In the past year, I have changed jobs twice. As an HR professional, I, of all people know this is not ideal.
For 3 years I had worked for a company that had grown me to be the professional I am today – diligent and hardworking. But after three years, I made the tough decision to move on and stretch my wings.
But as hard as it is to admit, I did not soar, I crashed. The new working environment proved hell for me. So much so, that I developed a heart issue while I was there and I was in the hospital for a week.
I had felt that that was not the place for me a few weeks after starting. I ignored this and tried pushing forward but it was not working out. The unhappiness and negativity trickled into other parts of my life. My entire world became toxic and negative, and I became very unhappy. My husband was also becoming affected by this because I would constantly complain to him, without really doing anything to change my situation. I was falling into the role of victim, a role that I did not wear comfortably.
After being discharged from hospital I realised that I could not continue like this, I realised the severity of the impact of being in a toxic environment for 8-9 hours a day was having on my health, my family, my life. I had to make a scary and seemingly foolish decision. Why? My priorities had changed. I was no longer a young, single and childless girl anymore. I was someone’s mother and someone’s wife, and it was important that they experience me at my best. And I was not at my best at that point.
So I chose them instead of a monthly salary.
Fortunately, I quickly secured another role in a different company just a few days after making the decision to resign. Unfortunately, this opportunity also did not work out. After 6 months, I was hanging on by a thread. I was back at the edge and I could literally feel myself slipping back into that same hole I had only just pulled and clawed my way out of.
See, whenever you join a company, you are merging with a living organism, whose principles and values may not 100% align with your own personal inner compass. So, we learn to tolerate certain things in order to not be rejected by the organism.
But sometimes you end up rejecting the organism first, sometimes the organism, and its behaviour, is just too foreign. This was the position I found myself in.
A toxic environment where respect and professionalism were not the order of the day. A toxic environment where power was abused and wielded to keep the workforce in line, to intimidate them through manipulative threats that are intended to indenture staff through gratitude for the work and for the salary. A toxic environment where managers are comfortable making snide comments about staff members and their appearances, where managers belittle those who are different to them, were managers openly comment on their team’s salaries and judge an individual’s personal belongings based on that privileged information. A toxic environment where managers make insinuations that have no place in the workplace, and even less place in this diverse, yet divided country.
There is a lot I can tolerate in my working environment, but bigotry and disrespect are not some of them.
I was having a very profound conversation with my friend a couple of weeks before I decided to resign, about learning to leave. And this was not just about leaving toxic work environments. This was also about leaving toxic friendships, family members, relationships or situations.
Before I made the decision to leave, I could literally feel myself getting crippled by fear. “If I lose this salary, how will I pay my bond. My daughter has needs and I won’t be able to pay for them. My CV is going to look like I am a job hopper. Where will I get money from?”. These were the very fears that were affecting my ability to make a decision about my life.
So many women stay in abusive relationships because of this fear. They are afraid of starting over, of losing their security, of letting go of their children’s father, of what people might say and much more.
Women also stay in relationships with people that don’t make them happy anymore because they have been in that same relationship for 5 years. “I do not want to start afresh”.
So many of us have toxic family members that we never walk away from because “you can’t choose your family”.
But what you can choose, and should choose, is your own happiness and sanity. And what should scare you more is a life lived without peace and happiness.
Before I resigned, I prayed to God and asked him if I am making the right decision. That night, I had a dream where my sister said these words to me: “Protect your peace at all cost”. I woke up that Sunday morning and told my husband that I am handing in my resignation the next day. He agreed, almost as he had been expecting it. He offered me his full support but I could see the fear and worry in his eyes too. He was as scared as I was about what all this meant for our lives and our finances.
Protecting your peace has a lot to do with rising above people’s ignorance and not allowing other people’s behaviours get to you. But where do you draw the line? At which point do you head to the exit door?
It’s all good and well to stay with a guy that tells you on a daily basis how pathetic you are and how you don’t deserve to be in a relationship with a good guy like him. Rising above that means you don’t let the projection of his own fears affect how you feel about yourself. But you know what would help boost your confidence and make you avoid crying yourself to sleep every night? Leaving.
I was advised not to allow my now ex-manager’s ignorance and entitlement affect my energy, my inner peace and the quality of my work. I prayed every time I went to work, before a meeting with her and whenever she would pass some ignorant comment. I prayed about it and every time I got home I would not say a word about what transpired in the office. Not only was I protecting my peace, but I was also protecting that of my husband and daughter. No one wants to deal with a whining and unhappy individual.
I then started meditating on what protecting my peace meant for me, and it had a whole lot to do with exiting unhealthy spaces. Had I stayed at my role before this, I would probably be in the hospital constantly treating a heart issue that I never had.
Women stay in abusive relationships and exit in body bags.
We also continue supporting and maintaining toxic and selfish family members until we get blacklisted for taking out too much debt that was never meant for us.
I did not get to this point on my own. Becoming a mom has taught me that I don’t have to deal with people or situations that do not deserve my energy, because I have a very important responsibility that does deserve and need a lot of my energy. If we could start reassessing our lives, we could see how much useless energy we spend arguing things we shouldn’t, defending things we have no business defending or dealing with people that don’t deserve even a portion of us.
Life is way too short for toxic friends, family, partners or managers.
On several occasions, I have found myself looking at my daughter and wondering if I am capable of raising her right. She is still going to find herself in undesirable situations and I need to teach her to navigate those. I have also come to learn that kids learn through observation. So it is useless for me to tell my daughter to leave a boyfriend that does not make her happy, and come back from the office and complain about a manager that sucks my energy.
Raising my daughter well means that I lead by example, and one of the biggest lessons I want her to remember, even in my absence, is that fear does not define us. So she needs to make decisions about her life without being afraid of what the future might hold should she decide that.
So, I will protect my peace at all costs. I will show her how to do the same and until she is old enough to do it alone, I will protect her peace at all costs too.
Karabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo.