Why Are Professional Women Quiet Quitting?

how to stop quiet quitting - SaraEllen, spiritual mentor for professional women

Quiet Quitting is a first world problem. And, it doesn’t have to be your problem.

They say 50% of workers are quiet quitting. What that really tells us is that 50% of us are burned out and not happy at our jobs, and doing just the minimum. “Another day, another dollar. Ho hum.”

And while some people are just phoning it in, others are doubling down in effort to retire early, because they can’t imagine a life where their work will allow them personal space to “have a life.”

The binary choice of quiet quitting vs. early retirement falsely presupposes that one’s work necessarily is a bad influence sucking up your whole life. And that leaves one with few happy options.

American culture is so invested in the extreme independence myth, the impossible ideological purity of “everyone up by their own bootstraps.”

And that is fine. Everyone should be self-responsible. 

But the basically good notion of personal responsibility has been perverted into a professional culture where we expect ourselves to be superhuman. We forget that we are human, not robots.  When the expectation is answering emails at 3am when you are on vacation, this is a setup to crash and burn. That is not normal or healthy, but people act like it is.

It’s no wonder that some people are quiet quitting, and other people are trying to retire early so they can escape the rat race and do nothing. In fairness, not everyone who is pursuing early retirement or FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) has no plan. Some are running toward a different life in alignment with their own values, and retiring early is part of their well-thought-out strategy. But in truth, some of the attraction to early retirement is to escape a career they never really liked.

The obsession with being the “best” is another way many professional women give themselves few happy options.

There is so much pressure to be the “best” without much guidance about how to make a meaningful career if – egads – you aren’t Phi Beta Kappa or didn’t go to a Tier 1 graduate school. It is as if you can either fail or succeed – there is no in-between. 

If only one person gets the rose and everybody else has to go home, what happens to all but the winner?

It is no wonder that people who wake up and realize their job isn’t everything the career services office said it could be are “quiet quitting.”

They aren’t the BEST, so they feel like they have failed, even if they have money and a secure life.

They have been chasing some external marker of success and worthiness and haven’t had the opportunity to figure out what their personal best looks like, and what kind of work might be more conducive to them showing up fully.

In reality, there are so many more options for a successful career, they’re just initially hard to see in the places where many high achievers hang out.

I remember talking to a fellow student my first year of law school who anxiously lamented that if she did not make the top ten percent of her class, she wouldn’t get “a” job. Huh?

I pondered whether ninety percent of graduates of law school were doomed to be jobless and not get a job – any job – in the law.

I considered that many people think “there are too many lawyers.” Then what were all those lawyers doing? Clearly they had figured out how to get “a” job.

My mind went to a picture of a hapless law graduate working at the food court in the mall or something, and it didn’t ring true. Surely my classmate was misinformed.

And it is true that I worked some retail while waiting to find out I passed the bar exam, but it didn’t last long. Perhaps certain employers weren’t knocking on my door, but I didn’t want to work for those employers anyway. 

How many workers who are in the “bottom 90 percent,” who don’t get the rose, are unnecessarily feeling like failures, pushing themselves to burnout in jobs or fields that they feel they must do for the prestige? This might be difficult to measure, given the tremendous cultural pressure to choose prestige over being real. Add the pressures brought on by the pandemic, and many people just might “quiet quit” for lack of awareness of other options. 

The truth is, even though we all have different circumstances, different upbringings, different degrees of privilege, and even different kinds and amounts of trauma that might limit our perceived choices, we do have free will.

WE get to decide how to define success for ourselves. And when we wake up and realize this, whether it’s at age 25, 35, 45 or older, it’s tremendously freeing.

Career success isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. The answer to this existential first-world problem requires we ask ourselves different questions.

Most of the people who are admonishing themselves over “quit quitting,” or pushing themselves to retire early, have a certain degree of economic power in the world. It is kind of a first world problem — am I quiet quitting? should I retire early? — these are not survival-level life questions.

If “quit quitting” or living on rice and beans so one can retire early is the answer, the person asking the question, “how can I get out of this misery?” has the resources to stop and ask deeper, more useful questions.

Perhaps the saying, “find work you love and you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life” seems a bit Pollyannaish to you. I agree – the things I love the most are actually very hard work. 

