The Importance Of Uselessness

Maria HillCreativity, Emotional And Mental Health17 Comments


Being useless feels awful.

Being useful feels good, doesn’t it?

It is nice to feel valued and know we are valued. It helps us to feel secure.

It also means we are supported to others and that we are welcome in the world.

Is There A Stigma For Uselessness?

As a highly sensitive person, I suspect that the highly sensitive suffer more from the label of uselessness because:

  • we need more rest and frequent breaks
  • we are not handy for dramas and emergencies since we operate more slowly
  • we question a lot of things including others view of what is useful – like I am doing now!

Busyness often seems like much ado about nothing.

The Problem With Being Useful

We live in a very strange time. People are expected to be highly productive. However, in spite of the demands for productivity, we are often replaced by machines.

We are filling up the planet with huge amounts of garbage – the residue of our productivity. We are becoming sicker and sicker from our efforts to survive in a system that makes us obsolete.

Being productive does not mean taking good care of ourselves. It does not mean developing greater self-reliance. It means participating in the consumption business: supporting it, making it work and reaping rewards from it.

In other words, being dependent on it.

This is one of the observations that highly sensitive people will make about our current system and the idea of being useful: we are really making ourselves dependent.

Busyness Is NOT A Sign Of Intelligence

Busyness has a fatal flaw. It keeps us engaged tactically and removes us from considering the big picture.

As a highly sensitive person, I notice when the big picture and present activities are at odds. In fact, I notice when anything is at odds. Busyness is what we expect from subordinates, the foot soldiers of modern life, the Hans Brinkers of our increasingly decaying commercial system. That means that busyness does not make us masters of our fate. Just the opposite.

Busyness does not seem like such a great deal. It is worth asking ourselves why we are doing all this.

Why are we?

Are You Engaged?

Many people think of being busy as the same thing as being engaged. Often we are made to think that slowing down is a kind of disengagement, even an abandonment of our responsibilities.

But engagement demands a lot of presence. Busyness does not. So when we are being very busy in many we ways we are increasing our disengagement with life. We stop asking important questions about what we are doing and why.

Why Uselessness Improves Engagement

When we are being useless we are open to whatever comes our way. Whatever information that needs to shape our perception comes when we are that moment of rest and open to it.

When we are useless, we are open to a different agenda. It could be the voice of our innermost self speaking to us. It could be an awareness of the big picture that shows itself to us.

Nothing can reach us if we are not receptive. So uselessness is a way of being receptive to inputs from any and all sources. When we are receptive, then we engage in a different way, in a more informed way, in a more complete way. It shows up in our work. We do work that is more on point. we waste less time on that which is irrelevant or unimportant and we know the difference.

We rise to the level of creator and steward which gives us and others a greater experience of satisfaction.

Sensitivity And Being Useless

One of the challenges of being sensitive is that it is hard to fool ourselves. We know when busyness is hollow, counterproductive or destructive. We can feel it.

However, we need to work and want to work in a way that suits us. Adopting the openness of being useless lets us sidestep busyness for a form of engagement that is rewarding to us.

It is a good idea for each HSP to spend some time each day not just resting but being useless and open to the voice and wisdom of our true selves.

Our receptivity will reward us with greater enjoyment and fulfillment.

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World as well as several courses for sensitives including The Emerging Sensitive Course and The Whole Self Course using frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. They can be found here. She is a long time meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is also an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.

17 Comments on “The Importance Of Uselessness”

  1. Absolutely appreciate this elucidation of this viewpoint, Maria!
    Brilliantly insightful. Thank you. I am sharing via my various networks.

  2. And in the long run, we are being more useful, and kinder to yourselves. Being busy, for a little while, can be a good thing. But it’s hard to keep that up in the long term. And why would you want to? No wonder people are suffering stress, burnout, exhaustion. I worked in a job where, if you weren’t racing about madly, or constantly looking busy, then there must be something wrong. I thought that I had to do what everyone else was doing, but in the end I was constantly tired and miserable. Now, when someone tells me how much they have on their plate, or how busy they are, I don’t envy them, or feel I must compete. I just feel happy to take life at my own pace.

    1. Hi Elisabeth,

      I am so glad that you shared your perspective. We are all so pressured to be busy that it is important for people to see that other choices are possible. I think we bring much more of our best self to the table when we are not over busy, exhausted and burned out, that we can enjoy what we are doing so much more. It adds so much more joy to the world when we work that way.

