I recently rewatched the cult classic "American Psycho" starring Christian Bale, and couldn’t help but draw parallels between the mental stress of his character and what I experienced working at my old corporate job, including the pressure to exist in a superficial space in the pursuit of "success.” Two months after leaving the corporate world behind, I’m happier than ever. I feel reenergized, full of purpose, and most importantly, I feel like myself again.
Quitting allowed me to regain my sense of personal identity
Although I never got to a point where I felt I totally lost myself, like Patrick Bateman did, I did feel the real me slipping away. The way I talked, walked, and even the jokes I laughed at all felt foreign to me.
I’d pull into the parking lot and put on my corporate face. I’d walk into the office on the phone with a close friend who’d remark on the change in pitch and tone of my voice when greeting colleagues. I learned not to react every time I felt minimized, disrespected, ignored, or offended, because I knew that I couldn’t speak from a genuine place.
Since quitting I feel free to embrace not only who I am, but who I want to be. I can be authentic in my interactions, share my experiences and vulnerabilities completely, and be around people who are encouraging and supportive.
I’m less concerned with the status of my peers
In one scene, Bateman is having a meal with coworkers after work, and upon leaving they all throw down their AMEX credit cards to cover the bill. Although a seemingly innocent moment in the movie, it’s a reminder that the desire for status in the eyes of your peers is a very real thing, especially if you are Black or a person of color.
This need to fit into the dominant culture and emulate those around us can create a fracture in our identity. Code switching, as it’s commonly referred to, becomes like speaking a different language.
At one time I also owned the AMEX Platinum card, carrying a hefty $500 annual fee. When I dropped the card on the table it was definitely a conversation starter. I originally applied for the card for its travel benefits, including access to private waiting areas in airports, but I also wanted to experience what the status felt like.
Corporate culture rewards those who fit in and shun those who don’t. When Bateman was asked by his fiance why he doesn’t just quit he replies "Because I want to fit in."
After two fee cycles, I decided the $500 fee wasn’t worth the status symbol for me, so I closed the card. I found a different AMEX card with no annual fee, which I knew was a more financially responsible choice for me.
Quitting saved me from not being me
Although I never got to the point where I felt I totally lost myself, I knew I was on a slippery slope of falling away from who I was and who I wanted to be. My job ruled many aspects of how I presented myself "professionally" and what that meant to me. I was made to believe that I somehow had to look, talk, or dress a certain way. Since quitting, I’ve realized that simply isn’t true.
Today I’m able to share what I think and how I feel on a level that won’t be micromanaged, or held against me in performance reviews or conversations about raises, bonuses, or promotions. Outside of the corporate world, I can be myself.
Rahkim Sabree is a personal finance influencer, author, speaker, and financial coach who focuses on helping entrepreneurs and business leaders optimize their financial future. Visit his website or connect with him on Twitter.
Rahkim Sabree August 20, 2021 at 06:12PM