Toxic Productivity Culture On Growth
Growth can be defined by many things. It can be personal or spiritual healing or improving upon oneself, transformation, choosing to improve upon outcomes or station in life, a drive toward purpose, and intended or unintended consequences of our action, inaction, or experiences. Growth is a natural part of being human…but is it necessary for everyone to grow or want to grow? Is growth something we must constantly seek and strive for?
Growth can be a welcome, beautiful path to fulfillment of our desired outcomes or it can be a toxic path that adds stress or burn-out, making us feel limited or stuck. Productivity culture shames us into believing that our innate personal value is measured and defined by how much we DO, and this culture permeates our growth standards, including: education, health/wellness, fitness/body image, fashion trends, housing, self-care, mindset, relationship, self-image, career, and more. This toxic cultural influence can turn your beautiful goal or desire into something stressful, frustrating, unsustainable, and seemingly unattainable.
Productivity-oriented growth is especially harmful to marginalized persons and communities, as it implies a certain level of privilege to continually strive for doing and being better all the time. Growth, much like learning and being healthy, requires a certain level of resources [time, space, guidance\support, money, information, and energy] that is not available to everyone equally and is often limited where marginalization exists.
When growth is forced, coerced, guilted, or shamed upon us it contradicts a basic truth: that we have value just as we are. When the drive or motivation to grow as a person is rooted in doing more, doing better, being more, or being better at all cost to your personal health and/or relationships, then toxic productivity culture is likely driving your choice. When growth is driven by desire, passion, purpose, and balance it is easier to take growth-oriented action aligned with the outcome you desire, along with your mental, emotional, physical, and relational wellbeing.
Growth that comes from allowing transformation to flow naturally, accepting ourselves as we are unconditionally in each moment, or creating balance and alignment with ourselves is more attainable, sustainable, and effective than trying to force growth to meet standards that are determined by someone or something outside yourself. Growth absolutely can be a beautiful thing if your basic needs for survival are met, you are ready and able to embrace growth, it aligns with your integrity and desired outcome(s), and it’s not forcing you into greater discomfort or marginalization.
There is no one size fits all for growth. There have been times in my life I desired growth, but wasn’t ready to embrace it. There have been times in my life that I would rather show up just as I am…accepting of myself in the moment. There have been times in my life that I have clawed my way to the growth I needed to survive or thrive…and many shades in between.
If you desire growth, but aren’t yet able to go there without neglecting your basic survival needs, then don’t force it. A time will come when growth flows to/through you with less struggle or resistance. A time when your basic needs are met and you have more space and time to focus on your other human needs, such as connection, contribution, and…well, growth.
The deepest, soul-level truth is that you are perfect just the way you are…YES, YOU! Forcing a person (even yourself) to grow, heal, or transform before they are ready, willing, and able to do so is contradictory to that truth. It is your choice based on how you feel about yourself, where you want to be vs. where you are now, how content you feel vs. how unfulfilled you feel, how your basic survival needs are being met, your state of being (struggle, overwhelm, etc), and the level of support you need and/or have access to.
There is nothing wrong with desiring growth or NOT desiring growth…the choice is up to you. It is important that your choice be based on your needs and desires, rather than a toxic cultural ideal or guilt/shame emotions rooted in that culture.