Lazy is the worst four letter word you can be called by my family. While it wasn’t so obvious to me at a young age, I could sense the constant urgency to just do something – whether it be work in the yard, take care of errands, or pay the bills. You couldn’t just sit still. You had to be doing something. If not, you were lazy and they would let you know about it.
There was a series of rules you needed to follow to avoid the lazy label. You had to be up by a certain time. Dressed a specific way. Hair done. There was no such thing as putting off a project until tomorrow if you had time today. It left me with this lingering anxiety to be doing something.
In adulthood, this showed up most often every Friday night. When most people were out having margaritas with friends and resting, I was crafting my unachievable to do list of every item that was a lower priority than work for the last 5 days. Pushing through my exhaustion from 40+ hours of corporate America, I told myself that rest would be my big reward after getting it all done. I had to work first and earn my rest. I couldn’t be “lazy.”
Yet in all this avoidance of the lazy label, I never once asked myself if these people I considered the experts on hard work were happy.
I’ve spent most of my life believing I was operating within some big equation of earning joy when the people who were working the hardest were the most miserable. Not being lazy earned them nothing but a piece of paper with meaningless tasks crossed out. A short-lived feeling of completion followed by more work because there was always more work to do.
I mean, if hard work made you happy? If not being lazy earned rest? I would have been raised by some of the happiest, most well-rested people in the world. But that’s not them. That’s not what happens to most of us when we work ourselves to death and forget that happiness and our real life is with people, not to-do lists.
No, we fall into depression believing that somehow we’re behind. That our best isn’t good enough and our life will only get better by working more. I know, I did it to myself repeatedly.
But breaking my rules on how much I work and what laziness means has me working on some new lessons – like learning each day that this hard work of doing enough to figure out if you are enough will always just leave you feeling like less. That constant motion is part of the math to make your life hard. That it’s next to impossible to work your way out of the dread for another day. That hard work alone? It won’t make you happy.
That lazy and rested is better than hardworking and hopeless any day.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.