Toxic Positivity & Hustle Culture: my stance on Self-Help channels

I have noticed an increased # of recommendations in my Youtube® feeds surrounding potential harms of self-improvement. I feel compelled to share where and how ~ I sit.

TLDR; I am neither here nor there.


Toxic Positivity, is an involuntary pressure towards collective optimism. “Good vibes only”. “The power is in you”. “Don’t worry be happy”. “Rich people spend money, poor people save money.”

All those at first seem ordinary virtue signals. However, an entire industry or one may say ‘movement’, endorse them. Worth somewhere in the billions, it is called Self-Help (or Self-Improvement). According to one source – Gary V tops the list amongst the influencers.

The main counter-arguments I have been witnessing revolves around the movement’s measure at condensing one’s worth, or value ~ by their history of  grind, and repetition.

Uploads by James Jani and 1Dime are very convincing.

There are certainly many more out there. However sharing my highlights on each of them is not the goal of this feature writeup. Rather, sharing where or how I stand I believe contributes more to the dialogue, than mere cross-examining another’s content.

So, am I ‘pro’ or ‘against’ this entire movement?

I don’t have a fixed “stance”. I am neither pro nor against. My stance sits on a sliding scale that shifts, day-by-day.

Some days I am truly in favour of the grind. Especially when everything, that is – life events, circumstances – align to my favour. Only then, I felt total control of things around me. The word “control” here is key.

How rare are these moments? Very rare. Why? Too many things beyond my control.

I came to realize as retrospect off my own half a decade – that I have three (3) factors that determine where I sit on that sliding scale whether I am pro or against ~ the “hustle culture”, the “grind” and “positivity”.

Incentive. Acknowledgment and Consent.

  1. What is the Incentive? Is there a pending reward that beckons mutual benevolence? Not just one (1) stakeholder, but dozens or perhaps infinite or indefenite?
  2. Is there Acknowledgment? Should I go above and beyond, am I acknowledged? Other than wage or income? What else is there in this contract beyond an exchange of utility?
  3. Finally, should I am asked to commit more by exertion, pressure or gaslighting – is there proximity for consent?  How should we give ourself the license or in this case permission – to do what we believe we can (or cannot) do? Should we accept to try exerting more by saying yes more often? Or less by refusal?

The following is where I present my case. For each side.

“For” stance. Stress potentiates ownership. 

Whenever someone says (or self-affirm) “I wanted to be better”,  they’d soon rely on observations off someone else who is objectively better in all regards.

Hence, in order for us to improve, or to at least get started to improve – we still need examples, to draw inspirations from. I certainly have had mine in the past. Chiefly among influencers whom I used to follow – Elliot Hulse.

But as with all things requiring change, requires contrast. These require a change somewhere amidst our present motions of living. And it is stressful, for a reason irrespective if it is day one or 100 ~ any small change potentiates something new to compare to. A new point of reference.

Hence, what is stress “good” for? It builds everything. Including potentials.

If one builds something, inevitably one receives something. The way I interpret this ~ receivership leads to “Ownership”.

James proclaimed in his video the dopamine rush he experienced when he was exposed to this movement at a very young age. Reading one book after another (particularly – “how to influence and win over people”), way of life, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, etc. He took ownership as learning experiences behind each of these. He’d certainly discovered what worked and what did not work. Purely from cause-and-effect – none of these would have happened, if no action was taken.I shall stress this is not a criticism. In actuality I have more praises than what I disagree in his video.

John Noonan @ Unsplash
John Noonan @ Unsplash

“Against” stance. Nobody cares. Influencers = Commodity. 

The problem we have in the world of self-improvement – is that we have infinite problems with finite solutions. Finite time with infinite wishlists. More often than not – we resort to “gurus” that  generalise solutions, statements, feel-good signal(s) and memes to Group-Think  us all towards a certain faith or ideology. That as we know it revolve along these two main narrative(s) ~ “financial freedom” and “independence”.

