The following is an excerpt from Coonoor Behal’s book, I Quit! The Life-Affirming Joy of Giving Up.
Lindsey’s first expression of no longer being the “good little Black girl” was when she decided to quit the holistic health business she was running in Australia. It wasn’t profitable. Her friend and accountant told her that she was, in effect, running a charity, not a business. Lindsey had also just given birth to her daughter, and her focus was on her child.
As someone who has run her own company for seven years, I know the feeling of having your work so inextricably tied to your identity.
“It was not necessarily that I had failed at the company, it was that I was being seen to fail, that I was being seen to quit. You couldn’t have convinced me that death was more painful because, subconsciously, the ego is telling you all these people in your life are going to leave you now that you failed. The truth is going to come out.”
Lindsey’s ongoing journey has included recognizing that she had been doing what was expected of her instead of living her own life.
“I had spent so much of my life playing the character: always nice, always kind, always thoughtful, always accommodating. All while struggling with my true self, which is that ‘crazy,’ too much, too loud woman. But sometimes I am that, and sometimes, I am this. We are all contradictions.”
And, even once she recognized the dissonance and the need for change, she found that transforming this attitude wasn’t easy. She had her fair share of desperately trying to stick with the status quo.
“The work that it took me to dismantle all of that: divorce, recreating the relationship with my parents, letting friends go… I would say that I understand why people don’t do it. Brené Brown calls it ‘surviving the wilderness.’ When we have very few examples of what the alternative would look like, it often seems safer to just stick with the status quo.”
“There was a time when I said to myself, ‘Okay, now you’re a mom, and you should do the things that moms do, like have a regular job. And I’d try job after job and just quit all of them because they were so soul sucking. For somebody else, these might have been dream jobs. Far be it for me to hold a space and keep them from it.”
Here we see, again, that there can be generosity in the act of quitting.
Even as she continued to unpack America’s history and her own upbringing and desire to be the “good little Black girl,” she occasionally found herself caught in the same pattern of her “niceness,” suppressing her true self.
There was a moment when she got a “regular job” as a project manager at an organization she was incredibly excited about. Not only was the CEO a woman, but so were most of the upper management and staff. The team she happened to be assigned to was co-led by two older white men; both had previously been executives at other organizations.
“They just could not fathom how this young Black girl got brought in to be their project manager,” Lindsey says.
In the first meeting, the two men snidely asked Lindsey how a dancer becomes an entrepreneur and a project manager. Just as in the aftermath of her experience with her school basketball coach, Lindsey was congratulated by her leaders for putting up with it.
Despite disappointing experiences like being rewarded for playing the character of “good little Black girl,” Lindsey didn’t stop further examining who she really was and where she fit within the story of America. She continued to heal from her childhood trauma and listened to the stories of healing that others had to share to help her interpret her own. “The history of America is un-dealt with trauma,” she says. But Lindsey was committed to dealing with her own.
“It became more and more clear that I was still playing this character of Lindsey. I had to start to unravel, ‘What is this character and what is actually you, Lindsey?’ For example, how did I end up with a husband who doesn’t want to accept that misogyny and racism exist, let alone accept that he is complicit in it? Why is it that I can’t express my true self around my parents?”
Lindsey has spent a lot of time doing this unraveling and digging deeper into her true, not-so-good little Black girl self. She paraphrases Viktor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response, there is space. And in that space is the opportunity to choose one’s actions. A lot of my personal practice and work with communities is to keep expanding that space. And within that space to do what Dr. Cornel West calls constant self-interrogation.”
Lindsey’s personal work and self-interrogation have led her to try to be more, and less, of certain things: less of a rescuer of others; more saying “no”; less trying to be the entertainer when around her friends; more dressing for herself rather than to be seen; less performative mothering to be seen by others as a good mother.
[. . .]
Her quitting story is a constant, ongoing one; she is continually in the act of quitting the good little Black girl she was conditioned to be.
[Says Lindsey,] “Failure is something that I’ve learned to embrace as one integral part of the human experience. It’s one million tiny decisions I make every day.”
Want to read Lindsey’s full story? Find it with others, including—
“I Quit Silicon Valley”
“I Quit Trying to Become A Parent”
“I Quit My Engagement One Month Before The Wedding”
“I Quit My High-Powered Career To Save My Health”
—in the profound book of quitting guidance through storytelling by our Forbes-featured friend Coonoor Behal at IQuitBook.com.
Want a practical toolkit from Coonoor to quit something right away?
Find it here.