Rachael is a self-published author and blogger in central Illinois who has been writing about entertainment topics since 2010.
I don't really have to work. I get an allowance from my spouse that, while not extravagant, is enough that I don't really have to have a job. However, there is still enormous societal pressure on me to become a self-made success anyway.
The script is no longer even that of the traditional housewife—working all day on housework and fulfilling children's needs ahead of my own. Now, I'm expected to work all day for some company and put clients' and bosses' needs ahead of my own. I'm expected to work most of the hours of my life away for this cause.
This would give me more clout in society. To some, this would give me the gold stamp of approval as a genuine adult. We're so conditioned to think that grinding away all day long for a company that doesn't care about us is both a duty and a virtue. People who resist or find ways to live outside of this script are seen as outcasts of society.
When you get government benefits, you have to go out of your way to prove you're not lazy, that you desperately want to work, and that you would if you didn't have whatever disability or extenuating circumstance was preventing you from it.
But what about people who don't want to work? If "what do you do?" means "what do you do for money?" and this is the question that most defines a person, then people without a desire to work lack a firm identity.
My answer to this question is varied; I don't need to work, but I do some activities that generate income like blogging and pet sitting. However, what I'm most passionate about right now—novel writing—is not making me any money yet. And completing my novel has meant saying "no" to many things that would give me a lot of the social benefits of a "real" job, like more money and "legitimacy" as an adult human being.
But then I get to thinking, and I wonder to myself, "why is it that my legitimacy as a human being is dependent upon who I work too many hours for in return for compensation that, to me, is not worth the finite time I have on this Earth?
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught me a lot, including how to stop confining and limiting myself based on how I fear others may judge me. I'm no longer worried about shame surrounding wearing sweat pants in public or not wearing a bra (the straps hurt my shoulders; I don't need to put myself through pain to hide the fact that I have nipples so that people who hate nipples can be comfortable), and yet it's taken me longer to let go of my guilt when it comes to my perceived laziness.
I have depression, social anxiety, PTSD, and possible autism, but none of that is considered a good enough excuse not to have a job; I was denied benefits. I'm under constant pressure to try to hide my mental illnesses and keep up the appearance of a neurotypical person at all times when I'm in public. It's bad for my health, and it's exhausting.
Luckily, I've now dumped many of the emotional burdens I used to let other people put on my back, and it feels good. With that in mind, here are four reasons why I'm proud—or at least no longer ashamed—to be "lazy!"
1. Because I Don't Owe Anyone Sh*t
It takes time, money, energy, and effort to work. When I work for someone else, I am essentially saying that I agree that they can have all the time, money, energy, and effort I am capable of providing them all day, every day.
Sure, the amount I can be forced to work is legally limited, but many employers demand that you be "on-call" all the time or you'll get fired. This makes your time theirs. These things are my resources. I should not choose to give them out for the low prices demanded by America's nightmare version of capitalism.
No one should have to work so hard for so little. Human lives have more value than that. No one dies saying they wish they had given more hours of their youth to their employers. People deserve a social safety net so that their basic needs are met without having no choice but to sell themselves in wage slavery.
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The onus of virtue should not be on me to sell myself into a bad deal. Instead, employers should pay people what their finite hours on the planet are actually worth. Or they should do the work that needs doing themselves—end of story. They're the immoral ones for asking me to trade my labor under unfair conditions for unfair prices. I'm not immoral for being protective of myself.
2. Because I Don't Want My Work to Benefit a Large Corporation That Wants to Exploit Me
Americans could stand to be lazier, and many of us ought to be a bit pickier about our working conditions, to the extent that we have any capacity to choose at all (few do, and I get that).
A work ethic mentality is a mentality that says "use me." You're also telling them to discard you the instant you're no longer usable. It's a masochistic bullshit mentality peddled by evangelists for laissez-faire capitalism because workers with this mentality benefit those who employ them—often for very little and under rough conditions; no bathroom breaks, safety violations, standing all day, little rest, and so on.
It doesn't benefit you to believe in such nonsense as a worker. The more you buy into this sort of work ethic, the more you're going to drive yourself into misery and poverty to make customers happy and employers/owners richer.
I believe in only believing in ideologies that will benefit my self-actualization or enlightenment directly. Don't buy into lies forced upon you by people with a vested interest in using you or promoting the system that gives you only misery in return for your working hours.