Now, I am open to be mistaken. But “control”, “ownership” and “independence” mostly revolve around your resourcefulness. Even if you are the most “gifted” (in anything) or the most “outgoing” ~ you are still subjected to another realm outside your control. It’s luck.

“Money” may sound superficial to some people. For many, they’d consider it as not the goal. I’d wager such is possible only when one accumulates so much wealth, until then such becomes a discretion than a structural necessity.

“Wealth” equates opportunities. And opportunities equates control.

My argument here is how Toxic Positivity (and Hustle Culture) fails to acknowledge the many structural pre-requisites before any of the above can manifest. As follows.

  1. Control requires ownership.
  2. But ownership requires responsibility.
  3. Responsibility requires contingency.
  4. But contingency requires security.
  5. Security requires assets.
  6. But assets requires wealth.
  7. <repeat #1 to #6>.

See how everything depends on each other? And how predictable are they at favouring ~ one’s circumstance?

What Self-improvement  industry seems adamant however, is assuming that everyone has able-control over everything they both encode and decode.

But what this means, that effectively – nobody, including these influencers care one iota about what happens to you. And that of your own decisions. Because your circumstance are unique enough to you; that preserves “guru” or the influencer – immunity of responsibility. 

Indemnity is insurance. Indemnity requires responsibility. And taking responsibility is an entirely different form of stress. Nobody would want to be responsible for another’s failures.

Update: Feb 11th 2024

And what a coincidence (or should I say – convenience). I am further receiving more video recommendations imploring us all to remain skeptical. This time it’s a critique on the business model surrounding sponsorships and content (both correct and incorrect). 


My Concept Initiative / Channel  – points of distinctions.

If there is one realm that Self-Improvement tends to ignore, it is Self-Care. The improvement is only the outcome. Care is the logistic. It is the latter that demands the most attention. And it is never easy nor straightforward.

My concept initiative never intends to overwhelm, nor surpass another channel(s) in terms of shock factor, or production value.

I aim to purvey ideas for sustenance, subject for the readers’ own curiosity for science that are less about directives, but ideas. Less about dogmas, but principles. My concept initiative here, is not just about “Cyclical Keto + Intermittent Fasting“, or about handling expired foods.

I do not sell “coaching programs”, or “templates”. What I sell ~ is food for thoughts. Not indulgence nor sensationalism.

I do not “review” other people’s channels or post “critique” videos, rudely pausing and interjecting my commentary over them. I just simply don’t have the time.

Am I perfect? Absolutely not. Being a content creator, aspiring author, on full-time employment; I remain inundated from (literally) 12-18 hours daily than discretion, non stop. I’m extremely grateful for my recent turn-of-events. But I never, ever consider my life as recreational.


I admit hustle culture is “good” wake up call, or a reminder at least, to compel action. In that vein, we should not, at least in my opinion glorify inaction, through bleak nihilism.

I should proclaim however that not all “gurus” are to be deservedly painted the same brush. I do acknowledge, at least in my past ~ there were  a few that speaks very genuinely to my circumstance and struggles. I initially, was very much drawn to Elliot Hulse ~ when he spoke earnestly that he may or could have been – as “weak” as we all are that we are all just trying to be the best version of our selves. Then, I followed Jordan Peterson’s lectures and his various view(s). Despite I am not entirely in agreement to every one of his “Rules”, he nonetheless helped broaden my view onto other things, beyond Existentialism.

Self-Improvement” should ideally be an industry that acknowledges “improvement” in everybody as a principle. Not as authoritarian dictation to the expense of, or omitting opportunity(s) for ~ Self-Care. 

Very seldom I wanted to share a “thought-provoking” enough quote. But Muhammad Ali said it best. “It is the not the mountain you climb that wears you out. It’s the pebble in your shoe.”.

Please spare a thought before all judgments.



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