Ever feel like “giving up?” Have others told you to “stick it out?” Have you found yourself justifying your decision to leave a job, a relationship, or a living situation? Well, stop! In reality, “running away” is almost never the easy answer. Leaving the job you hate, under duress, without a replacement secured? I would like to meet the person that thinks that is the easy choice! Leaving a relationship that is unhealthy and makes you unhappy? Now you have to find a new residence, maybe change friends, perhaps break your own heart – how is “running away” the easy choice in that scenario?
The truth is, often times it is easier to stay in a negative situation than it is to leave. Leaving often means a lot of change and a lot of uncertainty, and that is scary! But staying can be not only emotionally unhealthy but physically unhealthy as well, with stress leading to high blood pressure, coronary issues, higher cortisol levels, and weight gain among other things.
Deciding whether to remain in a situation, or leave, is a difficult task and requires a person to weigh many pros and cons. Here is a list of things you might consider:
- What are the possible benefits of staying (financial, emotional, physical)?
- What are the costs of staying (financial, emotional, physical)?
- What are the possible benefits of leaving?
- What are the possible costs of leaving?
- Is there anything else you can do to make the situation better (anything you might regret not doing after you leave)?
Most people have heard the saying “when one door closes, another opens.” Of course, you have that moment between the first closing and the second opening where you’re trapped in a dark room with no available exit. Is your current situation bleak enough to be worth standing in that dark room? If so, it might be time to close the door. Is your current situation stopping you from making positive changes and progress in your life (keeping other doors closed)? Then it might be time to close that door.
One other very important piece is ensuring that you have done everything that you feel you should have done to rectify the situation. In most instances you either cannot return after you’ve left (resigning from a position) or should not return (on/off relationships that do not change or grow), so it is important to be sure that you will not look back on your decision to leave and regret not having done something. Have you talked about the situation with the involved parties? Have you attempted to resolve any conflicts or disagreements? Without belittling yourself or compromising your own morals or ethics, is there anything else you can do to improve your situation to a point where it is not only bearable, but healthy? This may mean enlisting the services of a counselor, psychologist, mediator or coach. Friends and family can be great supports, but sometimes an unbiased/neutral and professional perspective is needed. Then, once you’ve decided how to proceed, you can inform your support network of what you intend to do, how you intend to do it, and why.
The most important thing to remember is that choosing to leave is NOT running away. In fact, staying in a negative situation is, for many people, the easier choice. Becoming comfortable with discomfort, functional in a dysfunctional system, deciding the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t: these are normal reactions, and play a large role in why people stay in unhealthy situations. At least you know what to expect, right (even if what you expect is for nothing to be predictable)? So when you’re so miserable at your job that you can barely get to work in the morning and your friend says “hey, at least it’s a paycheck. Don’t let them win by leaving,” or your significant other makes you cry every day but your sister says “hey, at least you have somewhere to live,” tell them: “No!” Tell them you are stronger than that and that you don’t need to take the abuse (emotional, physical, financial); you can take care of your own needs and you don’t ever need to let someone else make you miserable just to secure a paycheck or a roof over your head. Tell them you ARE running for the hills, that you know it won’t be easy, and that it will be all uphill, so they better grab their sneakers if they want to keep up!