The ‘Hustle’ Lifestyle is Secretly Toxic – Here’s Why

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

You can’t miss the ‘Hustle’ trend on social media, a booming tag for the younger, millennial audience. This rise of ‘hustle culture’ pushes an almost over-the-top obsession with working hard, and is a near constant reminder to work even harder throughout every day. Hashtags such as #mondaymotivation and #riseandgrind help to make work ethic and ambition a lifestyle, not just a part of your life.

Sure, for the Millennial and Gen Z generations now branded as lazy and entitled, the motivation to work harder to prove ourselves in the world isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Neon signs, mugs, pillows and prints abound that tell you to ‘hustle harder’ or be a ‘girl boss’, putting a positive spin on a harmful message: work till you can’t work anymore. Like any social media trend, however, it’s what you see that makes an impression, and that’s where a positive trend can turn toxic.

Related: 6 Reasons Being a Millennial is Awesome for Your Career
  1. 1. Mental health and burnout

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    Striving to work more than anyone else and working nonstop throughout the day is eventually going to lead to rock bottom, rather than the top of the career ladder. The rise and inevitable fall for these hustlers is part of an alarming trend in spikes of poor mental health. WHO (World Health Organization) has now recognized burnout as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ where the stresses of the workplace interfere with a person’s mental health. Symptoms include feelings of exhaustion, increased difficulty relating to your own work and reduced effectiveness in the workplace. There are some unhealthy habits that come with the hustle game, like lack of sleep, social isolation, lack of physical activity and excessive exposure to blue light, all of which can have negative effects in the long run.

    At the core of the hustle culture lies the idea that your value and worth is only determined by relentless work, and your hustle becomes your identity. Psychology Today also states that hustle culture is a thought and social culture that ‘extols overworking and burnout and signals you're a hard, dedicated employee’. But this backfires by affecting the ways that we think about self-worth: when we can’t perform at this incessant level that ‘hustlers’ have to, it’s another stab at our mental health. Shirley Chu, a student at the University of Virginia, describes the burnout and mental health issues she had when trying to be a ‘hustler’ as something that had more repercussions on her personal life than just her studies. "I can honestly say that this mindset has been draining and anxiety-inducing," she says. "I overbooked myself so much throughout the year in terms of academics and extracurriculars that I often felt like I had no time to breathe or relax."

  2. 2. Reduced efficiency and quality of work

    The idea of constantly hustling itself is entirely unrealistic. Forcing yourself to do work of any sort for the sake of doing work may sound like you’re accomplishing something, but the productivity and quality of your work can really suffer when it's quantity over quality. Think about it: you have to pay attention when you study and actively engage with your materials to get somewhere, not just obsessively read and write notes without taking it in.

    The value that hustle culture places upon time as productivity will never equate. Pushing yourself to study for 10 hours a day or put in 20 hours more in overtime at the office simply means more time recorded working, not productive time spent working. It’s forcing your brain to work for longer with no time to recharge or take a break, which will always result in a drop in the quality of your work.

    Companies like Google and Facebook fully support the idea of hustling in an ever-increasing online world because, well, capitalism. They earn more money when you work longer, yet you’re losing out. While your overtime hours and pushing yourself at the work desk usually mean a financial gain for the company, your productivity starts to fall from your excessive working. If your job is something you love, shouldn’t the hours you put in be the most dedicated, putting forward your best work, and not a midnight Redbull-fueled haze?

  3. 3. Social media is a highlight real, not the truth

    Did she really spend 15 hours of her day at the work desk, go to the gym, write six blog posts and cook a full banquet dinner for five? One simple truth we all seem to forget about social media is its ability to convincingly lie. People can cut and paste the parts of themselves that they want to be seen online, while the not-so-pretty and not-so-truthful part is hidden from the camera. Maybe that person didn’t actually spend 30 hours overtime at the office this week, or maybe you didn’t see the effect of stress and anxiety from over-working that affects her personal life.

    Social media isn't always fact. Judging your life and choices upon someone you see on the internet will almost always result in you looking worse off, because it’s not a fair judgement to be made. Always take the hustle posts, and all social media posts in general, with a grain of salt. Someone has had the time to take the photo they want to take, tell the story they want to tell, and edit things in a light that suits them. Don’t always take the hustler as a truthful social media trend. The hidden truths behind the hustle trend on social media turn what was once a positive work vibe into something capitalistically dark; only good for a rich company and never for the worker themselves.

What do you do from here?

Recognizing the toxicity of this trend will help you and others to stop subscribing to the trend. It’s okay to work hard but, like anything in life, you need balance. Balance work with your personal life and learn the importance of finding joy and real productivity in whatever work you do, whether that be study, a career or a side-business. Camille Ruiz Mangual, a University of South Florida student, describes her way of "unsubscribing" to hustle culture: "It has become important to me to take all of the breaks... and more important to me to see my friends and to see my family than it has been to work [excessive] hours," she says. Moving away from hustle culture involves learning to prioritize and balance what things you value in your life and really considering exactly what energy and effort you’re putting into what you spend your time on. Set times through each day or even week for different activities that aren’t just work. Set aside times for hobbies, exercise, family or friends, study or work, and just overall, down time for yourself. You and your health are infinitely more important.