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  • Writer's pictureJessica Hughes

The Laziness Lie: Is There Any Truth In It?

We've been sold a lie that laziness is bad - that we are only worthy if we are constantly productive, pushing through fatigue, hunger, and even illness in order to work harder. The definition of laziness as "unwillingness to work or use energy" has been twisted into a concept that devalues self-care, rest, and simply existing without producing.

The definition of laziness according to Merriam Webster: (noun) the quality of being unwilling to work or to use energy; idleness. 

When we isolate the definition of laziness into this simple context, it doesn’t seem so bad. But we’ve created a culture in which the quality of laziness is not good, so much so many people search, “Why am I so lazy?” or “if I am lazy, does this mean I am depressed?” 

But just like any quality I may possess, I don't possess it all the time. I have moments in my day, week, month, or year where I use my energy to get things done, travel, work out, and cook myself dinner, and other times, I am “lazy” when I take time for myself to not do a damn thing. Sit with my thoughts, journal, read a book, or just sit at the park and watch the sunset. 

It’s ok to take a break, in fact, our bodies require that we do. But we’ve created a culture around hustle, going faster, and never stopping until the work is done. But is the work ever really done? Speaking as a true Taurus, I relish the art of relaxing. I am also very determined to get my work done, one could say I’m stubborn about it. 

Even when I take the time to be “lazy” I can’t shake the feeling of guilt that I should be doing something on my to-do list and because I have so much to do I shouldn’t be relaxing. I recently experienced this guilt after a whirlwind month of travel. And so I took it as a sign when the next day on my walk I listened to the We Can Do Hard Things podcast episode #303, where they discuss with Devon Price — author of the book, Laziness Does Not Exist, the Laziness Lie. 

In his book, Price explains how we've created a culture that tells us we can never trust our own needs and feelings. We're made to feel unworthy if we don't pursue "more" - more work, more responsibilities, more sacrificing our well-being for the sake of productivity. Taking a break or putting our health first is seen as laziness, a threat to getting things done.

laziness lie, laying on the couch
Is laziness a lie?

The lie is that we can’t trust our own feelings and needs, that we can always be doing more, and that we’re worthless if we don’t pursue the “more.” A lie that tells us if we don’t push through the pain, sacrifice our well-being, and accept more responsibility, we are lazy and unworthy.

But resting when we need it is not laziness - it's listening to our bodies and minds which require periods of recovery, just like they need food, water, and sleep. Refusing to ignore basic human needs like tiredness or hunger to maximize output is not laziness, it's self-preservation.

“Most of us spend our entire working lives ignoring our hunger, ignoring our tiredness, working through sickness, even ignoring our bowels and bladders, because being a full living being with needs and emotions is viewed as a threat to our productivity, and productivity supposedly determines our worth,” says Price. 

Hearing this prompted a memory for me. At my old corporate job, one I left years ago to pursue my passions, I had become extremely ill and called in sick one day. I was so sick, running to the bathroom every 10 minutes to vomit or diarrhea. I called my assistant to let her know I wasn’t coming in and to take my place with the vendor meeting we had that day. I also texted my boss to let her know (who was scheduled to be in the meeting as well) and she texted me back saying, “Sick or not, you need to be here.” I did not go to work and the next day, I walked in with my resignation letter. I quit without any other job lined up, or any sort of sense of what I was going to do.

I thought this was not how I wanted to live. I didn’t like my job anyway and was probably looking for a reason to quit, and that was it. I thought, are we really willing to work, be productive, and show up for others at the cost of our own health and well-being that we lose our sense of self and what our needs are?

We do this because we are rewarded for it. We are told that if we stay late, work even though we are tired and sick, and skip lunch, that we are dedicated to our work. And that dedication gets rewarded with a paycheck, a pat on the back, praise, etc. Our productivity becomes inextricably linked to our worth.

But why must we always be producing to feel valuable? This is something I recently heard Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the book Eat Pray Love, say in her substack community, “Letters From Love.” 

“You are not lovable for your timeliness, prosperity, perseverance, usefulness, your willingness to try and do better,” says Gilbert. "You are loved because you are here." She proposes the outrageous idea that our worth is not conditional on our output, but inherent to our existence. 

How to Combat the Laziness Lie

Loosening the link between our value and our productivity starts with permitting ourselves to rest, to say no to an overfilled schedule, and to be still. Despite what we're told, we are not machines that can operate optimally without replenishing ourselves. Recognizing our needs for downtime, hobbies, and moments of non-doing as valid is key to dismantling the laziness lie. 

We would all benefit from a cultural shift that recognizes human limitations not as failures, but as beautiful pieces of our shared experience. Pushing ourselves to the brink without replenishing ourselves is not a virtue, but a denial of our truest essence as living, breathing beings. It's time to redefine laziness as the wise practice of prudent rest, not a moral failing. Taking life at a reasonable pace is not laziness, but being fully human.

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