Are You A Victim Of Toxic “Hustle Culture”? It’s Time We End It

Having grown up in the DC suburbs where it’s criminal to wait for your coffee order for more than two minutes, I’m no stranger to hustle culture. By the time I graduated high school I was on a fast track for a lucrative 9-5 career. I’d always been an overachiever and a perfectionist, I was the oldest child in my family, and I was blessed with brains and drive that got me accepted into the top scholarship program at the university I wanted to attend. I was prepared to be doing approximately 10 million things all the time — and when I graduated from college, that’s exactly what I did.


Hustle Culture and COVID

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I was always praised for my stamina. I worked my way through college and upon graduating took on a full time job and a few side gigs. I was also involved in church volunteer events and local theater. My days off were few and far between, and a typical workday (volunteer activities included) would sometimes last from 7am to 9 or 10 at night. During the typical catching-up banter with old friends or family members, I’d practically glow with pride when they’d say, “Wow! I don’t know how you do all that!” I’d respond with a weary smile and make a joke about being exhausted all the time and getting no sleep. I was proud that I could force my body to its limits every day and still manage to keep going.

Then, COVID entered the picture. 

I had just made a cross-country move when lockdown orders were put in place, and I suddenly found myself jobless for the first time in many years. I didn’t even have any side gigs (which was rare). For the following two and a half months I literally had no work responsibilities. Sometimes you don’t know you need a break until you’re forced to take one — during that idle time, I could feel my body begging me to stop, my mind begging me to slow down and let myself just be. I think this happened for a lot of people during the pandemic. The hustle culture that glorified 24/7 busy-ness, sleepless nights, and workaholism was forced to take a back seat to mandatory rest. And we could all feel how much we needed it.

Why is Hustle Culture Even a Thing?

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I was born into the “Do What You Love” generation — a generation that takes great pride in making a career out of your passions. Thanks to the internet and the rise in popularity of social media, being self-made is easier than ever, and there are countless money-making opportunities for every passion under the sun. As much as I personally love having a creative job, there’s a glaring problem here: when your career is your passion, you never stop working. 

We’re also in the glorious age (please read the sarcasm there) where it’s normal to have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Minimum wage won’t cut it anymore, so if you’re a service industry worker, you probably have either multiple jobs or multiple roommates (or both) just to get by. Meanwhile, you’re fed the “American dream” narrative, which says you should be able to move up in the world through hard work and determination. This “dream,” however, conveniently forgets to list its side effects — and no dream of mine includes 12+ hour workdays and permanent exhaustion.

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I haven’t even mentioned curated social media yet or the culture we indoctrinate our children into, where life is a competition to win. Curated social feeds are a constant reminder of all the things you want and all the ways you aren’t measuring up. The popular narrative of “I worked my ass off to have what I have” implies that there is joy in the “having.” But what good is having more if you have no time, no mental energy to enjoy it? 

What’s more, we’re socialized into hustle culture from an incredibly young age. I believed it was practically criminal not to go to college immediately after graduating high school. The scholarship program I was accepted into guaranteed me a job after graduation, and though I was incredibly unhappy, I was encouraged not to leave that university because the job security was worth it (I ended up leaving anyway). 

Nobody tells you it’s not healthy to work all the time. Rather, you’re always praised for doing a lot, even when “a lot” is clearly too much.

How to Combat Hustle Culture

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Want to fight back against toxic hustle culture? Then first things first — change your mindset. Stop feeling guilty for resting and doing things for pleasure. In fact, force yourself to rest and to do things just for fun. Cultivate hobbies that you do purely for the enjoyment of them — and encourage your friends and loved ones to do the same.

Make it a goal to not be tired and to listen to your body. For many of us, this will mean making sleep a priority. Maybe you need to spend more time meal planning so you can make sure your body is getting the energy it needs. Maybe you need to cut back on unnecessary expenses and cut out a side gig so you can focus on your own health. You are your top priority — let work take a back seat to your health and wellbeing.


Have you fallen victim to hustle culture in the past? What do you do to combat it? Let us know in the comments!

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