We’re a society who buy things we can’t afford, with hours from our lives that we’ll never get back, to impress people on Instagram.
We proclaim we’re “so busy!” and “have no time for anything!” without a second thought. We wear our busyness as a badge of honour. We compare our broad daylight reality to other people’s edited highlight reels. We complain about being overworked. We continue.
As Catherine Baab-Muguira so eloquently puts it, “we’re the generation who were raised with a “you can be whatever you want to be” ethos that met the worst job market in years”. We feel we have to overcompensate and overwork to feel like we’re achieving something… anything.
We’re constantly being told by self-professed career gurus and self-made millionaires to “hustle hard”. That expensive things equal a successful life. Ideals that were once reserved for rap songs have become our raison d’être.
“Hustle hard” has become the advice du jour. Give up your morning latte and you’ll own a house by the time you’re 68, says the internet. Forget having a social life and you too could have your 15 minutes of Silicon Valley fame. Learn to code. Speak Mandarin. Network often. Surround yourself with the right people. Work harder, hustle harder, try more, be more, do more. More. MORE. MORE!
These inspirational messages scream that you, as you currently are, are not enough. Except you are.
Because your self-worth isn’t based on how hard you hustle.
You don’t need to make work your sole focus to be successful. You don’t need to burn yourself into the ground to be worthy.
There will be times in your life when you are physically unable to work harder than others. This doesn’t mean you’re inferior to the stories you read on the internet. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It doesn’t mean you’re unsuccessful.
If you do, truly, hustle hard you will burn out. Hustling hard is not productive long term, nor sustainable. Hustling too hard has seen the breakdown of so many talented people. Hustling hard has become some kind of justification for all of the sacrifices we have to make to live *the life*. Hustling hard, really, often means sleep deprivation, struggle, and being shackled to your desk by your own drive.
And let’s face it, many people hustle hard and only a small fraction of them ever “make it”. Arguably, the hustle hard mentality implies that those who don’t have a six-figure bank balance are lazy. What could be more damaging than that?
Yes, we need to feel inspired, and, yes, working hard is honourable. I’m simply saying that we don’t need to keep glamourising the “hustle”. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for the person who burns out the fastest.
“In the end the race is long, and it’s only with yourself.”
When it comes to having a working life, the real goal is to have a life at all. If you want to do your best work, you need to have breaks. Success comes in situations of all shapes and sizes, and it’s time we started talking about it. Your own source of fulfilment paired with self-care is your success. Shouldn’t we be celebrating those who work smart *and* live more, instead? I can’t be the only one who wants to hear a little more about that.
Hustling yourself into the ground isn’t healthy, and it’s time we stopped aspiring to do so.