The laziness lie is a belief system that says hard work is morally superior to relaxation and that people who aren’t productive have less innate value than productive people. It’s an unspoken yet commonly held set of beliefs and values. It affects how we work, how we set limits in our relationships, and our views on what life is supposed to be about.

There are three core beliefs that drive society’s hatred of laziness:

Your worth is your productivity.

This idea is problematic on a fundamental level and also because, for example, children, the elderly, the disabled, and people with depression can’t always be productive. Those lives still have innate value. And if you think that working hard and getting a lot done is how you earn your right to be alive, you’re always going to be taking on more than is healthy for you. When we’re struggling or we’re not productive, the idea that our productivity is connected to our worth makes us easy to exploit.

You cannot trust your own feelings or limits.

Because productivity is the most important thing, you’re supposed to ignore or downplay anything that gets in the way of that productivity: If I feel tired in the middle of the day, I beat myself up over it or I tell myself that being tired doesn’t make sense. I haven’t earned a break yet because I haven’t gotten enough done. This is a risky thought process because it leads us to have a distorted sense of those signals. We don’t trust the feelings of needing to stop working because we assume that they make us a bad person. This can erode our health because when people don’t get enough breaks, they’re at an elevated risk of burnout.

There’s always more that you could be doing.

This one is particularly dangerous because it comes down to much more than just work. There are many realms of life that we can be made to feel guilty about or where we can feel like we’re not enough.

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