About “productivity.” [TW: capitalism, depression, ableism]
What does it mean to be “productive”?
As someone who has struggled with life-long depression, and other problems that cause a depletion of spoons, one of the ways that I’ve shamed myself most is with this idea of productivity: feeling low when I believe I haven’t been productive enough. And I hear this a lot from other people too, especially people with disabilities.
The notion of productivity is rooted in capitalist (and, it follows, ableist) ideas about an individual’s value. It is important that we be “productive”, not only when we are at work, but at all times. And what does it mean to be productive? When we are hard on ourselves for not being productive enough, what do we mean? We can try to define what productivity means for ourselves on an individual level, but I don’t believe we can separate it from the aforementioned capitalist and ableist ideas. Especially for those of us struggling with disabilities, I think this is one of the biggest, most common, and frequently unchallenged ways of internalizing ableism and perpetuating it on ourselves and others.
Defining what productivity means might be easier if we look at what it isn’t. Sitting online all day, playing games, watching television, watching movies, sleeping, relaxing, doing anything passive – I’ve seen all of these things frequently branded as “unproductive” when people criticize themselves (or others) for how they use their non-working/unstructured time. Things that don’t have a clearly defined goal. Do you have a huge to-do list that doesn’t include taking time out of the day and being kind to yourself? Do you typically not cross off most of the things on that list, and then feel upset over it, like you’ve wasted your day?
Productivity, for you, might mean engaging in active hobbies or running errands. It might mean working non-stop at multiple jobs, constant research, having several projects on the go, organizing and initiating rallies, or conducting one workshop after another. Being “productive” never includes self care. I see many creative people who are hard on themselves for not producing enough, especially if their reason for not doing so involves mental health struggles. As if we are mini assembly lines. Subconsciously comparing ourselves to mass production factories, which we will never be able to imitate because of the limitations of being a single person.
Capitalism has seeped into our lives so deeply that we don’t even realize what we’re doing when we talk about wanting to be more productive or shame ourselves for not being productive enough. We forget to take time to relax and take care of ourselves because we are so concerned with meeting quotas in our heads for productivity. Do your self-care rituals stand in opposition to your ideas of what productivity looks like? Why isn’t it productive to take care of ourselves?
Let’s stop pushing ourselves beyond our limits. Let’s fight back against this notion of productivity, against the idea that our value lies in what we “get done” every day. Let’s start working on loving ourselves as we are and giving ourselves some breathing room.
This is important for me and everybody I love!
reblogging again because self-care is important!
dear god, have we really internalized capitalism?
Oh my god. This is so spot on. And what I’ve been dealing with.. well, for forever (and has been a stressful theme especially for the last few days or so). I want to be productive. And kick myself when I’m not. But I have very real reasons why it’s hard for me. But I do spend a lot of time thinking, working on myself, dealing with matters beyond simple physical ones and more on the level of emotional/mental/spiritual time and growth.
And we are taught to not value that. I also do tend to spend a lot of time online. It used to be with video games, but a lot of that was the social aspect, now it’s almost purely social. And that, I think, is valuable too.
I guess perhaps it’s a balance. I’ve found it’s important to be active, I feel better when I do. But often in the past when I’ve worked full time it’s left me like a zombie during my free time. Also though, if I spend all my time just online, I feel pretty out of it too.
I *know* kicking myself for it doesn’t help. But it’s so hard to not do.
I know a lovely person who is just convinced that if I just got a job, I’d somehow miraculously be happy. I’ve been there, done that, and that’s often it’s own set of misery. Though at this point it would be a nice change of pace.
Absolutely. I’m having a few days off and I feel like shit for doing *nothing*, even if I intentionally arranged it this way, because I collapsed. Yet I am trying to read and educate myself and engage in conversations that I know are helpful as hell to me.
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