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The Scam of Self-optimization

Welcome to the third and last part of the mini-series on sexism, body image and marketing. There’s one topic left that I’ve been thinking and reading and getting angry about a lot in the past few weeks: self-optimization.

As a confessing YouTube addict, I must say that I’ve gotten many recommendations along the lines of “How to Be Your Most Productive Self” or “How To Get Organized”. Now, I’m a rather organized person who’s doing several things, but late at night when I’m tired and my defenses against 21st-century New Capitalism have worn down I catch myself thinking I should really be doing more with my life and judging exhaustion as a measure of success. When really, it’s quite a strange concept that we

a) need to feel “successful” to believe we can be happy

b) feel we need to optimize ourselves in order to deserve said success.

Who benefits from this kind of thinking? I don’t think it’s the optimizing people (since real optimization can never be reached, that seems to be the whole point). Their productivity serves mostly not them, but whoever they do that productivity for.

I’m a firm believer that as humans, we have the capacity for a lot more than work and that things need to be done for pleasure rather than profit (even if that profit isn’t monetary) on a regular basis. Even more, we deserve this. We deserve creativity and beauty and to just sleep in the sun for hours on end with the occasional ice-cream break if that’s what we want. I refuse to spend my spare hours making myself even more efficiant than I already am when doing my best effort at work – effectively, I’d be working more than the set amount.

And this brings my to my conspiracy-esque conclusion (and bear with me, the reptile people aren’t taking over yet): self-optimization is another version of making labor even cheaper. Now, I don’t go far enough to say that some evil imagined group of people created it for this. But I do believe the internalization of it profits those you work for and not necessarily yourself; you’re just working more for less and feeling good about it since you’re “bettering yourself” and not simply (but correctly) working more.

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