Internalized Capitalism
Have you ever felt guilty for taking time off work? Placed productivity before physical and mental health? Felt lazy even when faced with adversity, pain or trauma?

Internalized capitalism manifests differently depending on race, gender and social class. It refers to people who feel guilty when they rest, undervalue their achievements, and prioritize work over well-being. One might say things like, "I should be doing more," or "I should be farther along by now."

The most valued and rewarded workers and general members of society are those who create the greatest output. Even children are placed into systems that prepare them for this reality through the issuing of grades, which measure and reward productivity at an early age.

When we internalize capitalism, we forget that our bodies and minds are not factories. When we feel tired, we should not feel guilty for taking a break or putting something off.

Our profit-centered society teaches us that we must be of use, that we are tools to be used to produce and that the entirety of our purpose is hinged on a framework of productivity. The overall goal of any society should be wellbeingnot productivity.

Productivity itself isn't bad. The problem is when we frame being productive as a neutral, objective way of being. We effectively function on auto-pilot. Being aware of when this ideology might normally go unnoticed allows us to take charge and feel empowered.

Pushing ourselves past our limits leads to burnout, which takes a physical and mental toll.

The Correct Way to View Productivity

The word 'productivity' itself doesn't mean much without context. By itself, it means "the state or quality of producing something". It is what you produce that truly matters.

There are two main types of productivity:

  1. Productivity in relation to to your job or workplace.
  2. Productivity in relation to personal goals.

The first case is less important, because on-the-job productivity is being productive for someone else. Unlike the 'good old days' our parents might recall, showing a high work ethic and making yourself 'valuable' at work in no way guarantees you any kind of promotion, raise or recognition - nor does it guarantee you job security (at least in the US) so it's generally a waste of time and effort.

The second case, however, is significantly more important. 'Personal goals' refer to goals that you set for yourself. Setting the goal itself doesn't seem to be enough, one needs to want it for reasons that one genuinely deems good enough to offset the (often uncomfortable) effort of achieving it.

Many have goals that they think or feel they should strive toward. They might think or feel this way strongly enough that they have convinced themselves it is actually what they want. In reality, it turns out to not be what they wanted after all, maybe it never was. Maybe they were disappointed in finally achieving the goal. Maybe they didn't even get that far because the cost was too excruciating to offset the reward.

In rare cases, sure, it's laziness, but what is laziness, really? The quality of being unwilling to work or use energy. The key word there is unwilling. I'm willing to bet there's a high likelihood that sleep-deprivation, perpetually high levels of cortisol, generational trauma and soul-sucking wage labor are higher factors that determine someone's "willingness" to work or use energy.

Do you have goals? Do you have things that you want to achieve, just because you really want them and not because you think you 'need' them in some way, to fit society's expectations?

If so, then the understanding of 'productivity' should be measured on these factors:

  1. the amount of effort given in proportion to the task over time (some tasks take way more time and/or effort than others, be sure to factor that in)
  2. the external trauma and adversity experienced before or while working toward the goal such as: family and relationship problems, high-stress job, level of family responsibility, amount of income, physical health, etc.
  3. an evaluation of internal factors such mental health (and which external factors may be affecting it) and reasoning / belief in wanting / achieving the goal.
  4. a healthy amount of leisure time spent being unproductive, such as playing a game, watching a movie, or just relaxing and unwinding
    • This isn't just for 'self-care' purposes - it's a required component of mental and physical growth. If you are building muscle, you must have periods of rest between exercise. If you are learning new concepts, you must take breaks to clear your mind and allow your brain to process the information it's been absorbing. If you skip this step, you will find yourself in an overstimulated, uncomfortable, and sore state - and you'll hit a plateau - halted progress.

The hardest part of all is achieving balance. The above values should be measured and some components may be higher than others during periods of life. The only items you have direct control over are 1 ,  4, and maybe 3 if you dedicate enough time and effort to truly listening to yourself (something that capitalism frowns upon.)

To combat negative self-thinking about work-related productivity and unrealistic self-goals, keep learning and reading about the world around us. Gaining a deeper understanding of how the system works allows us to understand how to manipulate it.