But if you’ve ever caught yourself saying that “a bad day doing ABC is better than a good day doing XYZ,” that’s a signpost you should heed.

If you set aside others’ expectations, you’ll surprise yourself with how brilliant you are.

Be really honest with yourself and keep trying stuff until you have your answer, and all this “quitting” stuff just won’t be your concern. And if you need some guidance or structure to get you started, keep reading.

Simple guidelines for professional women to make “quiet quitting” a non-problem

Have you ever wondered, “If I’m so smart…Why do I feel burned out in my job? And why is my job such a negative influence on my health and personal relationships? Why can’t I just manifest something else?”    

It’s likely because of these four saboteurs that underlie “quiet quitting” and other forms of escape.

Learn the four saboteurs that lead to quiet quitting

Educational Indoctrination

We are indoctrinated to work hard, not smart, at the expense of our health. School doesn’t teach us how to emotionally handle it. Most advice is just to be “tougher,” but it doesn’t work.   

Get out your journal and answer this question: What am I spending my time doing all day at work that is causing my work to take so long to complete? How much of that can I stop doing altogether? How much of that can I renegotiate? What will I do with the recaptured time?

Toxic Positivity

Western culture leads us to believe that there is something wrong with us when we experience or display unpleasant emotions. (Especially for us females.) So, we stuff them down. 

Get out your journal: What are all the real feelings I have about my work that I judge myself for having? If I didn’t make myself wrong for having those feelings, how much energy would I free up and what would I do with it?

Letting the Patriarchy Be the “Man in a Meeting” 

There is mass gaslighting going on that nobody talks about. Especially in male-occupied fields, the needs, talents and values of women are devalued and discounted — a breeding ground for impostor syndrome and worse. 

Journal again! Do this: Write down what all those gaslighting, mansplaining voices have to say, whether they’re other people or yourself. Now imagine that all those things are being said by Cartman, the South Park kid. How does it feel different now if it’s just some obnoxious cartoon character?

There is more to teach about putting those people in their place, but start by seeing them as small and as ineffectual as they really are.

Endlessly Talking it Out

A lot of counseling and coaching is just a “band aid” of unconvincing reassurance, or “just talk” that keeps us stuck retelling the old painful stories without changing our beliefs or results.

Journal: What story are you ready to stop telling? What story do you want to tell instead? You might still need some energy work to help anchor in the new story, but start visioning it now.

How to overcome the saboteurs that lead women to quiet quit

Own and Pursue Your Honest Desires 

When you stop pursuing only what you’ve been told to want, and start allowing yourself to have what you really want, you stop second-guessing yourself and start enjoying life. 

Journal: If nobody else’s opinion mattered, how would you be best suited to contribute value to the world?

Cultivate Your Queen Energy

When we learn how to feel all our feelings without losing our shit, we become the women that people just want to be around. 

Experience: Spend an afternoon imagining your most challenging emotion is a crown on your head. Just picture this every time the difficult emotion comes up. You have to walk tall and gracefully to keep it from falling off and scaring people away. People can see it, but so what? You’re in control here.

What did you learn from this exercise?

Prioritize the Natural World

When we tune into the spiritual and emotional power of Nature, we reconnect with our femininity, our humanness, and the Earth. Regular physical activity in the mountains or a natural body of water, experiences with animals, and Flower Essences are all ways to do this.

Experience: Go to the mountains, the beach, a park, a greenhouse or even the garden section of a home improvement box store. Tune in deeply to your senses and see if you can see, hear, smell and feel things that normally you’d ignore.

What did you learn from this exercise?

Commit to Radical Self-Awareness

Our intuition — and the wisdom of another woman with the skill to ask powerful questions — changes our beliefs at the deepest core level. And that’s when everything we desire rushes toward us.  

Journal: ask yourself why you might be quiet quitting or fantasizing about retirement. Without making yourself wrong for such impulses, gently ask yourself, what’s under that? What does your intuition say? If your intuition just feels like more anxiety, you aren’t in contact with the wisest part of you yet. It’s there. Keep going.

Taking charge of your present circumstances, so you can create the future you want is so much more powerful than blindly living the life that you think you’re supposed to want. Life is so much sweeter — and there’s no need for quiet quitting.

Curious about how mentoring can help you? Read on.