Let’s start with self-kindness – be willing to be lazy

When I mused about planning a year-long birthday project focused on kindness in my previous post, fellow blogger Crystal Byers, who writes the inspiring blog Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope, suggested that I could always start with self-kindness. Thanks, Crystal, that is precisely what I’ll do.

Self-kindness is a concept that many of us never think about. I’m sure some of us have never even heard the phrase (I raise my hand at this point). But there’s nothing more important. Having thought about this a little since Crystal planted that suggestion in my mind, it strikes me that there should be two parts to the Golden Rule. Along with ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, we should also admonish ourselves to ‘Do unto yourself as you would do unto others’. If you’re not kind to yourself, you will beat yourself up or wear yourself out and not be able to be the caring, productive, kind – and healthy – person you want to be.

I wasn’t sure how I wanted to proceed with this topic, but that changed when I came across an insightful article by Harvey Schachter in this morning’s Globe and Mail. Mr. Schachter writes a column that is intended for management folks, but I often find his observations well worth considering for all aspects of our lives. This morning’s article, about the ‘myth’ of laziness, has a lot to tell us about self-kindness:

Social psychologist Devon Price says laziness does not exist – except as a deceptive notion in our mind, which hurts us and others.

It leads us to work unreasonably hard, even to burn out, fuelled by an aversion to being considered lazy inculcated in our youth by parents, teachers, sports coaches and youth groups. It also leads us to dismiss people struggling with burdens beyond their capacities, viewing them as lazy and thus shiftless folk deserving of their own fate, rather than understanding and helping them.

“The laziness we’ve all been taught to fear does not exist. There is no morally corrupt, slothful force inside us, driving us to be unproductive for no reason. It’s not evil to have limitations and to need breaks. Feeling tired or unmotivated is not a threat to our self-worth,” the professor at Loyola University of Chicago’s school of continuing and professional studies writes in Laziness Does Not Exist.

Indeed, the feelings that we write off as laziness are a core part of how humanity stays alive and thrives in the long term. He calls it “the laziness lie.”

…   [Overcoming] that requires budgeting time for relaxation and recovery each day, even if it feels like laziness. You need to fight back against the laziness lie, a deep-seated, culturally held belief system which manifests itself in these powerful but destructive feelings:

  • Deep down, I’m lazy and worthless.
  • I must work increasingly hard, all the time, to overcome my internal laziness.
  • My worth is earned through my productivity.
  • Work is the centre of life.
  • Anyone who isn’t accomplished and driven is immoral.

…   Don’t be afraid to be lazy – to ensure rest and relaxation, particularly when overwhelmed and sensing burnout could be on the horizon. “It seems to me that being upfront about your limits and needs is a sign of strength, not weakness,” he says. Cutting back on obligations may seem to hurt or disappoint colleagues and friends. But in the long-term, he argues, it can free them to do the same, healing and growing.

So in the year ahead, be willing to be lazy.

It seems to me that this is one way of being kind to yourself: Be willing to be lazy. Give it a try. Blame it on me!

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32 Responses to Let’s start with self-kindness – be willing to be lazy

  1. Jean says:

    This is true…about laziness as a benchmark and tying to self-worth or lack of.

    And can make us unnecessarily unkind to others in a low point in life.

  2. Pingback: Self-kindness includes self-esteem | Robby Robin's Journey

  3. It’s kind of ironic because someone we might consider as ‘lazy’ would not beat themselves up about taking down time, they would just do it and not worry about the consequences.

  4. candidkay says:

    Yours is the fourth or fifth post I’ve read this morning that talks about slowing down and taking time for ourselves, Jane. I’m sensing a theme from the Universe:). We could all use the time for a collective breath right about now . . .

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    Hmm. It’s one thing taking time out to relax, recuperate, gather your resources. It’s quite another to go through life doing the least possible, actively ducking doing one’s share and expecting the state to support you in this endeavour 😦

    But on self-kindness, indeed. My advice – to self and others – is that you can’t help others with their oxygen masks if you don’t put yours on first 🙂

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Lol. I’m confident that the author had the sentiment of your first sentence in mind rather than the second, Roy. Your well-phrased conclusion sums up the crux of the advice very nicely. 😊

  6. This is fantastic. I now have “But Jane said I should” in my arsenal of excuses here at home. 😉 – Marty

  7. bernieLynne says:

    I work on self kindness — I’ve had to over the last few years. I was burning out at work and indeed ended up taking a couple of months away to find my way back. You can only give of yourself for so long before the tank is empty. I’m not sure one needs to “practise” lazy to rejuvenate yourself. My go to is reading in the sunshine.

  8. The concept of laziness is something I need to embrace. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I find it hard to imagine you having a lazy bone in your body, Jane Fritz, so good luck with this. I’m much the same but a concession to laziness in retirement is collapsing for a couple of hours on the couch many afternoons and pretending to read…well, starting to read and welcome sleep when it calls me.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Oh, I have plenty of lazy bones, Jill. But I don’t think being willing to be lazy is as much of an issue for happily retired people as for people who expect too much of themselves at work and/or home. I think this has to be an even bigger challenge during COVID, for all those people who are working remotely from home while trying to support their kids in learning remotely from home at the same time, especially with small children. Those people need respite and reassurance.

  10. Thanks Jane. At the moment I have so many things to do it is difficult to remind myself time off makes sense.

  11. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    I really like this concept which I have at times embraced and striving again to do so in my retirement.

  12. LA says:

    I have been quite lazy of late

  13. This one hit me hard. In my ethnic group—Franco-American—laziness is a sin. If my mother ever called anyone dirty and lazy, well, that was about the worst thing she could ever say about a person. To this day, I love it when things are so clean they sparkle even though my home certainly does not fit into that category. And, this especially moved me: “It also leads us to dismiss people struggling with burdens beyond their capacities, viewing them as lazy and thus shiftless folk deserving of their own fate, rather than understanding and helping them.” Oh, yes!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Laurie. I’m glad the importance of revisiting the notion of laziness being a sin through multiple lenses got through. Aside from some folks being in negative situations not of their own making, beating ourselves up because we’re trying to do everything and we just can’t is a situation people find themselves in regularly. And for all of the perhaps literally millions of people who are trying to work from home (or not work and worry about where the money’s going to come from) and at the same time help their kids learn remotely, I just can’t imagine the exhaustion and the need for self-kindness. There are times when we just have to learn to say ‘no’ to some things and not feel guilty about it. I can see there’s enough material for more than one post on self-kindness! 🙂

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