Laziness Does Not Exist by Dr. Devon Price
Publisher: Atria Books
My Rating: 5/5 stars
Have you ever procrastinated until the last minute and felt guilty? Or beat yourself up for missing a deadline? Maybe you lamented how “lazy” you’d been.
Dr. Price argues in their recently published book that the “lie” we’ve been told about laziness is wrong. What we call “laziness” might more compassionately and more accurately be described as burnout, rest, being overworked, not having access to resources, facing inaccessibility or discrimination, or not having your needs met.
With roots in Puritanism and capitalism, the “laziness lie” as Dr. Price calls it, makes us push ourselves past our abilities and into distress or even illness when our bodies beg us to rest.
Dr. Price drove themself to illness and burnout after overworking for years and years, constantly chiding themself for not working hard enough, not achieving enough, needing any rest or breaks. They share their story and also the stories of dozens of others finding themselves tired and guilty for it. You can see yourself in these stories because we all share in the “laziness lie.”
“We expect ourselves to achieve at a superhuman level, and when we fail to do so, we chastise ourselves for being lazy.”
But this book is permission to rest: it’s a comfort for burnout, it’s a treaty against so-called “laziness.” These sentiments are more valuable now than ever as we face unprecedented climate disasters, environmental collapse, political unrest, and a seemingly endless global pandemic. Things are hard. And yet we are expected to keep working, keep pushing, keep hustling like nothing has changed. We need this book.
Even as a reader already critical of capitalism and productivity, I learned from this book and saw so many insidious ways the “laziness lie” finds its ways into our lives. As radical as this book may be, my only criticism is that it’s not radical enough. Dr. Price urges we take sabbaticals, say no to side hustles, and drop extra responsibilities, but that’s not possible for everyone. Personally, living between paychecks, I cannot say no to work responsibilities no matter how burned out I may be. The arguments from Laziness Does Not Exist must be paired with activism and social action to change the structures that allow the “laziness lie” to exist and thrive.
“If your life has value no matter how productive you are, so does every other human life.”
Part memoir, part interview series, part activism, part self-help, Laziness Does Not Exist is permission to opt-out of the lie. Maybe you’re not lazy for missing that deadline—maybe you were burnt out after working through a year of a global pandemic. Maybe you’re not lazy because you waited until the last minute on a project—maybe you didn’t have access to the resources you needed. As Dr. Price encourages, it’s okay to rest. It’s okay to take a break. Maybe you’re not lazy after all.