America is often regarded as one of the most successful capitalistic societies on the planet. However, the American interpretation of capitalism has stripped us of our ability to prioritize our health. Capitalism is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”
Sadly, many Americans interpret capitalism as making a profit.
The best way to profit is to prioritize work above all else. In a country where money is of the utmost importance, our societal expectations have internalized aspects of capitalism; such as all nighters, missing events for work, and defining self our worth based on monetary value. Subsequently, we are subconsciously sabotaging our health and happiness.
American Capitalism is Impacting Your Health
Many successful people fit the stereotype of sleeping as little as possible, surviving on caffeine, eating whenever and whatever they can quickly, and exercising very little. As a Physician Assistant student, it is apparent to me that this lifestyle is widely unhealthy. However, as that same Physician Assistant student, I found myself living the very same lifestyle.
The American interpretation of capitalism has convinced us that our worth directly reflects our productivity. Meals can always be eaten later, exercise can always happen tomorrow, sleep can come another night. Then it’s late in the night, the meal is nonexistent, the exercise never happened, and sleep comes last on that everlong list for the day. All of these sacrifices have been made in the name of making ourselves profitable, whether we realize it or not. People require a healthy diet, sleep, regular exercise, and even relationships to foster good health and success. However, too many believe that if we rest we are worthless.
American Capitalism is Impacting Your Happiness
In America, many people find themselves saying some variation of “when I achieve this goal I will be happy.” They then achieve that goal, but they’re still not happy. So, they set another goal thinking when they achieve that one then they will be happy. This cycle continues and ultimately hard work is never enough to achieve happiness.
Happiness is different in each person. However, it usually revolves around relationships, personal fulfillment, and a healthy lifestyle. These aspects of happiness are unattainable when striving for the next goal is always a priority.
How to Change This: Put Yourself First
All of this said, goals are important and help us achieve a sense of fulfillment. However, achieving these goals while sacrificing all other aspects of life is detrimental to our well-being. With well-being as our goal, we can achieve happiness, success, and good health. So listen to exhaustion and take breaks when necessary, spend time with friends and family, and place happiness above material profit.