February 9, 2023
Nobody said it was going to be easy, but they also left out how extremely difficult becoming an adult is. There’s pressure as a teenager to know what the next step is. What jobs sound interesting enough to do for a lifetime? What do we want to go to college for and where do we want to go? How on Earth are we going to pay for it? The overall thought many adolescents may be faced with, no matter what they want in life, is how unprepared they feel about entering adulthood. Afterall, if someone is expecting you to do something complex that you’ve never done before, shouldn’t they maybe help explain how to successfully complete it? Should everyone just somehow know what to do and just do it? All these changes at once, but there is a familiar face around! Unfortunately, it is the concept of laziness.
It could come from the people around, like the school counselor insisting those college applications and preparations should have been done by now. It is dad’s ramblings on how he was working by this age and paid through college easily, kids these days need to get going! It’s the look from mom after realizing not that many job applications have been sent out. It can definitely manifest internally, when some classmates already know what they want to do and they have it all planned out. Perhaps all of this feels just so tiring, and nobody wants to be tired when they feel like no progress has been made. Afterall, to be lazy is a bad thing that will only lead to more bad things like not being successful in life and disappointment from everyone around you. But, that popular belief lacks context and critical thinking.
The definition of laziness is the unwillingness to do something. The concept is vague at best for something that tends to have an exact meaning to many people; a lazy person can’t be bothered to just be productive when they really should be. Considering the definition, it’s too vague to truly pass much thought in what is known based off of that statement. That is reason enough to rethink laziness, but it doesn’t stop there. Human nature, social norms, and mental health are all major aspects in why the concept of laziness desperately needs to be confronted.
According to evolutionary theories, the earliest humans survived by conserving energy and only expended energy in times of need, like searching for food or running from predators. Using energy needlessly could result in major consequences if it prevents them from carrying out these tasks. All these tasks are also short-term advantages with no long-term commitment to get to the gratification of resources or out-running certain doom. Now that life has become so different and complex, we are still driven to conserve energy and instant gratification like our ancestors. Many theories in the field of psychology suggest we are very driven towards gratification while we naturally avoid pain and displeasure. Long term goals might not come naturally for us and waiting for a reward after exerting so much energy is painful. If laziness is avoiding tasks that take a lot of effort and don’t offer a sudden reward, we may just be lazy by nature. This may explain why the self-help industry is worth billions today and it’s expected to continue to grow. If motivation is hard to come by within, people have to seek it through alternative means. Afterall, the social expectation is that laziness is bad and productivity is good.
The standard expectation of productivity is the driving force for the stigma of being perceived as lazy. To be lazy is a shameful thing and the only way to avoid the shame is to keep pushing. We’re expected to be productive members of society and to be any less is not acceptable. The concept of “hustle culture” has risen in popularity due to this disdain for lack of productivity. Hustle culture is extreme in the sense that you either work as hard as you can or you aren’t doing enough. The disturbing part of holding productivity to such a high regard is practically glorifying workaholism”. The inclusion of social media has unfortunately made hustle culture a much bigger issue. It’s well-known that people tend to show only their best on their online profiles, and it’s easy to hide the exhaustion of overexertion. Being exposed to many people who make working themselves constantly look so doable can manifest feelings of shame. Being sucked into this constant enablement of overworking and never resting often leads to burnout. Burnout results from prolonged excessive stress, leading to being emotionally and physically drained, feelings of being overwhelmed, and can often lead to an emotional breakdown. Constant overindulgent stress like this can lead to health consequences, which can add to the concerns about the long term mental health effects of hustle culture.
Looking at laziness with the mental health lens also brings up something very important to consider: mental illness as “laziness”. Disorders such as depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorder have symptoms such as low energy, lack of motivation, and trouble carrying out tasks. Keeping the standard of full productivity and avoidance of being unproductive not only increases the risk of mental health problems, but the stress is counterproductive in dealing with those disorders. The stigma of laziness feeds into the stigma of mental health and continuing to deny the need to rethink laziness only makes it harder for people who are struggling.
Everyone needs rest, boundaries, and sometimes more self care than others. Laziness will always be a part of us, biologically and sometimes as a sign that one should seek support. Instead of trying to reject, hate, and feel shame over it, we’re better off understanding it while we carry on with the stresses of life in a healthier way. There’s so much more to life than productivity, so we shouldn’t see it as the gold standard of our value.