Dealing with Productivity Culture and the Fear of Failing

            In our world today, it feels like everything is a competition. Everything from how many majors you are balancing to how many internship offers you have contributes to this competition, and sometimes it can become too much. When we compare ourselves to each other, self-doubt begins to appear, and it can make you feel like you are falling behind or not doing enough, even when you aren’t. This feeling of competition leads to a phenomena known to some as “productivity culture” in which people’s worth is measured by how much they can get done and are involved in. This culture is dangerous because it is all based on how a person compares to others like them, even though everyone in this world is unique and is going through different life paths. It also can lead to people taking on too many obligations, in order to feel like they’ve caught up to those around them.

            It also leads to people feeling guilty when they want to spend free time relaxing and doing something unrelated to their education or career, as it can feel like a waste of time. I know that I often feel guilt at spending parts of my day watching tv or reading a book for fun, as I could be using that time to be studying or something productive. Social media plays a big role in this fear of failure, as apps like Instagram and Facebook are places where people can post about accomplishments and major life developments. It is another place in which we compare ourselves to others and feel bad if we aren’t progressing as much as those around us. But we have to realize that what we see on social media is not the whole story. People don’t post their setbacks and failures; they don’t post the times in their lives when they feel overwhelmed. This is not to say that people shouldn’t post their successes on social media, but it is to say that when we view social media, we cannot view it as the whole of someone’s life.

            I don’t know about everyone else, but I know that the biggest worry that comes from this rampant productivity culture we live in as college students is the fear of failing. I worry about not being able to do well in my classes, I worry about not keeping up a balanced life of school, work, extracurriculars, and a social life. I worry about failing in my pursuit of going to law school. But here’s the thing- I know I’m not the only one that feels that way and this is something that I have had to come to terms with recently. A way we can break the stigma of the fear of failing is simply talking about it. With social media and the ways we represent ourselves, we often hide the less confident parts of ourselves; we shouldn’t. We should be open about our worries and fears created by this culture we live in. 

            Now here’s the thing: I’m not going to go ahead and say that by writing this article, I have eliminated all instances in the future in which I will struggle with the feeling that I always have to be productive, and that every action I make has to be with the goal of advancing my future. That’s very unrealistic, and an ambitious goal. However, by bringing this topic to light, and by writing about my experience in this fast-paced culture of college academia, I hope to make those of you reading stop and think of the ways productivity culture and the fear of failure impact your daily life. You are not alone in those feelings, and together, we can get past the idea that college and careers is a competition against others; everyone’s paths and achievements are different. 

woman typing on laptop Photo by Christina @ from Unsplash