In society today, it’s all about the hustle, the go go go, rush rush rush lifestyle, where people are often measured by their productivity. Even during the height of the pandemic here in New York, memes were circulating suggesting that everyone should be using their extra time to learn new languages, fix up their houses, and otherwise do “great things.”
With that frame of mind being so prominent these days, it’s easy to feel like you’re a failure if you don’t accomplish as much as everyone else. People are quick to assume that if you’re not continuously productive, you must be lazy. But the truth is that you don’t have to compete with anyone else or accomplish as much as anyone else. The only one you have to compete with is yourself, to be the best you can be and do the best you can do. But you must also take time to practice self-care, because pushing yourself too hard can lead to burnout and even more downtime.
We often beat ourselves up, feeling like we don’t measure up, that we aren’t trying hard enough or that we are somehow letting people down if we aren’t able to be as productive as others in our lives. It can be especially hard for people who have a health condition that limits what we can do on any given day. But the truth is there are many things people often assume are signs that someone is “lazy” or unmotivated that truly are not. Some are the products of pre-existing conditions and others are simply examples of self-care.
1. Not Having an Immaculate House Does Not Mean You Are Lazy
Many people live by the creed that appearances are everything, that a tidy house is needed for a tidy mind, and that clutter leads to chaos. It is easy to succumb to those feelings that if anything in your life is a mess, you as a person must also be a mess, and that not having everything in your life clean and pristine is a sign you are lazy.
However, there are many reasons your living space might not be clean that have nothing to do with being lazy. You could be otherwise working outside of the house, or home taking care of your children or elderly parents, and be running on empty by the time you are done. You could be dealing with a debilitating chronic illness or mental health condition that makes it difficult to clean as often as you’d like. Or you could simply need to diffuse and unwind, to take a self-care day because you are overwhelmed with life at the moment. They are all valid reasons for your house not to be spotless. And honestly, you don’t need to have everything spotless all the time, nor do you have to impress anyone else. It is OK for homes to look lived in — because they are lived in.
2. Not Having a Side Hustle Does Not Mean You Are Lazy
Many people tout that everyone should always have a side hustle, a second job or plan to fall back on so that you never fall behind in life. These people build second careers off selling cosmetics or candles or other items on the side, run part-time businesses after work and on their days off, attempting to fill every hour they can with some sort of productivity that makes money. It is easy to feel that if you don’t have that same hustle, you must be lazy.
But the truth is that, while side hustles are wonderful if someone is so inclined, nobody has to be productive every moment of every day. In many cases, such as those with serious health or mental health conditions, you physically may not be able to keep going as much as others can. It may take everything you have just to accomplish what you can and anything beyond that feels out of the question. And that is perfectly OK. You are allowed to enjoy your downtime, to take time to yourself to relax. You are allowed to respect your own limitations and practice self-care when needed. It does not mean you are lazy.
3. Not Delving Into Time-Consuming Hobbies or Activities Does Not Mean You Are Lazy
Hobbies and interests are a popular topic of conversation. People often talk about how they are taking art classes, cooking classes or dance lessons. Learning a new instrument or a new language. Taking yoga or martial arts. Playing in a softball league or a bowling league or dart league. When others talk about how many activities they are involved in, it’s easy to feel exhausted just thinking about it, or to feel like we are somehow less than or lazy because our schedules are not as full.
The reality is that we don’t have to compete with anyone else’s schedule, nor do we have to needlessly fill our own. If something piques your interest and you would like to explore it, especially if it is something you feel you can add to your self-care toolbox, that is wonderful. But you do not have to accomplish as many activities as anyone else in order to not be considered lazy. Your time is yours and yours alone to fill as you see fit, including giving yourself whatever downtime you need for your own self-care.
4. Not Cooking Fancy Meals for Yourself Does Not Mean You Are Lazy
It seems today that the internet is filled with Instagram chefs. Social media timelines are filled with picturesque dishes of fancy meals that look like they could be served up in restaurants or lining the pages of culinary magazines. When we are bombarded with a constant influx of beautiful culinary images, it’s common to feel ashamed that our own meals do not measure up, that we must be lazy and not trying hard enough.
