Stupidly Loyal (& The Art of Quitting Well)
Stupidly loyal. These are two words I have assigned to myself my whole life. I am a deeply loyal person and value this quality in others. However, at times I believe loyalty interferes with happiness. And this leads to being stupidly loyal to:
- ideas that are not great ideas
- jobs that no longer fit
- employers or champions that were supportive until they were not
- projects that were good but became not good
- relationships that started great but became not great
I have spent most of my childhood and adult life in belief that loyalty is always a good thing. I believed a lack of loyalty, that is quitting someone or something, would show me as flawed. Being unloyal equated to uncommitted, unprofessional, unkind and worthy of losing the respect of others.
I have realized over the past decade, when it dawned on me that I am, in fact, STUPIDLY LOYAL at times, that being committed to something or someone that doesn’t fit can become horrible to everyone. Especially me, but not just me.
This mostly shows up in my work. Previously, in my glorious communications career (the part where I worked full time for other companies), I stuck to one toxic employer under the impression she was nurturing me. She was using me. Until she threw me under the bus to save her own job… convenient since I was pregnant. My loyalty was to HER until that moment.
A few years ago, I discovered I was helping a few business owners who were limping along, giving them my committed time and expertise to help, only to find they hired $1000 a month coaches too, while telling me they couldn’t pay me but more than happy to use my generosity. Because I said I would help… and I was loyally committed to my promise.
In both those situations I was STUPID. Stupidly loyal. And it stung. It still stings. In my professional life far more than my personal life, I have finally learned to not allow these false loyalties to exist in my business. I am blessed with clients that I want to be loyal to because we fit well together. That is the dream! I am living it.
Being stupidly loyal often stands in the way of being successfully joyful! Tweet This
When I let go of the ideas of loyalty to other things and other people, I realize I create space to be LOYAL TO ME.
Ahhhhh! And the heavens and earth open and the sun shines and unicorns fart skittles. Epiphany! Bliss. Joy.
I am certain I will always value loyalty. I cannot stop being loyal to ideas I believe in, people I love, things I feel in my gut are right. Until they are not. For me. Thus, I must develop the art of quitting.
Through my own personal experiences I have begun to navigate the importance of stopping and re-evaluating everything. And, for me, this is part of the path to happiness. I have some tips I am crafting below that you might like. The trigger for my clarity on this is actually a personal story about my daughter quitting gymnastics (daring the ‘do not let your child quit sports’ brigade to tempt me into a chat on this topic. p.s. I win). You can see that story below. But first…
The Art of Quitting
I have determined a need in most of us to pause and evaluate who we are, what we are doing and who we are doing it with in far more frequency than we do. This evaluation likely will lead to NOT wanting to quit someone or something most of the time. Thankfully! I hope so. But what happens when you evaluate frequently is an immediate improvement in your outlook. There is a sense of ease in life when you know, in every moment, you have choice … and often that choice is to change NOTHING.
But when you lack a sense of ease, when you know something is wrong, I suggest that YOU are being STUPIDLY loyal to something. And you know what it is. What you don’t know, perhaps, is how to let it go. You need to learn the art of quitting a person, an idea that is no longer a fit for you:
- Be loyal (and kind) to yourself first. Making choices that fulfill you are NOT selfish (as I once thought). Rather, they are a gift. Because your joy creates an environment good for everyone else and sparks ideas that are better than those created when you are unhappy.
- No guilt allowed. Far too many decisions are based on feeling bad about how our decisions for ourselves impact others.
- Be honest with yourself about why you need to let something go. Even if it’s because of some ugly truth within you. It’s okay.
- Be honest, but kind, if it is about another person. Simply state “this is no longer a fit”, explain why reasonably well and they will likely agree. If it is business, offer them some leads on who is a better fit.
- Be nimble. You can make whatever decisions you want, whenever you want. And you should.
- Be more aware of what is in your heart than in your mind. (My loyalty lives in my logic where I can easily ignore the emotional signs that I am suffocating myself by my false loyalties)
- Gain closure if you can. You cannot just walk away. I believe deeply in being ACTIVELY loyal before quitting. For me, closure includes leaving no stone unturned in trying to resolve whatever is causing the ‘stupid’ part. If I have done all I can, and all parties know this, then I have closure. Closure is different for everyone.
