Feb 10, 2023 | Your Self

Internalized Capitalism and Four Conscious Ways to Combat it

What is internalized capitalism?

“Internalized capitalism is this idea that our self-worth is directly linked to our productivity” according to Anders Hayden, a political science professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia who is conducting research on the political and policy impacts of alternative measures of wellbeing and prosperity outside of GDP (as interviewed in USA Today).

He says, “You can’t feel value in yourself just for being alive – just for being a human being. You have to be a ‘human doing’ to have any value.”

Internalized capitalism is certainly not a new concept to me or the ambitious empaths I tend to work with. I’m an ontological coach after all, ontology IS the study of being (not doing).

I have a lifetime of dismantling the notion that my own workaholic tendencies are the most important qualities to be celebrated and lauded. And often the only qualities I felt sufficiently acknowledged for growing up in a very busy household. A very normal experience and one many us must come to peace with in adulthood through no fault of our caretakers.

Internalized capitalism is, however, a concept I find myself reading more and more about this year. Being drawn to books that talk about the concepts of love as a verb; rest as an act of resistance; living in accordance with the seasons; and the necessity to embrace idleness (without making it mean we’re lazy).

Internalized capitalism as a systemic issue and not an individual problem

There’s something I appreciate about the naming of it, the idea that internalized capitalism is a systemic problem and NOT simply an individual one that many of us feel so deeply challenged by.

Our country was founded on the principle of capitalism and the hard truth that some were oppressed in order for others to thrive.

This is our Nation’s history that we must contend with, here in the United States absolutely, yet origin stories of slavery, colonialism, and conquering extend far and wide.

And then you take into consideration the history of work combined with the allure of the American Dream, which as history reveals are actually a bit at odds with one another.

Internalized capitalism, The American Dream, and Hustle Culture

In Celeste Headlee’s book Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, she reminds us that many of our country and world’s greatest scientists, thought leaders and creators (think Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein, and Charles Dickens to name a few) notoriously worked very few focused hours per day and DEEPLY valued their nonnegotiable time for rest, siestas, leisure, and long meals.⁠

Yet the American Dream and allure of hustle culture mentality and endless opportunity pulled us in a different, more unsustainable direction.

The dangers of internalized capitalism and 4 ways to break free

And the hard truth per a recent UN study suggests that more people die from workaholism than alcoholism these days.⁠

As a society, we have normalized long hours, working over lunch breaks and on the weekends, and not using all our vacation days (or not being present or fully on vacation while there).⁠

As a culture, we still laud hustle mentality and think we need to justify and defend the position of ‘why we’re so busy.’⁠

And as a humanity, we still feel uncomfortable with brave decisions like the ones Jacinda Ardern, Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka have taken because we question if we were in the same position whether we’d be able to find the same courage to opt out.⁠

This does not have to be our truth or reality, these are the travails of internalized capitalism.⁠

So what can we do about it, you might ask?

Well, here are four places to start to dismantle internalized capitalism and ones that have made a big difference for me and for many of my clients.

1. Contend with Our Origin Story

I feel it is incredibly healthy and important to normalize that this is not a *you* problem, this is an *us* problem. I am often the first to look through the lens of personal responsibility and self-agency. However, I have realized that there’s a lot of grace and self-permission accessible when I can acknowledge that it’s not my fault I struggle with this. And that I’m not the only one who experiences this.

When I can remind myself that the worth of an individual (myself or others) being tied to their level of productivity or how much they can produce, achieve and create is a function of the world I grew up in as much as it is a mindset to let go of.

Similarly, as much as internalized capitalism is a systemic problem, we get to pave the way for a collective and conscious awakening. Let’s celebrate the everyday Jacinda Ardern, Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka in our lives. Let’s celebrate our successes and invite others to celebrate theirs – not just announce them and head back to the drawing board. Rather let’s allow ourselves to feel the significance of our efforts, big and small, and to embody feeling proud of ourselves. So that we can support one another in allowing them to be enough rather than an invitation to get back to the rat race.

