So you finally quit your toxic job! You might be feeling unsteady, anxious, and maybe even fearful, especially if you were in the toxic situation for a long time.
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. These feelings don’t just apply to jobs– it can be any toxic situation that you left behind, such as a friendship, relationship, etc. but since my most recent encounter was my own toxic job, I’ll be discussing this topic in reference to quitting a job.
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.”
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. My confidence was ruined, and I thought I was a terrible employee. My stomach would turn if I had to drive by my old building. I 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.
Remind yourself that you’re strong.
It took me a long time to muster up the strength to quit my toxic 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 wanted to quit. However, it took me another four months to actually do that.
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.
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 (but I guarantee you I wasn’t), it wouldn’t have mattered.
Basically, the point I am trying to get across is that just because someone else seems happy, it doesn’t mean they actually are happy and it doesn’t mean you “should” be happy.
I hope this post was helpful for those of you who are considering quitting your toxic job! If you’ve ever quit a toxic job, let’s talk about it in the comments!