Stigmas around work and their influence on how we do our work.
Work is a quintessential building block, not foundational but integral in the architecture of a person. It backbones purpose, incentivizes drive and it breeds a cycle of competition, success and a high that comes from superiority. It is the controllable that so many latch on to amidst the turbulent background of impotence, unclarity and the unbounded nature of life and relationships. It juxtaposes the freelancing of life while satisfying the need of humanity to derive meaning. This line we walk, between structure and soulful sovereignty, is a thin line that is judged by society in a black-and-white lens: lazy or productive.
Are you a couch bum or are you a workaholic? The question made judgement is casted upon each individual without taking into full account the complexity of the underlying dynamic at play. When do you rise from the depth of laziness to become seen as a clean-cut hard-worker? Does a workaholic have to even hold a job or do they simply fill the criteria of 24/7 concentrated work like reading or writing or drawing? The intricacies that play into what makes someone a “hard worker” are to complicated to divide by two narrow models. There can’t just be lazy or not lazy according to the myriad of personalities and factors that play into the definition.
Take this as an example. My cousin works around the clock, all day including weekends. She is either on her laptop cluttering her desktop with documents and studies or in conversation with a bustle of different people. Yet, despite this working schedule she is the antithesis of a worker, she is unemployed. She delves into personal projects and curiosities that completely fill her schedule and format her daily happenings instead of punching in nine to five. She is an unemployed workaholic. Or take for example non-profits. A work that isn’t tied to monetization as traditional work values. Or the concept of retirement, working tirelessly for years to end up on a beach doing nothing. The list goes on for the gray areas of work and not work balance, yet we still fit a two-option mold to this complexity. You are either a worker or you aren’t, and it you aren’t your value to society and to yourself diminishes.
Being categorized would be one thing, but being labeled with respects to work inherently effects the work you put out. If I am put in an unemployed box or a “lazy” box, then whatever work I do muster is scrubbed as irrelevant in comparison to the people who might be doing the same exact work as me but under the label of formality in a job setting. And this dynamic doesn’t just play out in the realm of work, stigmas and their trickle-down influence are present in many aspects of life.
The work we do day-in and day-out has the capability to define our identity or you can take it for what it is. The work you put in is the work you get out, and finding an empowered balance is what we should strive to do, not work ourselves into the ground or climb peg after peg up the social ranks. It is in finding what we want to do and building a balanced work routine around that, when we break these stigmas by belittling them to petty judgements not identity indicators. Bottom line: be empowered by the work you do, not ensnared by it.