It is no secret that the American culture seems to put more weight on being “busy” than being happy. When you ask someone how they are, there are a handful of socially acceptable answers that you are likely to hear:
“So busy”, “CRAZY busy”, “working a ton”, “work is non-stop”, “good, keeping busy”, “always on the run”…Etcetera, so forth and so on…
There is a (false) illusion that by insisting you are busy, people will hear that you are important. A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review confirmed that American’s believe those who have a busier lifestyle also have higher status; whereas, Italians and many other cultures rate someone with the ability to utilize leisure time well as having higher status.
It seems to be increasingly more common for employees to be available 24/7…with multiple cell phones and e-mail being delivered around the clock…. personal time has taken on a negative connotation. We get a sense of validity from being able to say we are in demand at all hours of the day and night. We live in a world that seems to suggest that taking personal time is a failure. What we are turning a blind eye to (as a culture) is that the problem of “being busy” is typically serving the purpose of masking anxieties and feelings of inequality. Gone are the days where employees specialized in one aspect of their trade; now, all employees are expected to be able and willing to fill any agency roles at a moment’s notice.
The pressure to be busy starts at earlier and earlier ages. So many parents that I have encountered discuss the pressure to have their children in multiple activities starting at age TWO! It seems that kids are in private lessons, select sports and working with private coaches at younger and younger ages. What’s wrong with a kid being good at…one thing? Or even nothing?! (GASP!!!)
What is wrong with being “okay” with the life that we have…to be proud of our NORMALCY?
I must say, I too fall into the urge to tell everyone just HOW busy/chaotic/rushed my life is. When asked, there is a push pull between the truth (I am content…) and the desire to exaggerate. Let’s try and practice for the next week. To say “I am doing well, thank you” or “I am enjoying this season of life”. We need downtime for our sanity, this is nothing to be ashamed of! I hope that one day we can adopt the Italian mindset that downtime indicates a higher status lifestyle!