(noun): a toxic environment in which you are trapped by stress, unrealistic expectations, money, options, or time
(noun): a toxic state of mind in which you are paralyzed by fear, exhaustion, and overwhelm; the mental state between guilt and anger that leaves you feeling OVER your work situation, but still IN it
(noun): the experience of walking through the doors of your workplace and getting so thoroughly yanked off your alignment that you forget who you are
I see you. You started this job for a reason, and now you feel completely burned out.
You are a difference-maker, a rock star, a mover-and-shaker…but you’re exhausted. You've lost your mojo, your passion, your purpose. You want to feel empowered and lit up by your job, but right now, you’re stuck.
You want to be in a fulfilling (or even stable) place with your work situation. You want to be excited. Respected. Treated like what you’re doing matters. Like you matter. You want to be compensated fairly. You just want not to dread Monday morning. Maybe even >gasp< to take a vacation once in a while. But right now, you’re starting to wonder if this elusive goal of work satisfaction is even possible. Doesn't everyone want that? Am I the weirdo here? Despite your doubts, a piece of you, no matter how small, believes that there is a better way, that you DO deserve more…and that aching piece of your soul wants an escape route.
You are not the only one.
Let me repeat, because it’s easy to forget when you're really "in it:" you are not the only one. Let me tell you the story of how I ended up in work hell. And how I got out.
Teaching doesn’t inherently land you in work hell, and there are teachers who are completely satisfied with their jobs. I was not one of them. First of all, I suck at bulletin boards. Always have. Like most Millennial and Millennial-adjacent people, I was told that if I did really well in college, I’d land a great job and earn lots of money and live happily ever after. I’d have an amazing wardrobe, meet Prince Charming, and walk around all empowered everyday like the happy people in tampon commercials. So I got my bachelor's, then my master's, then landed my first teaching job. And I was broke. And exhausted. I have a vivid memory of standing in the school gym at a middle school pep rally watching hundreds of screaming 8th graders start to throw popcorn at each other, and trying to decide if it was worth straining my vocal cords to intervene, or whether it would just be simpler to pick up the popcorn later. I thought, “Right now, I probably should be thinking that they’re just kids and this is a normal consequence of loosely supervised pep rallies, but actually…holy shit. I’m supposed to do this for 30 more years? I don’t know if I can do this for 30 more minutes.”
Teaching is an amazing career, but it wasn't the right environment for me. Not everyone in work hell needs to up and leave their entire career to be happy, but I that’s what I did. I thought, "What's different than teaching that someone with my resume could actually do?" I landed a gig in a non-profit start-up...and then a corporate gig, and then another corporate gig... I’ve figured out my life, hooray! And it sucked. Partly because of the bosses and the environment, but partly because what made me miserable didn’t just automatically go away with a change of scenery. In fact, this scenery turned out to be worse. Way worse. I spent the majority of my daily 8+ hours there thinking,
"What is even happening right now? Where did this go wrong? And how do I escape? Where do I even start?”
Could I have calmly, rationally, and intentionally made a conscious and intentional career change at this point? Of course! Because I was in work hell, I didn't. I was terrified. And pissed. And confused. When I walked through the doors of my office each day, I forgot I had options. I forgot who I was. I had lost all concept of my passions and purpose in life. My main focus was getting through the day without breaking down. I believed that leaving my job after only 6 months was irresponsible and selfish, and that standing up for myself was absolutely not an option if I wanted to keep paying rent and student loan bills. But something had to change.
Commiserating over cheap margaritas with my fellow inmates on one particularly rough Friday night, I thought “No. Hell no. Not good enough. Not even close. I am not going to live forever. No one is. Why in the world am I wasting my life doing shit I don’t care about to impress people I don’t respect? Something’s gotta give. I don’t know whether I need to leave this job or my whole career…and I have no idea what someone with my resume could even do…but I know I need to do something. I’m tired of having nothing left for my family when I get home. I’m tired of snapping at my husband when he asks about my day. I’m done. I’m done with toxic work environments and living in work hell.” And in that moment, I resolved to climb out and up to the surface. I hired a coach and decided to commit to escaping work hell and changing not only my job, but the way I related to it.
Today, I am living my dream career. Monday morning is my favorite time of the week, and two years ago, I had no clue my perfect career even existed, much less how to pull it off.
Spoiler alert: it did not happen overnight. Until I did the inner work, I didn’t get the external results that I was looking for. I had to start looking at the truth. My truth. It was scary. But every truth I embraced became a rung in the ladder that led up and out. I got better boundaries. I learned how to take care of myself, even when I felt guilty and the people in my life didn’t get it. I learned to speak up. I got clear on who I was and what my real priorities were. I unlearned A LOT of “supposed-to’s.” I did research. And through the whole journey, I had to remind myself over and over again that just because I was wounded, confused, and soul-weary, I was not broken.
So if you’re in a toxic work environment, or even a work hell of your own making, take heart. I know you’re hurting. You’re hurting because well…it hurts. Soul death hurts. It sucks to feel trapped, like you have no options. You're probably angry, and maybe even angry at yourself for being angry. And overwhelmed. I hear you.
Pause. Take a deep breath. You are not alone, and you are not the weird one for wanting to be happy. You deserve to be happy, and whole, and respected. Being in work hell doesn’t mean that you’re stupid or selfish or don’t have your shit together. It means that you are a human being and you are genuinely doing the best you can with what you have.
If you’re reading this, you are ready to start climbing out. If you’re willing to climb out with me, I can teach you how to escape.
I created a totally FREE toolkit that will teach you the basics of exactly what I did to find my perfect career and make it my new reality.
Here's how it works: click the button below to get the free toolkit delivered to your inbox ASAP. In it, I'll teach you the #1 secret to making a transition that sticks, and I'll give you the 3 keys to getting unstuck, building momentum, and banishing overwhelm + a mini-workbook to get you started. The toolkit is TOTALLY FREE right now, but it won't be forever. Sign up below and start your journey. I promise it's possible, and you do deserve to do this for yourself.