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10 Warning Signs that You are Going to Give Up

10 Warning Signs that You are Going to Give Up

It’s been a year of highs and lows. I decided to move to a new country for my research, I attempted to write a master’s thesis, I tried to find an awesome internship, and I tried to maintain a relationship.

One of these four failed, because I was giving up.

Looking back, I can see how that happened but in the moment I hadn’t noticed the decision to throw the towel in creeping up on me. I failed to adequately write my master’s thesis, and even though all I had to do was pay a relatively small amount of money to extend for another few months, my pride almost let me drop out. My friends and family pulled me back from the brink, and now I am solidly on track to getting my paper done and the future looks bright again.

It’s seems out of character for me to give up, but I almost did. What were the warning signs?

  1. Spending less and less time thinking about my project.
  2. Finding a bunch of unnecessary tasks to replace working on it.
  3. Seeing it as a burden rather than an investment in my future.
  4. Beginning to list justifications for not doing it.
  5. Rationalising that in fact I had achieved all the things I wanted to get with it (the job, the city, the apartment) without even graduating, therefore I didn’t need to accomplish it.
  6. Telling myself how thousands of others also decide to drop out, so it wasn’t a big deal
  7. Calculating that it was a risky financial decision.
  8. Convincing myself that I had been overambitious in thinking I could get this qualification, and that I should accept my academic abilities for being lesser than I thought.
  9. Not caring about the quality of my work.
  10. Brushing it off in conversation as unimportant, rather than speaking about it enthusiastically and with pride.

Let’s discuss these points a little more.

1. “Spending less and less time thinking about it.”

During the first few months, I was excited. This was something new, something challenging. However, when the scope of the project started to become apparent and I had underestimated the preparation necessary, it became a monolithic task, a mountain I could not climb. So, to prevent panic, I stopped thinking about it and distracted myself by working more, watching more TV and even listening to music at night so my brain would be forced not to mull over the roadblocks I had encountered.

SOLVED!

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To remind myself constantly that it wasn’t over yet, I placed books and notepads around the room, and notifications on my computer so that I forced myself to think about it.

2. “Finding a bunch of unnecessary tasks to replace working on it.”

Essentially, this is procrastination. I went so far as to take some floorboards out from under the kitchen work area to clean under them! I was too “busy” to spend time researching and writing. I was caught up with trying to do interviews for jobs, even though in reality I had plenty of spare hours to get some school work done. Ironically, these were jobs requiring a masters degree. There was never “enough” time when I could find ten other things that “needed” doing.

SOLVED!

To stop this silliness, I made a strict list of tasks that truly needed doing ordered by priority. Everything else got ignored.

3. “Seeing it as a burden rather than an investment in my future.”

The project became the enemy, the barrier to my happiness, that which sapped my free time and finances. Imagining the future benefits of putting in the hard work now became foggy and I began to wonder why I had bothered to put myself under so much pressure. Wan’t it more important to have my health and happiness, rather than trying to chip away at this endless task? I had forgotten why I had spent three years considering a masters, choosing a masters, the tense application process, the joy of admission, the things I had learnt in the classes leading up to the writing of the dissertation. I had forgotten how I had been spurred to do this by wanting to challenge myself to my limits, to open my mind up, to acquire deeper thinking, to be better placed in the competitive job market.

SOLVED!

I remembered that I would end up exactly where I had started a year ago, and that jolted me out of this apathy.

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4. “Beginning to list justifications for not doing it.”

It’s giving me sleepless nights. It’s depressing me. It’s too hard. I don’t need it. I want my weekends for myself, not for writing and reading and compiling data. I am not able to do it. I suck.

SOLVED!

Arrange a time management plan to balance study, work and free time. Ask for advice from everyone possible, don’t do it alone. As for thinking that you suck? Come on – you would not have gotten into the program in the first place if that were true.

5. “Rationalising that in fact I had achieved all the things I wanted to get with it (the internship, the city, the apartment) without even graduating, therefore I didn’t need to accomplish it.”

