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What is Internalized Capitalism?

How Do I Know if It’s Impacting Me and How Can I Combat It?

As society continues to reflect upon aspects of itself that are unhealthy, unproductive, and shared experiences, new terminology continues to be created. Recently, a new term has been created to name the feeling that no matter how hard we work or how many things we achieve it’s never enough. This term is internalized capitalism. “Internalized capitalism is this idea that our self-worth is directly linked to our productivity.” 

One positive side effect of this pandemic is it’s exposed the many flaws present in our world, country, and systems. Our work culture in the United States is incredibly unhealthy and completely created by society not out of necessity. We have begun to encapsulate this feeling that in order to have value or worth we need to be doing something. We have forgotten that we have worth and value just being. Internalized capitalism is the reason so many of us are functioning on fumes. We’re burnt out, struggling from compassion fatigue and exhaustion, and the sad part is these feelings make us feel that we are doing something right. If we have energy or free time, we’ve been conditioned to feel that we’re not working enough or doing enough. Internalized capitalism causes people to feel “guilty when they rest, undervalue their achievements and prioritize work over well-being”. The mentality of only contributing to society if we are producing, leads to anxiety, depression, and overall dissatisfaction. I find myself questioning what we’re working toward if nothing is ever enough and taking a break or relaxing is frowned upon.

While internalized capitalism is something that impacts us all, the reasons behind the feeling and the motivations may differ. For some, there may be immense familial pressure put on achieving, with the understanding that whenever something is accomplished there is always something else up next on the to do list. For others, financial need may be the driving factor. We live in an unequal, systemically flawed and racist society. It’s important to recognize the impact our different springboards have on how each of us experience the rest of our lives. Whatever the reason is, internalized capitalism is harmful, as drive and achievement is not balanced with rest and rejuvenation.

I think we can all agree that internalized capitalism is bad and ideally, we’d like to function differently than how society has instructed us to, but how exactly do we do that? The first step, which may feel like a rebellion in itself, is celebrating our accomplishments. We are so quick to focus on the negatives or what we have not yet achieved and too easily breeze right past our day-to-day achievements. Whether it’s talking about what you accomplished that day at dinner with a loved one or throwing yourself a celebratory event, it’s important we recognize our own achievements without comparing our individual journey to others. It’s okay and healthy to have goals but ignoring the accomplishments along the way only hinders your success. “It’s OK to keep pushing, but self-care is important. Watch your internal narratives around what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve achieved and where you want to be.” We’re frequently our harshest critiques. Pushing back against internalized capitalism and encouraging others to do the same starts within ourselves. Acknowledging and celebrating our own wins, challenging our internal negative narrative, and prioritizing rest. “The overall goal of any society should be wellbeing, not productivity.” 

If you’ve found yourself struggling to create a healthy work environment or simply functioning within the work environment, it may be useful to try counseling in Chicago. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!

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