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How to avoid falling victim to #HustleCulture (and how it almost took me OUT)

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

No this is not clickbait (although the title suggests a cringe-worthy tell-all sort of Youtube video coming shortly after). I, like many, have fallen prey to Hustle Culture over the past three years, and let me tell you, once I realized it and started moving towards something else, my life starting getting so much better.

Hustle culture, according to Impact is defined as

"the societal standard that you can only succeed by exerting yourself at max capacity professionally. Everyday. Hustle culture does not sleep. Hustle culture does not take lunch breaks. Hustle culture is waking up Saturday morning and making spreadsheets instead of pancakes."

Ouch. That doesn't sound fun. This definitely doesn't make something that I've definitely bought into sound very appealing or healthy either - like a disease that's waiting to take its next victim.

As a person with a "HUSTLE" neon sign in my college dorm room, it seems that I too have become part of this movement that emphasizes work and only work (until you just can't work anymore).

For awhile, this really seemed like a good thing, for me and everyone else. After all, if I was working hard, performing to the best of my ability in every facet of my life, good things were sure to come my way. And guess what? They did, and continue to.

After all, hustle culture seemed to emerge just as I entered college three years ago, and was even more deeply ingrained in me by our very competitive, "work till you drop" communications school culture at my university.

But success does, in fact come at a cost. My mental health began deteriorating at an alarming rate, and aside from various other, serious factors, I know that my work (or, school in this case) was a major cause of this.

The problem is that "self-care" as made popular over the past few years isn't facemasks, bubblebaths and movie nights in with your dog all the time. Don't get me wrong, these are great things, but a facemask every now and then isn't enough to combat ignoring your mental health and physical well-being.

So what does that mean for me now? I've never gotten lower than an A- in college, I'm going on my fourth internship in the spring as a junior, and I've lost a lot of myself throughout all of this.

My mental health at the end of last semester was the absolute worst it had ever been, and while staying afloat did the trick, it really didn't make things worth it. Staying afloat, despite my GPA and increasingly successful career path, isn't enough to enjoy life and everything in it.

I think it's important to work hard. So, incredibly important to take the opportunities that are given to you and that you earned and make the absolute most of them. I'm also not the kind of person to put less than 100% into anything I do.

That being said, I've thrown myself into this lifestyle and let it become me for over two years now. I've gained a lot, but I've also lost a lot, and that's not fair to me. While there's certainly a lot to unpack regarding workaholics, hustle culture, and working yourself too hard, I'm definitely not saying give up and stop putting your all into the things you care about.

I'll leave you with a few tips I've collected that are starting to break me out of this habit, creating a sustainable, healthy work-human balance that does allow me to sleep, take lunch breaks and make pancakes on a Sunday morning.

1. Allow yourself to take a break. Yes, there is always something else you could do, but add things to your list that you need to do for yourself too!
2. Create a consistent sleep schedule! Overworking yourself and not getting enough sleep won't help you in any aspect, and will make doing what you want to do harder
3. Don't lose your hobbies - continue to learn skills and do things that may not help you professionally, but just make you happy
4. Impostor syndrome is a thing; remind yourself as often as you can that you are doing great things and you've come so far
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