There were many reasons carefully thought-out over the years as to why doing a masters was the right choice. I needed a career change, and without relevant work experience or qualifications in another industry I was unlikely to move out of teaching. I tried for full-time and part-time jobs in marketing and PR, to no avail. I wanted a higher salary, and a job that used more of my creativity. Mostly, I wanted to work with adults. This meant that study was the only path left open to me, as continuing as a teacher was, to me, worse than the all seven levels of Dante’s hell. Due to a series of fortunate events during my thesis research period, I ended up with the dream job and a great apartment in an awesome city. So why bother completing the course?

SOLVED!

Reputation is important. If you don’t want accusations of not finishing your work. Also, it seemed such a waste to throw away a year’s work without the piece of paper to hang on the wall at the end…

6. “Telling myself how thousands of others also decide to drop out, so it wasn’t a big deal.”

Tons of people do it! They just walk out without a care in the world and take on the challenge of life. Many role-models of mine who went from a small innovative idea to massive success tell the tale of not completing school. Education is just one pathway to learning.

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SOLVED!

Don’t do something just because “everyone else” appears to be doing it. That’s just dumb. Think about what you really lose/gain from making this decision. I just needed three more months and I’d have a masters forever. I have no idea what the future holds and maybe that title will make a difference. If not? Hey, it was only one year and I’m proud of the personal achievement.

7. “Calculating that it was a risky financial decision.”

This was the hardest one to argue against. The grand plan had been to end the internship coinciding with the submission of my dissertation, and moving to working full-time with the company. My savings were gone but I had prepared for that and expected to earn a living again within one month of finishing. This all went up in the air when I had to add three months to the study period. How was I going to ask my family for more support? How was I going to pay the extra fees? How would I pay everyone back?

SOLVED!

My situation does not apply to everyone, but I solved it mainly by swallowing my pride and asking for help. I also had developed a good rapport with my internship colleagues, who were thoroughly understanding when I told them I would need more time to finish. Although it means a little more debt, in the long run, it is a drop in the ocean.

8. “Convincing myself that I had been overambitious in thinking I could get this qualification, and that I should accept my academic abilities for being lesser than I thought.”

I have always believed in pushing myself to bolder and higher challenges, rarely saying no to a task and usually succeeding. I enjoyed the feeling of success and the knowledge gained from each encounter. I also learned to accept some levels of failure. But this failure hit me really hard, for whatever reason. Perhaps the exhaustion of combining a 40-hour a week internship, managing marketing for a film festival and general housework was too much when you had a research paper to do on top of it all. In my mind, not being able to manage all of these tasks successfully meant that I was a failure, stupid and had finally encountered my glass ceiling.

SOLVED!

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It overlaps a little with earlier issues. Essentially, managing your time and delegating tasks when you can is important. It WILL get done. Remember you can’t be optimally productive when you are stretched too thin.

9. “Not caring about the quality of my work.”

This is where I really noticed myself starting to slide. I stopped carefully editing and re-editing. I didn’t care to check my references strictly, thinking, “Oh, who’s going to notice?” They did notice: a disjointed story, a fragmented structure, a poor argument. It was impossible to ignore but in my head it somehow seemed enough to “get by.” Since when had that ever been a motto of mine?

SOLVED!

Make sure to have trusted people around you be completely honest when they see your work suffer. Listen to their advice, which could be “take a break”, “do something else for a few days”, or “let’s sit back and discuss what your original project was and how it has deviated”. Becoming over-involved in just one project can blind you to staggeringly obvious flaws. Step away, and get a second opinion.

10. “Brushing it off in conversation as unimportant, rather than speaking about it enthusiastically and with pride.”

When I started my research I absolutely loved telling people about it, describing what I hoped to find out, and where I was going to do it. After the first three months as the brick wall was built higher and higher I began to see only the barriers and not the breakthroughs. I got embarrassed at my lack of amazing original research and how I seemed unable to make sense of the mountain of data I had diligently collected and processed. In order to feel less devastated by this situation, I stopped talking about it in a positive way, and then stopped talking about it at all. The less I cared the less it hurt.

SOLVED!

When I started being open about the state of affairs, it was a relief to hear how many people went through the same experience and had lots of helpful advice to offer. There is no shame in experiencing some difficulty along the path – nobody is going to look down on you for needing more time and a little help in order to achieve your goals. Better to open up and find an answer than to shut down and let the problem become stagnant.

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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