      All the best,

      1. Thanks Maria. I really enjoy your articles. The topics always resonate with me at some level, and I think many people would identify with this one. The great lesson I learned from working in such a busy role is that I know I will never put myself in that position again. It took a long time to recover. I think sensitive people really feel that kind of pressure in a very physical and emotional way. We should all be useless more often 🙂

        1. Thanks Elisabeth, I am glad you enjoy the articles. We sensitives have to protect our energy from being wasted and it is often hard to identify what is wasteful. Slowing down helps us do that. I know I have to work at it all the time because tasks can easily pile up and become depleting. I have to prune all the time.


  3. Very well put. I often feel bad (and ashamed) that I can’t really slow down in life (or speed up when I need to), and when I do, I often go full stop instead of trying to be more “receptive” (or am I already and don’t know it? Not sure…).

    I know that, if I have done something productive during the day, I feel better about myself, whereas if I don’t, the shame gets to me and I feel worse the next day. Being “useless” seems like the moderation between busyness and laziness. I do hope I will find it, as I too often feel a lack of energy to do things and need something natural that will gently recharge me. 🙂

    Big hugs!! 😀

    1. Hi Marc,

      I know what you mean about wanting to do something productive. It does feel better than doing nothing. I think if you look at it from a task point of view you can trigger shame; HOWEVER, if you look at it from a process point of view then it becomes easier. Because we live in a society designed around production and machines, our cultures have values that productivity but productivity is not process oriented. Process is what nature does. So there are seasons, different times of the day, all of which serve a purpose. So recharging helps us tackle the next task with full energy and attention and taking time out at the end of a job or activity let us let the universe prepare us for what comes next. If you think of it as aligning with the natural rhythm of the universe, then a natural pace is simply being in sync with nature and life. I hope this helps. Big hugs back!

  4. Thanks for this, putting into words what I’ve felt to be true, but still struggle with. It’s painful and alienating to feel useless and often difficult to see uselessness in a neutral and/or positive light, especially with all these external pressures to conform to the popular busyness-valuing mode. I appreciate your take on it; you’ve helped bolster my HSP sensibilities.

    1. Hi Renae,

      We live in a busy obsessed culture that is divorced from natural rhythms of life and HSPs experience the consequences of that more keenly than their non-HSP counterparts. The pressure can be extreme. Certainly I feel pressure when I am not working or busy all the time. Impatience is a deadly habit but one that is culturally revered. I know it is nuts because impatience only causes problems. The more you can resist it the better. It is not easy being a counterbalance to the prevailing culture so take good care of yourself.

      All the best,

  5. Thankyou. I am really struggling with this, wanting to work, to participate, to be “useful” in the world in a way that is satisfying and meaningful, but feeling utterly unable to participate in the world and culture of “productivity” and consumption. Openness, receptivity, listening, yes….. but after many months not knowing what direction to take, how I can participate meaningfully in life, the ongoing uselessness I see in my life is discouraging. The reminder in your comment above to Marc about process is helpful. But it is a long process I am in………

    1. Hi Karen,

      The world we live in is undergoing a metamorphosis from the consumption model to an equality/sustainability model. There is a lot of resistance to the change and the old model still dominates our media. However, if you can seek out a place to be a part of the transformation I think you can find meaning and hopefully some kindred spirits.

      Let me know if I can help further.


      1. Yes Maria …….a place to be part of the transformation with kindred spirits…… I do think it’s there, it just hasn’t yet emerged – that’s the process I’m in, moving into that, whatever that means for me…… so in the meantime I’m in that intermediate “uselessness” state……. I do have some new contacts that I’m sure will help, though I don’t yet know what that will look like……

  6. Hei, thank you. I did it a lot, because i felt this way too. But something is not quite true in this thing, i feel it. The term ‘useless’ maybe? Because if you do the opposite of being useful, then you just make a kind of protest. But protest is not useless, never. It has usually a message, etc.
    I feel the most difficult for people in busy world is to feel the boredom. Being bored. Its a challege. Access to entertaining is so easy, but its a trap. Because being bored…its so intimate, so private, so selfish in a good sense. Its unique 🙂 Nobody feels bored the same way. Thats why its a tabu, because its uncontrollable 🙂

  7. Hi Maria, I am from Brazil and I’m so glad I found your website. It has been helping me a lot, since i am looking for more meaning in my life.
    Thank you

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