Idolising Hustle Culture
“Hey! How was your day?”
“Hi! My day was great! I got all of my work done, and was very productive today! What about you?”
“My day was terrible. I didn’t get as much done as I had planned, I just lazed around for most of my day and ended up wasting it.”
Does this kind of conversation sound familiar to you? Do you not only relate to what’s being said but even agree with it?
Do you think an “unproductive” day is automatically a bad one? Are you hard on yourself for not working all the time and do you pride yourself in getting a lot of work done at the cost of your physical and mental wellbeing?
If your answer to most of these questions is a “yes” or even a firm “maybe”, you are part of the hustle culture. The good news is, you are not alone, that’s why it’s an entire culture all together!
Hustle culture, as explained by yoga and mindfulness facilitator, educator, and licensed psychologist Ria Tirazona, is this mindset that we have to work hard to be considered productive and exemplary, and that if we don’t, we are useless and worthless.
It is the social pressure to constantly be working harder, faster and stronger in every area of our lives. It’s the idolization of workaholism and the mindset that you should be overworking to the point of exhaustion.
Hustle culture is not just practiced by executives and employees; students are branded “mediocre” or “lazy” when they do not pull all-nighters, while stay-at-home parents are shamed for everything from not preparing Instagram-worthy food to raising paragons.
Even worse, we are oftentimes our own worst judges. We constantly find ourselves engaging in self-hatred and questioning our own self worth and abilities when we don’t overwork ourselves. And sometimes even the hard work that we do put in is not to acquire skills and achieve our dreams, but is rather an act of collecting proof of our own competence.
We have become consumed by this need to have more, to produce more, to be more. And if we choose to do the opposite, which is taking it slow or easy, we are negatively judged, by ourselves and others.
This way of living is driven by capitalism, big corporations and social media. Everywhere you look, people are constantly posting and sharing their “hustle” and “grind.” It’s not uncommon to hear things like, “sleep is for the weak” or “never stop hustling.” This has the potential to cause people to feel pressured to overwork because of this ingrained idea that excessive work means success, and that this is the only way to survive in the world.
When asked by a Twitter user about the number of hours one needs to work each week to “change the world,” Elon Musk, founder, CEO, CTO and chief designer of SpaceX, replied that it could range from around 80 to over 100.
Ross Simmonds, founder and CEO of Foundation, a content marketing agency reinforced the same belief. He said, “The hustle brings the dollar. The experience brings knowledge. The persistence brings success.”
This kind of toxic productivity is not only delusional but is dangerous for students and people who idolize these tycoons.
A study published in Occupational Medicine in 2017 suggests that longer working hours are associated with poorer mental health status, and increased anxiety and depression symptoms. Long weekly working hours were also associated with reduced sleep time and increased sleep disturbance.
According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Stress in America 2020 survey, Gen-Z adults, ages 18 to 23, reported the highest levels of stress compared to other generations.
These results confirm the importance of maintaining regular weekly working hours and avoiding excessive overtime work in order to reduce the risk of anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.
This hustle culture is pervasive, and it leaves us emotionally and physically drained, and most importantly, disconnected from reality. This philosophy is extremely harmful because it drives us to inevitable burnout.
So, the only way to prevent this and protect ourselves from psychological strain is to start being mindful of the things that we devote so much of ourselves to. If you find yourself unable to draw clear lines between yourself and your work, begin by asking yourself,
“What is my ‘rest narrative?’”
If your mindset towards rest is one that invokes guilt and negativity, then you will continue to overwork yourself. But if you believe that rest is a healthy way for you to care for your well-being and a space to connect with what is important, then you will be able to bring balance into your life.
“Is hustling really worth it?”
Refusing to hustle when everyone else in your organization is doing it can be scary — it can cost you goodwill with team members, a promotion, or even your job. But as much as we want to go with the flow, there’s also a lot of value in going against it. You cannot keep going with a system that will cost you your physical and mental health, your relationships with loved ones, or even your life. So maybe it’s time you stand up for what’s important to you.
“What are my boundaries?”
Take it upon yourself to decide when to stop working, and don’t be afraid to communicate this to others. We also have to give people the benefit of the doubt — sometimes they’re not even aware that they are causing you to overwork. So, we need to take it upon ourselves to advocate for change.
Be aware and mindful of your actions. Take care of yourself. And, whenever you find yourself rushing through life, take a step back and ask: “Why the rush? What am I actually working towards?”
Choose your own pace of life, because whether you decide to take one step forward or two, you will always find yourself ahead of where you once stood.