We can attach a lot of meaning to the idea of 'quitting'. Whether it's the judgement that 'winners DON'T quit', 'winners know WHEN to quit', or the mantra that 'quitting is the only real failure'.
There are obviously times when these ideas are helpful to remember and they carry elements of truth. But they are definitely not philosophies of life. They are far too simplistic.
Quitting carries a whole load of baggage as a word. And much of the messaging is oozing shame from its heart when you drill down a bit. A negative picture of what it means to quit is never far away from shame (a story we believe about ourselves that we want to keep hidden).
We quit when we believe the story we tell ourselves. For example, 'I'm a failure, I can't get anything right' (I will just quit!) Or, 'I must shut up and be grateful. I can't get above my station, and just remember how lucky I am to have a job at all given how useless I am...' (I can't quit!)
Should I stay or should I go?
Quitting is neither positive or negative. It's simply a helpful option that is always there. We can remember this when we quieten that voice of shame.
As Brené Brown points out in her work, the best tool we have against the destructive force of shame is vulnerability. It's to name the shame, and tell the story. Only when we do this does the power balance shift.
Blackmail and Internal Ransom Notes
Shame is like a blackmailer, holding you ransom with a secret that you don't want anyone to know. 'Do what I say or else I'm going to reveal your humiliating secret to the world!'
It's not always big things. In fact, it works its insidious way under our skin with the smallest things.
* Making a mistake at work ('typical, it's crazy that you still have a job...don't tell anyone about this, they'll know how useless you are').
* Building a new relationship ('You're ugly, they're never going to like the real you').
* Disappointment ('Don't tell anyone it didn't work out as you hoped. It makes you look stupid. I told you not to get excited!')
* Around Others ('Everyone is happier without me. They're joking and laughing together. They don't want me here').
Shame tells us a story about ourselves and about the world. And it demands that we keep it a secret. And we respond by staying around against our will, or dropping everything and leaving against our will.
Shame drives spiralling debts, affairs, addiction, and unhealthy patterns of behaviour. Because it tells us 'no one can know'. It traps us within fear and silence.
The Perfect Crime
There is a modern phishing scam that I've seen over the past few years. It taps into shame in a big way, using the weapon of 'sextortion'.
It tells the recipient that there is proof of them doing something (e.g. watching porn). They tell the potential victim that they have planted malware on their device, and have access to the camera and their entire address book. They're told that if they don't want to be humiliated they can simply pay a large but not obscene amount of money (bitcoin), and the problem will go away. The most advanced ones will even have a very old password in the subject line, to deepen the sense of legitimacy.
There are a huge number of victims of this. Why? Shame. And many many more victims who will never admit they fell victim. Why? Shame.
It's the perfect crime because it knows that shame is our kryptonite. Shame drives us to pay them off. And shame keeps us quiet about it.