Your unhappiness is worth a billion dollars


Content Warnings: Brief mention of drugs


It is the month of April in the year 2023, as I write this. 

One-third into the year, the mid-point feels closer than ever. My deadlines for June are springing out of the calendar and tapping me on the shoulder. The endpoint, December, feels just distant enough to delay worrying about. Yet deep down, I know it is only a blink of an eye before it stands towering over me like a mountain that was too high for me to climb.  

The tiny box next to each of my dotted new year resolutions remains unchecked. The crumpled Post-it note hangs unconvincingly on the side of my study table, staring at me each morning. My eyes rapidly run through the words, my heartbeat gradually quickens, and my brain tries to grasp at every possible way that I could achieve everything today. 


The hour of meditation.

The 10,000 steps.

The 15-minute journal activity.

The 120 grams of protein. 


Self-deprecation soon ensues, and the goals that were set to better me slowly begin working against me. 

The billion-dollar market keeps one stuck in a constant loop of short-term highs followed by disappointing lows. The effects of self-improvement are seemingly not too far of a cry from recreational drug use. The unhappiness of the collective has become a modern-day money-making machine that self-help gurus leverage in pulling a profit through.

Back in the day, the word “guru” was associated with white robes, snake charmers, and silent oaths. Cut to the technological era, and “gurus” are qualified professionals holding a range of impressive academic degrees. As they back their claims up with scientific methodologies and physical proof, self-help has become easier than ever to sell. Especially to a generation that rests its faith in metrics and uses their phone as if it were an extension of their body. 

The accessibility that data-tracking apps provide convinces consumers that they are entirely in control of their own improvement. Step-trackers, calorie counters, and guided meditations put consumers in the power seat by allowing them to track, track and track. This makes it easier than ever for one to attach their self-worth to the metrics that they achieve daily. Believing that a simple change in one’s behavioural or lifestyle pattern is enough to make them a better human being and improve their experience of life is when the illusion wins.


Self-help soon wages a war with one’s own physical, mental, and emotional identity. 


I started feeling a great low––or what I’d like to call the ‘comedown effect’––from not being able to complete the goals I set for myself. Successfully micro-controlling each behaviour and minute of my day gave me a peculiar sort of ‘high’. 

A high that meant I was getting better each day, a high that was a temporary fix to all my problems, a high that the internet was constantly pushing me towards. However, I soon realised that controlling every pattern of behaviour is generally a recipe for inconsistency.

Although the foundation of what the self-help industry was built on is righteous, the fear that it instils in individuals by suggesting that they may be left behind in a society that’s constantly accelerating is what the industry preys on. It is worth remembering that under the surface of a society that looks picture-perfect constantly, there are real people facing similar problems as me, and self-help is perhaps not the only solution.

It is April of 2023, and I am okay with not becoming the absolute best version of myself within the next eight months. I refuse to become a slave to an industry that ultimately profits off of my unhappiness that seeks to constantly transform itself into productivity.


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