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Don’t Call Them Lazy!

There was a time when I was in grade school that one of my classmates always was being accused of being lazy, a procrastinator, a person who would never succeed in life. You probably think it was the other students who were thinking about this student like that. It wasn’t. It was his teachers. I shared classes with him in junior high as well. The situation continued. Even worsened. Added to the negative view many teachers held of this student, some had begun to add the term, mentally troubled.

I overheard two teachers during lunch break discussing the student as, “…that boy with the mental problem…” and thought to myself, mental problem? What kind of mental problem does he have? He doesn’t seem crazy! That was something that truly bothered me for years – in fact – I even asked one of my teachers about what I had overheard about this student. I was soundly chastised for daring to accuse one of my teachers of saying anything unjust about another student and that I was expected not to ever mention such a falsehood again.

As I began to study psychology and browse through the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). I read about the myriad types of mental disorders, addictions, etc. and thought about the many different people who may have some of these disorders or met some of the criteria used to diagnose such disorders and thought to myself, could people, who are considered to be lazy, procrastinate, etc. actually be suffering some of the criteria of one or more such disorders that could be keeping them from functioning at a higher level?

Shortly after having that epiphany, I ran into a professor who gave a lecture on how many people suffering with different mental disorders and/or the affects of medications being used to treat the disorders are sometimes accused of laziness, procrastination, attention-deficit disorder, or some such situation. After discussing this thought with this instructor, I was provided with several articles of research and discussion topics on this subject.

Years later, I was blessed to read an article that was focused on this very phenomenon. The article summarized the findings I had discovered throughout my time of reading research surrounding the subject. The author of the article gave the impression that he was intimately familiar with this phenomenon by the way he described the situation that he too had experienced in his early life. In fact, his description was so close to the same experience I had of another student in another place and time, I began to wonder just how common it might be for children to be condemned as academically invalid or just plain lazy.

      “There is too much false labeling taking place.”

The article that I recently read that brought this eureka moment. The article reminded of that kid in grade school long ago. I see clients in private practice who also remind me of that kid. People who have depression, anxiety, or some type of disorder that was mistaken for laziness, or procrastination, etc. by parents, teachers, and others and were affected by and even bought into this mistaken reality. Many people are not doing as well as or any better than those who are doing college courses while fighting the effects of psychotropic medications.

Someone may be struggling with the symptoms of chronic OCD and fighting through it daily. Let empathy rule, you family members, teachers, and college professors. I don’t really believe that the vast majority of people who have had a title of lazy forced upon them are lazy. I don’t believe that all those being branded as invariant procrastinators are really procrastinating.

I believe, rather, that the vast majority of such labeled people are fighting against depression, anxieties, trauma, OCD, and many other disorders that have nothing to do with being lazy or procrastinators. In fact, I would lay money on it that many of these falsely accused of being shiftless individuals—work harder and longer to accomplish tasks than those who are free of such circumstances. The next time you hear someone pointing to someone and indicating they are lazy or procrastinators that will never accomplish anything with their lives, remember this article.

Think of the many circumstances and/or obstacles this individual may be facing in life. I am thanking you in advance for reading this article and considering these words. There is too much false labeling taking place. See through empathic eyes in order to discern possible reality of other’s situations that other’s are missing.

Do you have agreement, comments, or questions about this article?  Feel free to post

Zach Malott, MA, LMHC, LADAC

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