The Toxic Cycle of Hustle Culture

todaySeptember 25, 2022 61 7 4

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By Amaya Lewis
Web Content Contributor

College – a time when young adults come to have fun while simultaneously bearing the weight of overwhelming pressures to perform. Whether from family members, friends, social media or personal expectations, most, if not all of us, have heard or felt the need to hustle until exhausted and accomplish what many take a lifetime to do by the time we’re 25.

On social media, there are many individuals in their early 20s proudly showcasing that they bought a house, a car and make six figures, all while using the caption “Rise and Grind” or “Hustle Harder”.

In other cases, some might feel the crushing burden to meet the expectations of their family members, whether because their relatives followed a successful career path and insist they do the same, or even quite the opposite, in which they’re a first-generation student wanting to make their loved ones proud.

This toxic cycle, known as “hustle culture”, presents the standard of exerting yourself to your max capacity, developing a collective drive to work stronger, faster and harder until the job is done.

We pick up extra shifts at work, increase extracurricular activities and start looking for internships a year before summer begins all to satisfy our needs for success while placing our value as human beings in our production capability.

The reality, however, is that while we work extra hard to provide a better future for ourselves, the results are burnout, increased stress and anxiety, as well as wasting our youth away simply to live our last few years of retirement in peace.

Why do we force ourselves to give up extra sleep, watching that additional episode on Netflix, or going out with friends to, instead, continuously grind for material, monetary, and job title status? Why do we pride ourselves on being busy or achieving super high grades, yet chastise ourselves for spending time doing anything not work or school related?

It should be okay to feel present while enjoying the small moments of life, but the guilt that often overrides when taking a bit of time for yourself is immense and, quite frankly, heartbreaking.

Finding joy in your day and setting boundaries all while being more than your career is perfectly normal if you’re taking care of yourself. Instead of self-care being a commodity that is purely gained after your work is finished, we should allow ourselves to take a mental health day or incorporate more breaks, scheduling what’s important for BOTH our career and mental state.

Working tirelessly with the mantra that someday your hard work will pay off is hard on yourself, limiting you from enjoying a life that is so very short.

And I’m speaking from experience in which I, even now, still feel the need to build on my resume and make myself more “marketable” for future companies. I frequently find myself absorbing the mindset of being a girl boss, capable of remaining independent, hard-working and intelligent, striving for more work opportunities to put on my plate that I know are going to have me privately crying in my room at 2 am due to collapsing pressure on myself.

That’s not to say school and work are not important, but simply that they shouldn’t be the defining center of your life and who you are to the point that you feel mentally drained.

I know the immense need and desire to satisfy outside expectations as well as your own. As my graduation date nears, the fear of not having a surplus of money to afford my bills while I look for a job, nor having a maxed out resume full of impressive professional opportunities to make me competitive is constantly on my mind.

That experience, unfortunately, I know is not only my own. There are many of us out there like that who fall victim to the need to do more.

While I encourage you to take care of yourself and do what you need to do to feel financially, academically, and professionally satisfied, please keep that same mantra for your mental health.

Eliminate restrictive and guilt-riddled mindsets towards self-care because of that overwhelming feeling of “not doing enough” or “not being enough”.

By the time I’m an elderly adult, I will be less satisfied knowing I deemed my value through my productive capabilities, striving so hard to achieve professional success without ever having lived my life. When I leave this Earth, overworking myself will not be remembered nearly as much as the memories I left with those I love.

Featured Image by Amaya Lewis. 

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