So, you did it. You finally quit your job.
You probably feel relieved and happy, but you may also be feeling unsteady, anxious, and maybe even fearful, especially if you were in the toxic situation for a long time. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably sitting there wondering why you feel so guilty about leaving a job situation that was wrong for you!
While I was at my old job, I often had thoughts like, “Why can’t I do this?” or “My coworkers can handle this, so why can’t I?” I was surprised to discover that these thoughts continued even after I had quit my job. Even though I was extremely relieved to get out of a situation that made me miserable, I felt guilty for not being able to power through it, push my feelings aside, and perform well. I’ve talked at length about why I quit my toxic job, but I haven’t discussed any of the shame or guilt I’ve felt even months after the fact.
How to Cope with Guilt after Quitting a Toxic Job
Remember why you left.
While I don’t recommend sitting around and reminiscing about all the bad things about the job you left, it can be helpful to come up with some affirmations you can repeat to yourself so you don’t feel like leaving was a mistake. Here’s a few I say to myself often:
- “I was being treated poorly in that situation.”
- “I am in a much healthier place now.”
- “I deserve a work environment where I am treated with dignity and respect.”
- “My workplace will be okay if I am not there.”
Give yourself some time.
When I quit my job, I didn’t have another one lined up. I just put in my two-week notice, worked my last two weeks, and left. On my last day, the company was hosting a big job fair, so none of upper management or HR said anything to me when I left. I still don’t know if that was good or bad (I’m leaning towards good though).
It was so surreal that I didn’t have to go back that I didn’t know how to react. My body had become accustomed to feeling anxious and jittery because of work, so I was still in a constant state of fear. I had no confidence in my work ability anymore; I always felt like no matter what I would do, I was a terrible employee. If I had to drive by my old building, my stomach would turn. I often worried about what I would do if I ran into my former coworkers somewhere, if they were gossiping about me now that I’d quit, or if they were disappointed in me. My sleeping schedule is still not totally back to normal.
As much as I wanted to bounce back quickly after leaving that job, healing isn’t always fast and it isn’t always linear. You probably won’t feel amazing immediately afterwards and that’s okay.
Remind yourself that you’re strong.
It took me a long time to muster up the strength to quit my job. I honestly knew I didn’t like it in the first week or so, but it wasn’t until about three months in when I knew I needed to leave. However, it took me another four months to actually do that, because I was just so scared!
Giving yourself permission to leave any toxic situation takes a lot of strength. Realizing that you are allowed to quit a situation that is harming you is a strength in itself. Don’t forget that. We as a society perpetuate the idea that leaving a job that isn’t working out, or even acknowledging that your job isn’t working out, is a sign of weakness. And that isn’t true, at all.
You have no way of knowing someone else’s complete situation.
Remember when I said I felt like I was the only one who couldn’t handle the job? I convinced myself that was true and that I was a failure… when in reality, I had no true basis for those feelings! I had no idea if my coworkers could handle our job or even liked our job. Honestly… even if I was the only person in the entire building who was unhappy to be there, it wouldn’t have mattered. The only thing that should have mattered was the fact that the work environment was toxic and negatively affecting my health.
Just because someone else seems happy, it doesn’t mean they actually are happy and it doesn’t mean you “should” be happy. You don’t have to feel a certain way just because you perceive someone else is feeling that way.
Don’t ignore the guilt.
You probably don’t think you should be feeling ANY guilt after quitting a toxic job at all, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore how you feel. Allow yourself some time to process your emotions. Acknowledge and accept the fact that you feel guilty even if you don’t understand it.
Trust that something better will come along.
There are tons of companies with tons of jobs out there– they’re not all toxic, unhealthy environments. You can and will find a job that suits your needs without making you feel like a ball of anxiety.
I hope this post was helpful for those of you who are struggling with guilt after quitting a job that wasn’t right for you. If you’ve ever left a toxic or otherwise unhealthy job, let’s discuss it in the comments! I’d love to hear about your experiences.
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