Hustle Culture Ruined My Mental Health

If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Mark Anthony

Mark Anthony’s famous quote brought upon us an unrealistic standard for modern employment. Obtaining a job you’re good at, is fulfilling, and pays a just salary is almost an unattainable dream, particularly for millennials. And if we aren’t lucky enough to have achieved such a feat, the pressure to do so keeps us moving forward.

Hustle culture found me at the edge of burnout. Halfway through a Bachelor’s degree, I started a Diploma to expand my job prospects, which landed me a job in the city. But the sleep deprivation, stressful days, and 3.5-hour daily commute caught up with me a year later. So I desperately needed a way out of the corporate cage.

From then on, every hour on the train was spent searching for inspiration to keep me afloat. I followed all the “hustle porn” Instagram accounts I could find. Stories of “girl boss” entrepreneurs who learned coding had hyped me up so much that I believed it would be my way out. Turns out that coding, on top of full time work and part time study, pushed me over the edge of burnout.

Everyone should have a side hustle. Whoever works the hardest should reap the most benefits. Every minute spent not working on your side business is a minute wasted. Anyone can be the next Tim Ferriss.

The meritocracy fairy

After another emotionally draining year, scoring a similar job close to home had temporarily saved my mental health. However, my career abruptly slowed to a snail’s pace so I looked for fulfilment elsewhere. I was determined to keep progressing, even though my dead-end job was eating me from the inside out.

Phases of insane productivity highs were followed by manic lows of sadness and guilt. My self-worth was tied to my output, making it near impossible for my energy levels to keep up. I even started another degree for the chance it would lead me to a fulfilling job.

Why did “work to live” turn into “live to work”? Studies have shown that long hours don’t improve creativity or productivity. But convincing a young generation to work harder is convenient for those at the top. It is dehumanising, toxic, and assumes that the only value we have as human beings is our ability to work.

Even so, this bootstrapping mentality has the propensity to exude privilege. The just world fallacy is a cognitive bias that assumes the world is morally fair. It boldly ignores any influence of gender, race, or socioeconomic status. And if a person cannot simply pull themselves up on their own, it’s their own fault.

To this day, I still battle with occasional guilt. But I remind myself to slow down and enjoy the everyday moments. Having the space to explore hobbies, spend more time with loved ones, and stop living for the weekend is essential to my wellbeing. I even started a daily 5 minute meditation practice, which has helped put my mind at rest.

Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

Dolly Parton

Work can provide the means necessary to design the life you want. Look your partner in the eye, savour each bite of your evening meal, feel the sun tickle your face, or listen to the whir of afternoon traffic. And most importantly, it’s okay to just exist if you need to. You are enough.

3 Comments

  1. Jen says:

    These words are so real ❤️ I’ve particularly noticed the toxicity of hustle culture between wave 1 and 2 of the pandemic. Perhaps we wouldn’t have experienced the second wave of we weren’t all so obsessed with work 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kevin Jenkin says:

    I feel a little depressed after reading this. And feeling very proud of you. After decades of long work hours and extremely long travels to get to work. History of days without sleep. I did enjoy my job though and the people that surrounded me. My drive was to provide for my family and I’ll do it again. Now in forced retirement I often reflect on, how was it even possible to do what I did? The days are not long enough for me in retirement! I need to slow down. I’m thinking about this now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Crystal Lea says:

      I’m so incredibly grateful that you did that for us, thank you. A lot of people get caught up in work for the sake of work and forget to live. Our struggles make us who we are and we’re always learning. And it’s never too late to course correct xxx

      Like

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