2. Embrace Rituals

I find deep enjoyment in ritual from walking the dogs; to enjoying my morning glass of warm lemon water; to delighting in my morning reading time, journaling, yoga, and meditation; to fully appreciating Mother Earth and her contrasting weather extremes. This has made a life changing difference for me. The gift of being fully present and finding balance is well worth the challenge of finding your way in our Dopamine Nation (another great read).

Internalized capitalism is a sneaky bugaboo. The joy and satisfaction of meeting a hard won goal or overcoming a significant obstacle are real. But when the goal or the obstacle is what we fixate on and derive our sense of self and enjoyment from, we are robbing ourselves of the experience of true contentment in the present.

When we focus on the gift of ritual in our lives, we allow ourselves to gain more joy and satisfaction now, hence pulling ourselves out of the delayed gratification game caused by this unsustainable dynamic.

3. Normalize Leisure

Let’s normalize leisure. Let’s prioritize idleness as much as we laud deadlines.⁠ Let’s start rewriting the language we use to describe and affirm our experience of everyday life.⁠ Let’s read books like the ones I refer to above and the ones clamoring at you from your nightstand that welcome a new way of living and being. What if you…

…Started by embracing not being busy?⁠
…Allowed yourself to be idle?⁠
…Practiced being fully present?⁠
What if…

4. Find Like-Minded Conscious Creators

Surround yourself with conscious creators who are on a similar journey of building a business that supports their life and desired lifestyle. Transformative change is hard, surrounding yourself with others who share similar values and a similar commitment makes an invaluable difference.

Taking the next steps toward combating internalized capitalism

If you’re ready to think bigger, dissolve limiting beliefs, & welcome an upgraded mindset to become the architect of your non-negotiable dreams, consider joining us in our UNBOUNDED Mastermind. Eliminate once and for all the hustle-and-grind mentality & step into a higher consciousness that magnetizes clients and opportunities to you. Join our community of heart-centered CEOs and expand your high-vibe network with aligned partnerships, business collaborations and lifelong friends. It would be an honor to speak with you and discover whether UNBOUNDED or working 1:1 with a coach on our team is a great fit for you. Take a peek at what Drew has to share about her experience…

I had my eye on Cat for a while and couldn’t quite forgive myself for not grabbing a spot in her Mastermind. I finally jumped and I’m so glad I did. Cat is a queen at putting groups of women together. She has women in all levels of success in their businesses and created a wonderful container to get all of their expertise as well as share her own. What I wasn’t prepared for is how much I grew as an entrepreneur and confident in my ability to make my business into a life I love. Cat is the best bullshit detector I’ve ever encountered. She pushed me when it was necessary and continuously saw my vision and wouldn’t let me make excuses to not get there. I created an online course that utilizes all of my genius and something I’m so proud of. I know I would never have finished it without her mastermind container and Cat’s relentless stand for my brilliance and vision. Hand to heart on this one. Best investment in my business and me that I ever made.


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On this week’s episode of the Prosperous Empath®, we’ll explore how to effectively lead as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), mitigate challenges, and work with your strengths. I’m thrilled to sit down with Nina Khoo, a Sensitive Leadership Coach and a Master NLP Coach who helps HSPs understand and embrace their unique wiring so they can become confident and empathetic leaders. It’s common for Highly Sensitive People to believe that they’re not capable of effective leadership and struggle with overwhelm, perfectionism, and second-guessing. Nina and I uncover how our greatest strengths can sometimes be the traits we feel most self-conscious about and pose a central question: How does a Highly Sensitive Person protect their gifts as a leader? As an empath and an HSP, your brain is physiologically wired to take more information in and process it more deeply, which can be an incredibly powerful leadership skill. Yet, it can also lead to overwhelm and self-criticism. Through our conversation, you’ll learn how to approach leadership in a more sensitive, empathetic, and compassionate way so you can own your gifts and make a bigger difference in the world  

Visit this episode’s show notes page here.

The Prosperous Empath® Podcast is produced by Heart Centered Podcasting.

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