3. Because Even Working for Myself, "Rise and Grind" Is Not a Helpful Mindset
Vast wealth is generated by sitting on an important resource such as land, oil, precious metal, etc. If you aren't set to inherit vast amounts of resources when your folks die, it's highly unlikely that you'll ever become a billionaire or get the vast riches a lot of people fantasize about.
Even "self-made" examples like J.K. Rowling and Bill Gates are only lucky enough to have created mega-successful intellectual property and lucky enough to have governments that defend that property, just like an oil tycoon relies on a government robust enough to secure their property rights.
And whether you're sitting on the patent for a computer or mining operation, it really isn't your activity that maintains the wealth and allows it to grow. It's government, shareholder, manager, and consumer activity. The idea that billionaires got this way by waking up at 5 am and sweating their asses off just isn't true. It's a myth with no bearing on how the world actually works. They only get richer by sitting on an important resource or commodity for a length of time.
The rich are a different sort of people from the rest of us. They are the few lucky enough to have something valuable and the ability to protect it.
But, that doesn't mean it's all gloom and despair. After all, you don't need to be a billionaire to be financially successful, take vacations, buy nice things for your family, or eat at a restaurant with clean floors. Experts believe that after making about $70k (USD) a year, people no longer get more happiness from more income.
That, to me, makes it seem like that is a perfectly fine salary goal to have as a professional, but in certain areas, you can have a very nice life for much less than that even. So, if you're already making like 90k a year, you're not going to win more happiness by waking up an hour earlier or working an hour later—certainly not more than the happiness you'll likely get from getting enough sleep at night or enough relaxation during the day.
We're not machines; we're animals. Animals have needs. The tech industry in particular does not seem to realize this in their intensive drive to "gamify" every aspect of life.
4. Because in Spite of Being "Lazy," I Actually Get a Lot Done
I wake up between 8 and 11 every morning. I work about two hours per weekday. I spend a lot of time watching TV, playing video games, watching YouTube, and hanging out and cuddling with my spouse. I go to bed between 21 and 24 (9pm and 12am). I clean. I shower. I take care of myself. I also have days where I do nothing at all that could be called work, either because of my recurring migraines and fatigue or simply for fun and relaxation. I spend time engaging with art and literature that I enjoy or think is important.
So, you'd think my productivity would be shot to hell, and my output would be almost zero right? If "productivity experts" are to be believed, I commit every sin by basically valuing myself as a human rather than attempting to treat myself as a machine. But it's not actually true to assume that. My output is pretty good. I make blog posts fairly regularly—about once a week or once every two weeks.
If I try to force myself to make more, it doesn't work. I need to blog only when I have something I feel strongly about—something I feel like I need to say. But when I do, the blog posts flow from my passionate mood. Focusing intently on my first draft of my first novel, I completed it in about six weeks.
Next, I went on to revision, and it seemed to me that what I did was think of every other thing I could think to do because, subconsciously, I wanted to put it off. Thus, business for the sake of looking busy or feeling productive is not the best strategy; it actually can become a form of procrastination. When my intuitive feelings on this matter were confirmed by Cal Newport in Deep Work, I felt vindicated.
We can only focus on one thing at a time, and saying "no" to things is power. I might only do between two and three hours of work each weekday, but that's probably comparable to or even more than the amount of time a desk-slave in an office building actually works on an important project.
A lot of their time is spent talking, talking, talking—email, social media, slack, meetings that usually could have been emails . . . they're always talking, and that leaves them little time for thinking. Planning, daydreaming, organizing their thoughts, and executing their plans actually takes a back seat, especially when the office gets cliquey and begins to feel more like a social club.
Working alone has taught me to listen to my inner voice, and isolation allows me to practice good writing in a quiet environment. And choosing what to stop adding to my to-do list gives me insight into what's really important for me to do.
What has your experience been like with "rise and grind" culture, also known as toxic productivity? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Naomi Starlight
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 23, 2021:
People often confuse self-value by the type of work they do. It should be much more than that. If you do not need to work outside your home to pay the bills, and put food on the table, consider yourself lucky.
You mentioned that you have depression, social anxiety, PTSD, and possible autism. It sounds as though you have enough on your plate.
I think of that old saying about walking a mile in another person's moccasins before being judgemental. Enjoy your life with your husband and do what you can to feel happy. God bless you!