potential, I will limit my fulfillment and my life in order for someone else to not experience sadness or disappointment. And of course, do we wish that things could just be cut and dry and easy and people could understand exactly why we're doing all these things and not be upset? Of course we do. That would be so lovely if we could just wrap it up in a bow and say, you know what, I quit and everyone's like wishes you well and everyone's happy about it, but that's not what we're gonna get all the time. So then the question becomes like, what do I want to do for my own fulfillment and my own needs? How can my needs also matter? Why am I willing to let myself down over and over again and be upset and unfulfilled and restless and frustrated and bored simply so that other people don't have to have a negative thought about me simply so that other people don't have to feel a negative feeling?
What if it was okay to also weigh my needs in this equation? Going back to this idea of reciprocity in our relationships, sometimes you will take care of other people over yourselves. Sometimes let's say even if you're gonna quit and they're in a bind and they need you for more than a two weeks notice, they want you to be there for a month. You might be willing to be like, Hey, you know what I, I didn't wanna say a month, but I can do that because of the history that we've had because I don't wanna leave you guys high and dry. Okay, fine. Right? There's times where we we're gonna say like, I can allow my own needs to take a step back for a little bit while you guys figure this out so I can help out. That doesn't mean your needs will always trump mine.
Your needs will always come first. Whatever you guys need, I will do. Which is what we end up. We don't consciously do this, we're not aware of it, but basically that becomes our behavior when we're stuck in this. People pleasing when we've just decided like, I can't put my needs first. I can't decide what I want because somebody else might be upset. So I want you to ask yourself a couple questions. I want you to ask yourself like, am I doing something wrong by leaving? Like if you feel guilty for leaving, if you think the answer is yes, what are you doing that's wrong, right? I want you to get really clear on like what is this rule that you've made? Is the rule that if someone puts in any effort or relationship with you, that means you owe them loyalty for the rest of your life, right?
You have to sort of figure out what are the shoulds that you have in your brain. I want you to just like ask yourself, what should I always do if somebody has spent this time helping me for how long do I quote unquote owe them in my own mind? Cuz it's really good for me to see. And if I haven't done anything wrong when guilt comes up, guilt is an emotion that we could be a really good emotion. It's a good emotion that helps us live within our own values and ethics, right? It's just overblown with people pleasers. Like we just feel guilty about everything. We feel guilty all the time if we ever have to say no. We think if anybody ever feels any discomfort, we've done something wrong and you wanna recalibrate that. You wanna just become aware of it. Am I actually doing something wrong here?
And if I'm not, why? What am I so afraid of them feeling? What are they gonna have to feel if I leave? Of course they want you to stay, of course it's easier for them for you to stay, but are they gonna be okay? I'm pretty sure they are. They'll find someone else. Is this just the cost of doing business? Yes it is. People leave. You have to rehire. It's part of the way business works. So if I can really understand like what is this fear that I have about them feeling and can I be okay with them feeling that not need to change it, not need to get them to understand, but just know that they're having a human experience, they're an adult, they'll deal with it, they'll handle it, they'll figure out the stress, they'll move on. If I can be okay with that, how much do I open up in my life, right?
If I'm not beholden to people simply because I feel guilty all the time, how can that change my relationships for the better? I want you to think about like when you can actually be honest and do the things really because you want to, because you wanna be here because this is your growth, because you want to be engaged. How different that would be than to constantly be doing things because you just feel guilty because you don't wanna be there, but you just don't want anyone else to be upset. How much lying and manipulation is actually tied into this type of people pleasing, not like a conscious lying, not from like an an, you know, a, a vindictive or unethical place, but from a place of like I am willing to really distort myself and not tell you the truth of what I want to try to shield your feelings instead of just trusting that you're an adult.
So my friends, they're an adult and they can handle their feelings and they're gonna be okay. And I know that it doesn't feel great to let people down, quote unquote, or to give them news that they don't like. But oftentimes when the decision is to let someone else down or to let yourself down over and over again, let them down. Learn to allow them to have their own feelings and deal with them and manage them. And you learn how to deal with yours and you learn how to put your needs first for once and you learn how to figure out like what's gonna be the best for everyone in the future. You staying somewhere where you're gonna be resentful and angry is not good for anyone. This is a business and yes, you can owe them some loyalty, some level of wanting to be in reciprocal relationship, but you don't owe them your whole life.
So if you're feeling guilty about quitting, I want you to come and find me in the club and I want you to get coaching because that's not a reason to stay somewhere. Hopefully this episode has helped you kind of understand that. And if you need more coaching, you can get on the wait list for the club at lessons from a quitter.com/quitter club. And when we open doors, I want you to join us so you can get coached so you can start working through this people pleasing and start learning how to put your needs first. All right, my friends, I hope that was helpful and I will see you next week. Hey, if you are looking for more in-depth help with your career, whether that's dealing with all of the stress, worry, and anxiety that's leading to burnout in your current career or figuring out what your dream career is and actually going after it, I want you to join me in the Quitter Club. It is where we quit what is no longer working like perfectionism, people pleasing imposter syndrome, and we start working on what does and we start taking action towards the career and the life that you actually want. We will take the concepts that we talk about on the podcast and apply them to your life and you will get the coaching tools and support that you need to actually make some real change. So go to lessons from a quitter.com/quitter club and get on the wait list. Doors are closed right now, but they will be open soon.