What is this toxic productivity culture? Why is it bad for someone to want to improve themselves? Get better at time management or have control over their days and intern their lives? There is an invisible line that we can cross here. And everyone’s line is different to an extent. Here I will outline what turns self-improvement, productivity or systems into toxic productivity.
Self-improvement is normally seen stereotypically as a silicon valley cyst-white male genre. How can I be more productive, how can I take control of my life and surroundings? How can I be more productive? These are not bad ambitions for anyone to have. When self-improvement turns toxic, is when that is all you are consuming and absorbing. When your goal is purely for becoming more productive. When you start associating productivity with your identity and self-worth, that is when self-improvement transforms into internalised capitalism.
The term internalised capitalism means your self-worth is directly linked to your productivity. “You can’t feel value in yourself just for being alive – just for being a human being. You have to be a ‘human doing’ to have any value.”. This perception that only things that produce a result or monetary value have worth, scares me. This is when the underlining value to become more productive becomes toxic.
The deep why is where this productivity culture becomes toxic. The reasons why you seek to become more productive. For the money, for a promotion, for being seen as important, busy, and doing all the work as a status symbol is toxic. When your identity is your work and your output. Being busy isn’t always productive. And being time efficient isn’t valued in nature. “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu. Time is money they say, but remember time isn’t equally paid in capitalism.
When you write down the things that make you, you. What are they? Kind, caring, funny, and avid movie fan? You might start to see these traits of productive, hard-working, and driven start to trickle into how you perceive yourself. This is a key pivoting point. If you identify as a hard worker whilst fascinated with self-improvement, then you might have fallen victim to internalises capitalism.
Realise that being alive means you have rights. You are important to the people around you and the people that love you. Your bank account does not determine your right to be on this earth. Our compassion and empathy towards others give our lives value and meaning. Tracking our output or how quickly we do something. Measuring ourselves by the hand of a clock or even the amount of digits we earn or have. These are all social constructs that we believe to be true. Because we have been told to look up to people that have them. But are they really good people at heart because their bank account is big? Are they good people because they have done so much whilst on this earth? Or is this kind of thinking an egotistic goal for self-reservation? That shouldn’t be the measure, and I argue that there should be no measure of self-worth.
Toxic – poisonous, very harmful or unpleasant in a pervasive or insidious way. Proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects. Is it doing more harm than good? What is so good about becoming more like a machine, when you might start to lose your humanity to obtain this partial desire of becoming more productive?