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Real Talk: "Is this self-care or laziness?"

“How do you draw a line between self-care and just being lazy? Is this even a valid question? But personally I struggle with this.”


Dear J,

When I was little, my mom used to say that “lazy” and “bored” were bad words. At about eight years old, I interpreted this to mean “always be productive” - always be learning, studying, working. It took me about two decades to figure out that always being productive isn’t healthy, because it would result in stretched periods of laziness. Kung Type A ako sa trabaho, dapat Type A din ako sa pagiging tamad. Lolz. 

But really, I lacked self-care. I lacked balance.

Self-care and laziness seem like identical twins because they’re perceived to be the opposite of “being productive.” If you are in bed the whole day, watching episode after episode of Big Little Lies when you have an ever-growing to-do list [1], are you being lazy or is that self-care?

I don’t know. Only you can answer that, based on your personality and circumstances. Because the difference between the two lies in why you’re choosing not to work.

When you’re lazy, you’re running away from responsibilities and avoiding tasks that you know you should be doing. Self-care, to my mind, is more intentional -- it’s about carving out time to recharge so you can face your responsibilities refreshed and accomplish your tasks more efficiently. Laziness leads to less motivation, while self-care should add to it. Self-care, let’s say, is… mmmm… productive laziness.

Self-care looks different for everyone, the way work-life balance looks different for everyone. “Self-care” has become a buzzword, a hashtag, and an entire industry in recent years, as a response to the burnout that millennials and Gen-whatever-letter-of-the-alphabet have been feeling. There’s the Instagram version of self-care -- you know, the kind that makes you buy candles and skincare products and do yoga poses against a sunset. There are also contrasting examples: #selfcare is eating a salad, but also eating a bowl of popcorn and drinking a glass of wine at 3PM on a Thursday [2]; #selfcare is having alone time, but also meeting up with friends; #selfcare is treating yourself to a shopping spree, but also decluttering. There are no wrong or right in these examples, only what’s wrong or right for you at a specific time. Figuring that out requires being attentive to your needs and getting to know yourself better. It requires untangling the knots in your mind.

I like candles and serums and yoga; these are part of my self-care “tools” too and sometimes show up on my Instagram. But there’s the offline, more important, non-glamorous version of self-care that requires daily work: staying fit; eating fruits and vegetables; drinking a lot of water; spending time with loved ones (pets included); journaling; reading; spending time with nature; and better sleep hygiene. Self-care is learning to say no. Setting boundaries. Knowing when to ask for help. Going offline. Tuning out the noise. Believing in yourself.

You can light all the candles you want, pero kahit mukha ng simbahan yung kwarto mo, the little fires won’t burn your anger and resentment away. You can do an hour of yoga everyday and still be an asshole to people around you. You can do a 5k run but you can’t! run! away! from! your! responsibilities!

Self-care, as the word says, is about taking care of yourself. Laziness isn't taking care, it can just mean lack of discipline. Self-care is an everyday practice. I chose “practice” because sometimes you fail and sometimes you succeed. It’s a process. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

Take care of yourself.



[1] That’s what I did over the weekend, by the way. It was glorious.

[2] Also me.


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