The idiom 'Lying Flat' (Huazhong 2021) has come to represent a rejection of perceived professional demand and societal expectation in exchange for a leisurely, nonmaterialistic lifestyle. We are extending to forgoing marriage, having no children, remaining unemployed, and shunning traditional milestones, i.e., buying a house or owning a car.
In 2022, this message was popularised in Western countries through the social media platform TikTok, under the hashtag #lyingflat - 16.5M views as of 22 September 2022. According to Apptopia, a competitive analysis business, TikTok was the most downloaded app 2021.
Offshoot terms include: 'quiet quitting' (Boldger 2009), 'tang pang' ('lying flat' is the literal translation from Chinese to English), 'involution', and 'great resignation' (Klotz 2021).
I believe these terms describe a challenge all professionals are keenly aware of as 'disengagement'. The familiarities go beyond coincidence: workplace withdrawal, stagnated development, non-compliance, and presenteeism.
Motivation is fluid. Those will always view employment as little more than a means to profit. More still will always interpret setbacks at work with a fixed/peak mindset instead of a growth opportunity—the ones who unconsciously follow achievement ideology with the cause of shortcomings attributed to the minimum effort applied.
I find it convincing that people experiencing diminishing returns from the grind of work pursuing purely leisurely self-indulgence are exercising fantasy clashes with reality despite the broader conversation associating 'laying flat' with echoes of the 1960s countercultural movements.
Expectations of life are highly influenced by our environmental factors, education, and the cultures we subscribe to. I have found the one truth all people understand is nothing comes from nothing. Blending the word 'work' with 'paid employment' is a relatively recent shift in meaning. The traditional definition was tailored according to the things people choose to create as extensions of themselves.
Instead of channelling faded milestones into pronounced dissatisfaction - professional malaise and subsistence in passionless roles - it is better to know yourself and find a more professionally satisfying outlet to live authentically. Confidence has always come with competence, and exercising a craft expertly improves self-worth and society.
Sometimes, all people need is reminding that their potential is infinite.
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- Denton, K. (2021). More on "lying flat" The Ohio State University (online). 3 July 2021. (Accessed 22 September 2022).
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