Busy-Shaming—The New Sign You’re a Grownup Mean Girl

I dug up this post from the archives and updated it with my current thoughts. It’s odd how so much of the information feels relevant more than 2 years later. Enjoy!

If I were ranking feelings, inspiration would be super high on my list. I LOVE feeling inspired. Here are some random bits of stuff that made me feel inspired this week:

 Ideally, whenever I feel inspired, I would drop whatever I’m doing in the moment and start writing or make a list or create a plan of action or whatever. I would immediately turn that feeling into DOING. In reality, the best I can usually manage is to make a mental note to revisit the object of my inspiration later, when I am less busy. This week I was firmly embedded in reality.

In the past, a week like this would have left me feeling drained, overly anxious, and feverishly reading articles about the possibility of time travel being invented in my lifetime on my iPhone late at night, while desperately trying to escape the clutches of insomnia (so many low-ranking feelings). But despite being busy and yes, missing some opportunities to channel my inspiration into creative outlets, I don’t feel frustrated or stifled. I feel free and calm and present.

It might have something to do with the fact that I recently returned from a lovely yoga retreat in the mountains of Tennessee. But being out of commission for 5 days or so didn’t exactly help with my workload. And the thing is, I have more days of feeling free and calm and present now than I ever have before, despite being busier than I ever have been before.

So, I’ve been letting all of this rattle around in my brain as I tried to figure out what wisdom I might have that’s worth sharing with you. Because don’t we all want to know the secret to feeling more high-ranking feelings?

Psst, my secret is…I feel free and calm and present.

That’s it. That’s my secret.


I know you’re thinking there must be more to it because I’ve been thinking there must be more to it and we’re all taught there is more to it. We’re all taught to believe if we just make it over the next hurtle or beyond the next obstacle, then we’ll feel satisfied and we’ll finally have arrived wherever it is we’re supposed to have been going for so long. But somehow we never quite make it. The goal posts keep moving.

What if, instead, we all just decided to be where we are right now?

It’s better.

I swear.

And…you know it’s better.

So why is it so hard to DO it?

Answer: We have been assimilated into a culture of busy-shaming.

Every once in awhile, I stumble across and article like this: “Busy is the New Lazy,” by Chris Taylor, which illustrates perfectly well what I mean by the busy-shaming culture. The gist of the article is that “busy” has become a crutch. People who constantly say or think that they are busy are either trying to convince others (and maybe themselves) how important they are or making an excuse to get out of doing something else or shielding themselves from existential angst (deep). By contrast, those truly motivated go-getters among us, who, by the way, are not lazy, but busy, only in a good way, never say or think they’re busy because they refuse to play the victim card.

The moral of the story? If you want to be in with the cool kids, stop being so damn busy (and put away that resting bitch face, while you’re at it)!

I haven’t been tuned into the business world all that long, but even I am aware of the Olympic-swimming-pool-sized pool of actual and virtual ink spilled over the “Trap of Busyness.” It seems that everyone has something to say about what busyness really means; how to avoid falling into the busyness trap; or how to get beyond the fog of busyness.

We’re chided for filling our lives with tedious, superficial, boring tasks that make us unhappy. But, at the same time, we are bombarded by pressure to be more productive, more efficient, and to do more with less. You should multitask! You should NOT multitask! Feeling busy seems like a perfectly rational response to such pressure.

Now, I do agree with Taylor that feeling busy is a choice and making ourselves busy can be a defense mechanism. But by equating “busy” with “lazy,” Taylor suggests that if you are busy, you should feel ashamed, which is supposed to motivate you to “snap out of it.” It’s the same thing that well-meaning rich people say to poor people “complaining” about being poor. It’s the same thing that well-meaning thin people say to fat people “complaining” about being fat.

The thing is, shaming people into changing never actually succeeds as a motivational tactic. And believing that it might is a definite sign of one’s privilege and mean girl (or guy) status.

Consider this post a public service announcement: I refuse to participate in this busy-shaming culture. I believe feeling busy is a choice and making ourselves busy can be a defense mechanism because I have chosen feeling busy over feeling free before and I have used busy as an excuse to avoid doing things I was afraid to do before. And I know (and in my finest hours, I even manage to remember) if you want to stop feeling busy, you need to stop being busy.

To make this change, you don’t need me to bully you or try to shame you into believing that feeling busy is a low-ranking feeling. You already know. You don’t need me to bully you into believing that being free and calm and present is better. You already know.

So since you already know, why not take the next step and DO something about it.

  • Stop doing things you don’t want to do out of obligation.
  • If you hate your job, make a plan to do something else with ⅓ of your time on earth and implement that time.
  • If certain tasks are energy-draining for you, rearrange your life so you do less of those tasks and more of the tasks that leave you feeling energized and happy.

I borrowed this last one from a great book Designing Your Life, which I highly recommend. Here’s an exercise from the book: use the Good Time Journal to log your activities a few days per week for about 3 weeks. Then reflect on your findings. So helpful!

And if writing your book is sucking the life out of you, for goodness sake, enlist the help of someone like me. Because what we all need is to unload the baggage in our lives that make us feel less free and calm and present? If you aren’t ready, don’t worry. I’ll be waiting here patiently for you to contact me.

Hey, look! Maybe I managed to turn some of my feelings into DOINGs after all.