The Sneaky Impact of Internalized Capitalism on Depression
When was the last time you felt good about yourself at work? Was it because of the amount of work you got done, especially at a time when you had zero motivation? Or was it when you got a pay raise? If reasons like these make you feel worthy at work, you may have a case of internalized capitalism.
What Is Internalized Capitalism?
Psychotherapist Nikita Banks defines internalized capitalism as:1
"a revision of the protestant work ethic. It is this idea that to be unproductive is sin, and as such, this idea that you must always be producing is in direct relation to your worthiness."
In my opinion, internalized capitalism is an individual's need to be as productive as possible to feel like a worthy member of society. The individual may or may not be aware of it, but they will surely be aware of the pressure to be constantly productive. In fact, I learned of the term very recently, which is why I wasn't able to cope with it.
How It Impacts Me And How It May Impact You
Everyone has their own definition of productivity. For example, a person may feel productive if they earn a certain amount of money or work a certain number of hours. My idea of productivity is a mixture of both these things. This was difficult but not impossible in pre-pandemic times.
But now, I have slowed down considerably when it comes to earning money and writing. I know this is normal because most people are not as productive as usual and precariously close to burnout these days. Still, I cannot stop judging myself for my lack of productivity. This impacts my self-worth, and it ultimately makes me feel more depressed. The reason is the pervasiveness of internalized capitalism. If it didn't exist, we probably wouldn't worship hustle culture.
Is There a Cure for Internalized Capitalism?
To put it bluntly, it seems impossible to get rid of internalized capitalism completely. This is not my take alone; it is something social worker Emily Weinrebe agrees with too. She says,1
"I don't think that recovering from internalized capitalism within capitalism is possible, but I do think that bringing awareness to the systems that impact us and being a community where we're organizing around these issues or talking about these issues is therapeutic."
While I agree with her point of view, I believe that the first step is to be more self-aware. We need to regularly identify the need to be overproductive to fight it. If we don't, it will continue to dictate the way we work, thereby causing issues like depression, anxiety, and burnout. While there is no cure (yet), we can take some measures to soften its blow. Take a look at the video below to know how I plan to counter internalized capitalism.
Remember, working to the point of exhaustion is no way to live.
- Gragert, A., "7 Methods for Recovering From Internalized Capitalism." Forge, September 21, 2020.
Shaikh, M. (2021, April 30). The Sneaky Impact of Internalized Capitalism on Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/workandbipolarordepression/2021/4/the-sneaky-impact-of-internalized-capitalism-on-depression
Author: Mahevash Shaikh
Thank you so much for this piece, Mahevash. Internalized capitalism is something I've really struggled with over the last several years and am only just now learning to cope with it effectively. It's always comforting to know that we're not alone in the struggle!