- And most importantly… whether you are quitting or not… be consciously aware that your loyalty is a choice and a gift every single day.
Every day wake up and be present and purposeful that you have recommitted your loyalty to what is good (marriage, children, self, clients, projects, ideas) so you have a positive framework to help you navigate the art of quitting what is no longer a fit. This is my own art of quitting what is no longer a fit for me. These days it is ideas that I stubbornly stay committed to LONG after my heart is no longer in it.
A Story of Loyalty in Sport
In a heart wrenching decision, my crazy talented and accomplished oldest daughter decided to quit her ‘career’ in competitive gymnastics recently. This started to surface for her in October and became a rollercoaster of her own loyalties: trying to stay in her sport (not wanting to let down her coach, me, her friends) while also beginning to unravel emotionally. I was stupidly loyal to her dreams, even when her dreams changed. Because she had big dreams she was capable of making due to work ethic, consistency as an athlete and so much more. Until she didn’t love it anymore.
After our family investment of tens of thousands of dollars over 8 years and thousands of hours driving, and her thousands of hours training since she was aged 4, it was very easy for me to enforce the ‘you don’t quit until your season is over’ rule. However, when you see your child doing a sport that is actually quite dangerous for the untrained or uncommitted (this was not her) and prone to injury (this was her), there is no longer joy in taking that risk. When you are doing something dangerous and your heart is not in it… this is the most literal definition of stupidly loyal. Even in sport. Especially in this sport.
I confess, I pushed her along for 3 months more than she wanted to. I sunk to asking her to compete a few times just so I could see (and film) her new floor routine (it was worth it). We gave it a few more kicks at commitment, including our final road trip to Idaho for a competition that had the bonus of hotels and pools and shopping with gymnastics friends. I knew in my heart that was a goodbye, even though my brain was actively believing it would trigger her passion again. Two competition in resulted in more medals, knowledge she fought her way back emotionally and physically. And, was still done.
The depth of the reasons behind her leaving this sport so much sooner than she wanted (and we wanted and her coaches wanted) are complex: personal relationship challenges with people she trusted that could simply not be resolved; more injuries than a 12 year old should sustain; but most importantly… a deep satisfaction that she had a complete (enough) gymnastics experience even if she was leaving about 5 years sooner than “planned”. (Braggy mom: A few dozen medals, acknowledgement as one of Alberta’s best and knowledge she already has a reputation as a fine athlete and amazing human being is pretty fabulous.)
My kid was not stupidly loyal. She knew she was done and needed to be done. She felt sad to leave her friends and coaches mid-year, but she had no guilt and false loyalty. Because she knew what was best for her. What a gift! I had a mom moment where I realized that if I was stupidly loyal, and forced her to continue (because she would have kept going JUST for me), that I would be using MY mom power for selfish reasons. And this would have been STUPID. I felt sick that I had the power of parenthood in my hands in these precious tween years to force something that for her went from so right to SO wrong. I was stupidly loyal to this idea because she had trained in the same place her whole childhood, with people who literally helped raise her from the age of 4.
This triggered a war inside myself that was ugly (and trickled outside in tears and confusion and anger for months)… and created insight into myself about how I do not know how to let go gracefully. So I will practice the art of quitting likely for the rest of my life. This experience is one I can gracefully draw into my business and other relationships. I can use this as a parent. I can use this as a business coach. I am grateful for what my children teach me. It is more than I could learn on my own. And my oldest gymnast, she is fiercely and smartly loyal… to the idea of being a great person and a fabulous athlete in general. I will not ever expect more of her than she expects of herself. I am loyal to letting all three of my daughters grow how they need to grow.
Loyalty has its place
But not all the time. Not when it stupidly strips you of your happiness. I hope you stay loyal to ideas and people that fill your soul. I hope you navigate the art of quitting when the time is right and avoid stupid loyalty. You deserve space for loyalty to good things.