Our youth's obsession with toxic productivity.
Updated: Mar 18, 2022
Toxic Productivity Culture: A cultural trend defined as an obsession, or addiction, to being PRODUCTIVE; results in one's self-worth being measured by productivity levels.
“Life is a race; if you don’t run fast, you will be like a broken andaa” - A famous Indian quote from the movie ‘3 Idiots’.
(andaa means egg in Hindi)
I come from a country where you're considered a failure if you are not actively working on yourself and fuel your ambition daily. If you don't wake up and chase success from 5 am to the depths of the night, you are considered 'lazy.' Then again, I am also told by my people to 'sleep and wake up on time, take breaks if you need to and prioritize your mental health.' So why is it that when life gets a little too hard, and I feel the need to have a self-care day and pamper myself, my people tell me again to 'stop being dramatic'?
They say, "Life is hard, and you need to sacrifice to reach your goals."
In the urge to reach all these goals we set for ourselves, are we truly living?
My people tell me that once you reach your goals and achieve success, you will feel happy and secure. I am aware that success isn't a linear path, and it requires blood, sweat, and a few tears along the way to reap the benefits. I come from a country where the only emotion you can express is determination and hunger to reach these goals. You are considered 'weak' if you show a hint of struggle. My people tell me that today's world is competitive and if you are not striving to be the best in the room, you are not fit for what life may throw at you.
As a society, we are always keen to look ahead and plan our future to the tea without being fully present at the moment. Naturally, having grown up ingrained with these beliefs, I agree with these statements. However, I have two words to offer; "Slow down." As a 6-year-old, all I could think about was how I would look when I turned 13 and be classified as a teenager. At 15, all I could think about was how my 18th birthday would turn out. I am currently 17 in high school, yet all I can think about now is how my life would be next year when I am in university and away from my family for the longest time.
Regarding high school students, our primary goal is to do well and achieve a good balance to attend a reputable university. So we challenge ourselves to take demanding classes with heavy coursework, we take external subjects and standardized tests that are not in our curriculum, we aim to have the perfect extracurricular record, and who knows, maybe we might even get college credit when our university sees our transcript and determines if we can get ahead a few classes or even graduate early!
We are always looking towards the next step when we are not even living in the present. Life can only be found in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.
I would like to believe that we are far more educated on important topics in today's age than we were before. The issue of mental health has always been sensitive and occupied a negative stigma around it, but we are more open to discussing it in today's age which is an achievement in itself. Today, we tell others to take breaks when they need it to unwind. Yet, we still glamorize the 'grind.'
We have been conditioned to admire the people who sacrifice their sleep each night to do a little more work and the people who are so engrossed in their work that they forget to eat. It is also ironic because this group of people we admire are experiencing burnout, yet we shy away from admitting this. Burnout keeps us in a repetitive cycle of thinking we are not good enough, reduces our confidence, harms our physical health, and increases our fatigue levels. I acknowledge that we do have to make sacrifices to attain our goals, but at the same time, we need to slow down and respect ourselves for recognizing how far we have come. As a society, we need to start glamorizing how we can achieve the best of both worlds, put in the effort required, and still have some time to take care of ourselves.
So to my people, life isn’t a race…
Life's a journey to be savored each step of the way. Pause, take a breath, and slow down. Pause from your completely filled google calendar and to-do list and remind yourself to live in the moment. Pause to reacquaint yourself with your pulsing heart and an incredible body that gives you your beautiful energy. Pause to remember that life is fragile and precious and should be lived in love and not feelings of stress and anxiety. Pause to remind yourself that whatever is happening or wherever you find yourself in your journey, it is meant to be. Slow down, and everything you are chasing will come around and find you.
Head of Content Creation
The Youth Philosophy