Photo depicting a headshot of Devon Price against an orange background with the cover of their book "Laziness Does Not Exist" on the left side.

Is the ‘Laziness Lie’ Responsible for Our Collective Burnout?

by Jasmine M. Pulido

Rest is an invaluable tool for marginalized people.

The idea of rest as an act of radical self-care is gaining attention in books like adrienne maree brown’s Pleasure Activism or Instagram accounts like Nap Ministry. But do we even understand the reason why we don’t let ourselves rest enough to begin with?

Burnout recently became an official psychological diagnosis. Add to that omnipresent pressure to “get back to normal” during a pandemic, and it seems that collective exhaustion is a root issue in our culture. My own personal “impossible goal” for myself in 2021 was to avoid burnout at all costs. But how do we even do that?

Dr. Devon Price, author of the book Laziness Does Not Exist, gave us some answers in their recent talk, “The Laziness Lie.” It was the first in a series of talks titled “Self-Acceptance as Activism” hosted by the Seattle Public Library and curated by local writer and activist Olaiya Land. 

Price went deep, explaining that the origins of the word “lazy” are rooted in colonialism and slavery. The Protestant work ethic was used as a political tool to manipulate citizens to work against their own will. As a result, we have tied our self-worth to productivity, can’t trust ourselves or our bodies to know our limits and have convinced ourselves that there’s always more that we could be doing. Price says these are the fundamental ingredients that make up “the laziness lie.” Price also shared their experience of becoming incredibly and mysteriously sick every night for almost a year while pursuing their doctoral degree — a phenomenon they now link to profound burnout.

Rest isn’t the only idea Land plans to tackle in her curation of the “Self-Acceptance as Activism” series. She is looking to go past self-care, or beyond reclaiming that term from mass marketing and capitalism, and hopes the series can reach the foundation underneath these concepts. “I feel like I’ve discovered the more important thing — that the kind of foundation for that meaningful self care is self-acceptance as part of self-love or self-compassion … that’s more the bedrock principle that it’s important to talk about.”

Stesha Brandon, the Literature & Humanities program manager at Seattle Public Library, has been a huge fan of Land’s work for the last few years. When Land agreed to be a curator for the program, Brandon was thrilled. “I love the idea that self-care can be a way of standing for the things you value like joy, community, and pleasure; and can also be an action toward building a better world,” Brandon said.

Land’s series will cover compelling topics connected to body resiliency (Oct. 13), BIPOC access to travel and the outdoors (Oct. 28), the anti-diet (Nov. 15), and sexual activism (Dec. 9) with guest speakers Dr. Lindsay Kite, Amanda Machado, Caroline Dooner, and Ev’Yan Whitney, respectively. “I just wanted a diverse lineup of speakers, both in terms of their orientations — how they show up in the world — but also in terms of topics,” Land said.

If you missed Dr. Devon Price’s talk or any of the talks in the series, you can find recordings of them on SPL’s Youtube Channel. All events are free and sponsored by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and the Gary and Connie Kunis Foundation. The Seattle Times is their media sponsor.

Jasmine M. Pulido (she/her/siya) is a Filipina American writer-activist and small business owner living in Seattle. She’s currently pursuing her Master of Arts degree in Social Change.

📸 Featured Image: Devon Price. Photo courtesy of Seattle Public Library.

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