Why young people are turning their backs on busyness

These days, without the promise of a home, a salary, and a future on a healthy planet, it makes sense that Gen Zers are quitting the rat race. Exhausted, overwhelmed, and on the brink of total collapse, the concept of ‘soft living’ has never seemed more appealing.

Thred Media
4 min readApr 13, 2024


Ever since the end of pandemic, there’s been a brewing backlash against hustle culture.

Triggered by Molly-Mae’s controversial ‘we all have the same 24 hours in a day’ comment in 2022 and perpetuated by Kim K’s rant in a similar vein, the conversation urges us to consider why we so eagerly continue to worship at the altar of busyness when we know it’s doing us no good.

This is unsurprising, really, given that hard work no longer seems to be paying off.

Amid a cost of living crisis that means Gen Zers may never be able to afford to buy a home or retire at a reasonable age — not to mention the threats posed by climate change and armed conflicts that are only worsening — ambition has increasingly lost its appeal for the burnt out masses and consumerist, materialistic lifestyles aren’t seen as worth participating in the rat race for.

‘There is a growing feeling online that hard work is fortifying a system that, at best, is giving them nothing back and, at worst, is actively screwing them over,’ writes Leila Latif.

‘And so the “soft life” revolution was born — where the priority is no longer about working yourself to the bone to be a #girlboss or “leaning in” to the corporate male world and pushing until you “have it all”. It’s more time and energy for what makes you happy and as little time as possible focusing on what doesn’t.’

Realistically, we’ve been heading towards this reckoning for a while now.

This is because, in the digital age especially, it’s not uncommon to be riddled with constant subconscious pressure that to be busy is to be productive and to be productive is to be successful. That happiness is unattainable if we aren’t monetising every waking moment we have.

Though most of us don’t realise we’re burnt out until it’s crept up on us, buying into the idea that flying through life at break-neck speed is a valid marker of how well we’re doing is leaving us completely unable to muster the strength to persevere at the rate we are.

Particularly if doing so offers no tangible rewards, such as the promise of a stable future.

‘We use busyness as a wonderful, horrible distraction from life, and pain, and emotions, and things we don’t want to face,’ says Caroline Dooner, author of Tired As F*ck.

‘It’s a distraction from learning to be with ourselves and it’s sneaky because it is a very socially acceptable addiction.’

As Latif explains, a soft life (if it’s accessible) is how Gen Z is choosing to take its foot off the pedal.

Unlike the #ThatGirl movement, which encourages us to consistently self-improve — a.k.a. 7am gym sessions, pristinely healthy diets, and ten-step skincare routines — alongside a full hustlin’ schedule, soft living teaches us to slow down entirely.

Enthusiasts of this radical shift in mindset emphasise that it’s all about being conscious of the here-and-now, to enjoy the little things as they happen, to make considered decisions about how to spend our time, and to never rush or over-fill our diaries.

This, they say, is far healthier than our frequent tendency to manically tick items off our to-do lists as we strive to keep grinding.

‘There’s something about softness that is not valued in the corporate world or isn’t understood. It’s seen as a weakness,’ Rose Gardner tells Latif. ‘I see it as a strength.’

Of course, extricating ourselves from the rat-race isn’t all that easy. Yet while the notion of quitting our jobs and disappearing into the woods is rather far-fetched (not to mention impractical), the values the soft life revolution teaches are certainly worth adopting if we’re even the slightest bit concerned about our wellbeing at present.

‘When you realise that the world doesn’t end and people don’t hate you if you say no to things, try it again and then just keep going,’ says Elsa Grace Evelyn, a content creator whose numerous platforms embody the outlook.

Stressing the benefits of this mindset when it comes to tackling the depression and anxiety we often experience as a result of hustle culture, she adds: ‘the more you ask yourself “is this something I really want to do or am I doing it because I feel I should?” it becomes a whole lot easier to just stop doing things you don’t enjoy.’

Originally written by Sofia Phillips for Thred.