How To Know When It’s Time To Leave

August 3, 2022

Should I stay or should I go? -A question we’ve all had to ask ourselves at least once in our life. But how do you know if it’s time to leave? If a relationship/situation/job/place still serves you? How do you know if you should keep trying or let it go?

Over the past approximately 5 years, I had my fair share of leaving. I left romantic partners, friends, jobs, projects, homes, cities and even countries. Some people think I’m that type of person who just has a spark of an idea and throws away what she has to go for it. That’s not the truth. Each time I leave something behind there’s an agonizing long period of time spend with trying to decide whether I should stay and keep trying or just let it all go.
How do I know which once is the right decision? I don’t. I still wonder at times if leaving was a good idea, or could I still go back? Do I really have it better now?

So here are some definite markers I have learnt that indicate when you’ve outgrown something and it’s time to move on.

1. That gut feeling

3 years ago, I made friends with a girl at work. I was really happy because I always complain about office-friends not being real friends and they always disappear once you change jobs. This one stayed even after; we used to hang out 3–4 times a week and discussed everything. After 2 years I started to have this niggling feeling that maybe I didn’t want to be friends with this person anymore.
I felt like we were growing in different directions. We both turned 30 around the same time and while I enjoyed this new era and was looking forward to grow older, she started to miss being 16 and engaged in reckless behaviors. For a while I tried to lift her up, but I felt her negativity and new, toxic habits were weighing me down. The friendship had nothing to offer me anymore but one sided complaints and whining and blaming me for not going to these parties and picking up guys every night. But I kept ignoring this feeling that whispered to me that this isn’t the friendship I want in my life anymore. I felt so bad for wanting to give up on a friend, but at the same time I felt bad for myself for trying to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. Even worse, she would drag me down with her just to feel better. For months I refused to listen to this little gut feeling. Which brings me to clue 2, a clear indicator that it could possibly be time to leave:

2. You try to save others or the situation for too long

Although I refused to acknowledge that my friendship might be toxic for me, my body knew, and my actions followed accordingly. I stopped showing up as my best self. I became lazy and often spent the days with her smoking joints on her couch blankly staring at Netflix so she could feel better, and I wouldn’t feel guilty for turning her down again. I went out to more parties than I wanted to and drank more alcohol than felt good. I ate fast food at 4 a.m. with her as we made our way home, when she couldn’t pick up anyone that night. I resorted to behavior I usually hated. While I was too scared to leave this friendship, I had started to check out mentally. I was present in body but my mind was elsewhere. Our conversations centered around her complaints about everything: people on the subway, the news, men, parents, the groceries… I just couldn’t pay attention when she started. When we didn’t meet she bombarded me with the same messages in chats. Eventually, big surprise, she broke the friendship with me.

And while I still think she is one of the coolest women I met, I wish I’d ended it sooner. I still wonder from time to time how she’s doing or if she’s still living that reckless party life, but if someone doesn’t want to be saved you can’t help them. You can try but never sacrifice yourself while doing it.

If you find yourself not even liking yourself in a situation it could mean that it’s time to look elsewhere. Your partner, your friendships, the place you live and your job should make you want to grow and expand. And this takes me to my next point.

3. You find yourself shrinking/bending to fit in or don’t feel like you are able to truly be yourself

When I moved to Scotland for the first time, I was planting trees with a team. We traveled together from site to site. We lived together and spent our free time after work together. I was the only girl and 6–10 years older than most of them, but that’s not why I felt like I didn’t fit in. I felt like the only weirdo who wanted to talk about deep things and engage in constructive activities like yoga, eating healthy, or even watching movies that give something to think about. When I started to talk about this stuff I wanted to do, I felt shut down. I could read the faces they made, the rolling of their eyes and what they were thinking: oh, here she comes again… She’s too intense.

At the beginning I tried to fit in: I joined them in front of the TV playing PS4, watching silly reality shows on Netflix, drinking beer and eating chips and candy for lunch. I even started to drink energy drinks (which I hate) because this lifestyle made me too weak for planting the next day.

I felt uncomfortable with the situation and myself, so I decided to spend my time alone in my room, reading or watching the inspirational videos or movies on my own, going for walks while the others were drinking beer in front of the TV, yoga at sunrise… In retrospect, it wouldn’t be really fair to blame them for the way they live; I just simply didn’t fit in that scene, so I had to decide if I live with the discomfort of fitting in and not liking myself or the discomfort of not fitting in but feeling good in my skin. Guess which one I chose?

4. You feel like “too much” or “not enough of” for the people around you

This is the flipside of the coin. If you manage to stay true to yourself in a situation, yet you still feel like you’re either “too much” of “not enough” it’s an indicator that you are not where you need to be.

When I moved back to Scotland I showed up honest with who I am and what I wanted and needed. I needed to find a place where I can find new ways of living; some place that is more spiritual, alternative, not so Western, with like-minded humans I could share my deepest thoughts and ideas with. I’ve been traveling around the country exploring alternative communities and I felt more seen, more accepted for myself and more connected to the people around me I have felt either “too much” or “not enough.”

So I know I still haven’t found the right community for myself. But I know the feeling I’m looking for. When I traveled in India, I was living in a yoga shala for a month, learning yoga with 30 other yogis and yoginis from around the wold. Normally, this number of people living, eating, sweating in the same room all day together would freak me out, but it didn’t. I haven’t felt too much or not enough there and then. A teacher training might not be the exact same life situation as living and working in a community, but the feeling is the same. The belonging, the warmth and acceptance of your authentic self. I could be loud, quiet, sad, happy, daydreaming all day or whatever I was at the moment. I felt like it was completely accepted because that is me, and that is fine as it is. That’s the feeling I look for when I find the right place for me, the sense of home, belonging and unspoken understanding.

Should you stay or should you go?

The answer is still not simple. Leaving is one of the most terrifying things in life but we all have to do it at one point in our lives. Most of the times it’s scary because we leave behind the familiar, something that we built on for the unknown.  For many years it was my fear that held me back. Fear of failure. Fear of not finding better. Fear of being left alone. And maybe even, fear of fear.

At one point I had to decide which one hurts more: staying or leaving? I decided to leave and it made it easier to choose leaving in future situations. If you have faith and trust in life and the unknown it always pays back if you pay attention to live aligned to the points written above. You’ll find that you live a life you enjoy, with people you really belong with, in places where you can grow.

If you feel like you are being called elsewhere,  your heart yearns for something more, listen to it. If you hear that small voice in your heart whispering (or sometimes yelling) leave! Listen to it. It’s there for a reason.

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Photo: Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash

Imola is a Hatha and Ashtanga yoga teacher, tree planter and writer and editor of Raised by the Wolf, an online magazine for Wild Women, with a passion for exploring and life outdoors. Originally from Hungary but currently planting trees and rewilding the enchanting forests of France. Hop over to RBTW magazine, and blog and follow her on Instagram @yogiraisedbythewolf


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