Productivity Culture Is Ruining Our Self-Worth

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it will and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered by your old nonsense.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hi again,

As I’m sure you can tell, this article is going to be a little different than others I have written for the Writers Team.

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And I do apologize for the click-bait-y sounding title, but I wanted to get your attention to something that I think a lot of us might be feeling either currently or previously.

As I’ve stated multiple times, I’m attending college for civil engineering. This fall term (that’s wrapping up in a couple weeks), I began taking exclusively courses for my degree and my overall happiness in college has finally increased.

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Despite this, there are times I struggle to allow myself time to just take time to relax. And if I do succeed in allowing myself to relax, either one of two things happen:

1) I feel guilty in the moment for taking that time
2) I regret it after the fact

But before I get further into it, allow me to give you a little background of what goes on inside my head.
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I have a friend who is a total #girlboss in the same major and year I am. When she’s not attending every single lecture of our classes, she’s either working on studying, doing homework, working at her job or on one of her clubs.

And she sleeps eight hours every night.

So, I don’t usually compare myself to people, but her? There are times I do.

And I feel guilty.

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I’ll see her in class first thing Monday and over the weekend she completed all the assignments (to the best of her ability), sent three dozen emails, worked for 8 hours and spent time with her significant other.

Now I may be exaggerating a bit, but I’m sure when you were reading this, you were thinking of someone. Whether it be a friend of yours, a Youtuber, your brother, your boss, your hero, or just an acquaintance, there is probably someone you know who is a productivity badass.

And while you’re happy for and incredibly proud of them, there might be a small part of you that feels guilty.

Guilty for taking a bath instead of doing laundry. Guilty for watching a movie with your friends instead of getting ahead on a project. Guilty for coloring instead of writing the next chapter of your book. Guilty for taking a nap instead of taking that hour to work on your startup business.

Or you regretted doing so after the fact.

And even though you probably needed that relaxation time or had a ton of fun while doing it, you still laid in your bed that night feeling like crap. And possibly thinking you aren’t good enough.

And as I said, I can relate.

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There are so many articles here on We Heart It and out on the Internet about increasing your productivity. Productivity has become ingrained in us as a necessity to get where you want to go in life and if you aren’t productive every waking moment (and also while you’re asleep somehow), you won’t achieve any of your dreams.

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I’m here to tell you that your future is bright and full of all your dreams. They won’t just shatter like glass because you decided to attend your friend’s birthday party.

All of this especially accumulates in the United States (which I can only speak for since this is where I live).

You can be shamed for dropping out of college because your mental health has gotten to you or you didn’t get the promotion because you didn’t stay after work for three hours every day because you have a family and care about spending time with them.

And it hurts.

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This mentality can be extremely detrimental to our self-worth. You begin to feel as though you aren’t good enough because you didn’t get as much done that week as the person beside you.

Now, I am not saying to never do anything and expect your dreams to fall into your lap. Despite my belief in the law of attraction, the law still says you have to take risks and spend the time to work towards these dreams.

But if you reach your dream, yet you’re too exhausted and worn out to enjoy it, was it even worth it?

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This is called burnout. There are many celebrities who have taken breaks in recent years because of burnout. These people took a step back from something they love doing because they spent so much time on their work or their fans that they forgot about themselves.

Luckily, taking time for yourself has become more important in recent years, but there still can be an underlying feeling of “you should feel guilty for doing this”.

But you shouldn’t.

If there is anything I have learned from times not being productive is that when I do need to be productive, I can focus better, I can do more in a shorter amount of time, I like working on my goals, and I look forward to knowing that if I am productive, there’s a treat waiting for me in the form of an episode of one of my favorite television show, an outing with my friends, or a delicious dessert.

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Regardless of all of this, I’m still struggling with this myself.

As an aspiring author, I feel bad for the people who follow my stories and I haven’t updated them in months or possibly years. I feel guilty for not doing this, but with my science-and-math-based study, I’ve been struggling to write.
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There are times I know I could be writing or doing homework, but no matter what I do, I can’t make my brain work.

And I’ll be honest with you, I can feel burnout approaching. And maybe that’s where you’re at too or you might have reached it. I’m telling you that you have to take a step back.

Reduce your studies, spend more time with the people you love, watch a funny movie, start reading a new book series, color, paint, play video games, go for a run—do what makes you happy and makes you relax, and don’t feel guilty or regret doing so.

Ignore the person who you compare yourself to, who seems to be on the grind 24/7.
Or maybe ask them if they want to join you.
They might just need that step back as well.
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I just wanted you to know that if you feel this way, you aren’t alone. I hope that you take steps towards improving how you see your off time.

And don’t forget that I’m learning right along with you.

If you would like to share your story with me or have any tips to help improve seeing relaxation time as acceptable, send me a message. I might write an article with your tips and stories (if you want them shared) on my personal account in the future.

As always,


This article was written by @sborek on the We Heart It Writers Team.