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"You're Lazy!"

Ah, the classic.

One of the lovely labels I've carried around my whole life. And it's one that's nearly impossible to avoid unless you hide from people forever.

Not doing enough? Lazy.

Going at a slower pace? Lazy.

Resting? Lazy.

Not meeting society's demands of what is and isn't considered legitimate "productivity" every moment? You guessed it! Lazy.

For my entire life up until the past year or so, I really took this label to heart. But my mentor and a handful of friends have helped me see it differently. Sure, there are things here and there that I can try to improve on, just like anyone else; such is life and it's essential to personal growth. But there are also things that I can't help. Autism is a huge factor in that, but regardless of neurology, everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

The reality that I simply can't function in all the same ways as neurotypical people because that's not how God wired me drove me into self-loathing. I get overwhelmed and tired easily, react more slowly to things, and can't handle a lot of seemingly "simple" tasks as well or efficiently as most others. Because of this, I believed that I was a terrible person and nothing but lazy garbage who doesn't deserve to be here. And it's a hard thing to unlearn.

That one label can do a lot of damage to a person. Why are we so quick to slap it on people? I'm guilty of this as well. More often than not, when we see someone appearing to be "lazy" in our eyes, there's a reason. Mental illness. Overwhelm. Physical exhaustion. Executive dysfunction. Things that are often invisible to onlookers. Or, maybe they're actually working very hard and we just can't see it.

If you were to look at me lying on the couch for hours on a regular basis, it would be incredibly easy to assume laziness. But did you know that I wrote the majority of my book on my phone while lying on the couch? I'm writing this post from my bed as we speak. Heck, even if I was just playing games on my phone… maybe I'm not just doing it for no reason. It's mentally stimulating and soothing when overwhelmed. Many of us in the autistic community consider being on our phones to be a stim. When I'm watching TV, reading books, listening to music, etc, oftentimes I'm trying to get ideas and inspiration for my own creative work and learning about the world through different outlets. And I know it's not just me.

So what is legitimate laziness, then?

Though trying to unlearn a mindset I've had for a lifetime isn't easy, I've come to believe that it's more of a willful and consistent choice to brush off responsibility when one is fully capable of doing the tasks. Maybe they think it's not worth their time or that they're too good for it. Maybe they try to pass it on someone else just because they don't feel like it or don't care. Like that episode of SpongeBob where he's making Plankton pamper him in an effort to get him to work. He always replies, "Nah, why don't you ask me later?" and proceeds to sass him like crazy.

That's the image that comes to my mind, anyway.

As a wonderful friend from Discord once said:

"Laziness is a choice and side effect of corrupt desire. Not a consequence of life's obstacles."

An analogy I like to use is: we wouldn't label a gym student with a broken ankle for not running a mile like the rest of the class, so why is it different with mental disabilities?

I still find myself using the term "lazy" as a joke or saying things like, "I didn't do X, Y, Z because I'm lazy," when in reality, most of the time it's executive dysfunction. I'm starting to catch myself and trying to break that habit. It also makes me sad whenever I hear other people calling themselves lazy when I know for a fact that they're not.

I dream of a world where we aren't so quick to judge and label people like this. Where there is more empathy and less stigma. Where we all respect each other's strengths and weaknesses.

If you ever feel shameful or like you're being "lazy" for resting, being overwhelmed, etc: perish the thought! You know yourself and your needs better than any judgmental onlooker.

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