Often, though, especially when it comes to those of us with severe or chronic conditions, it is hard to even muster up the energy to cook, let alone the inspiration. We should not shame ourselves for not preparing an award-winning meal every night. Again, we do not have to impress anyone else nor are we competing with anyone else. Food doesn’t have to be fancy or picture-worthy to nourish the body and feed the soul. It is perfectly fine if you don’t even feel up to cooking at all because you don’t physically or mentally feel up to preparing anything big. It doesn’t mean you are being lazy. Make a sandwich or have a bowl of cereal. The most important thing is that you take care of yourself and eat when your body needs food, not that you rack up social media likes for your cuisine.
5. Not Going Out and Being A Social Butterfly Does Not Mean You Are Lazy
There are a lot of people who fill their social calendar with as much time as they can with friends and family, going to bars, clubs, barbecues and hikes. It seems they are always out and about with other people, doing things, living life to their fullest. They sometimes assume that just because you are not out alongside them, living the high life, you must be lazy and unmotivated.
Unfortunately, though, often physical or mental conditions limit how much you can do. You may experience pain or breathing impairment or other physical issues, or you might find yourself feeling mentally overwhelmed and unable to participate in as many things as others. It is perfectly fine to acknowledge your own limitations and to excuse yourself from activities you do not feel capable of doing. It does not mean you are being lazy. It means you are respecting your body and yourself enough to not push yourself beyond your limits.
6. Not Having a Large Social Media Presence Does Not Mean You Are Lazy
Many people today seem to be all over the internet, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok and more. They post, they tweet, they upload pictures and videos all over the net virtually every single day. Watching all of their activity, it is easy to feel like we are somehow being lazy, not trying hard enough, not measuring up, if we are not equally active.
Truth be told, much of what people portray online isn’t even real. It is a persona people portray, an illusion of the perfection we all wish our lives could be. And there is very little in most people’s day to day lives that really needs to be shared and overshared on the internet. We do not have to beat ourselves up keeping up with the Joneses, or at least the image they are portraying online. It is not being lazy to not be oversharing every aspect of your life, especially if you don’t feel you have anything noteworthy to share. It is more important that we take care of ourselves, our bodies and our own reality rather than stress ourselves out trying to create a persona online. We don’t need to impress anybody.
7. Not Having a Job Does Not Mean You Are Lazy
Often one of the first questions people ask when they meet someone is “What do you do for a living?” as if our entire worth is defined solely by what job we do in society. Whenever someone mentions they are unemployed, they are immediately looked down upon, as if we are somehow lazy because we do not have a job. Even if we explain that we are not working because we are disabled and currently unable to work, we are met with judgment and doubt, reminded that many other disabled people work as if our lack of employment is simply the choice of the lazy.
The widespread shame placed on disabled people who cannot work is horrendous. Not all disabilities create the same restrictions on lifestyles and even the limitations on one specific disability can vary from day to day. It is hard enough to feel internally that you are not able to accomplish as much as you wish you could without being shamed by others.
But please know you are not being lazy. If your doctor has deemed you unable to work due to your disability, you must remember that they are not only educated and trained to make that diagnosis, but they are also familiar with your specific circumstances and your condition. You do not have to justify the fact that you are not working to anyone else because they are not the professionals handling your case. You are not being lazy by not working. You are following the recommendations of your doctors and taking care of yourself.
When you have a physical or mental disability, it is often easy to feel like you don’t measure up, especially when you don’t feel you are doing as much as everyone else in your life. It is easy to beat ourselves up or feel like we just aren’t trying hard enough, especially when outside voices are suggesting or implying that we are lazy for not doing as much. But once again, you do not have to compete with anyone else or keep up with the Joneses. The only person you have to compete with, answer to and please is yourself. And you must take time to take care of yourself, as well.
Everything in life does not have to be perfection and every moment of your day does not have to be filled in order to be worthy or good enough. All that truly matters is that you are doing your best and continuing on. It is OK to have limitations. It does not mean you are lazy. It means you are human.