The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Human life, despite its fast pace, often leaves individuals on the crossroads of contradicting ideas where they discover themselves struggling to balance on the thin line that runs between two equally appealing beliefs and forms what we today know as the “grey area”. It’s difficult, if at all possible, to jump off the dividing line and pick a side but it’s always the overcome of the difficult that we base our self-worth on and that’s a thought I endeavor to eradicate through this article that shall focus its energy to picking a side between romanticising or de-romanticising hardships.
Following every article I’ve written recently, I’d begin this one by reiterating, especially for those who don’t believe this, that all aspects of human life are obscure social constructs. The concept of achievement, inextricably tied up with the path that leads to it provides a case in point. The result is increased emphasis on the hurdles one crosses to reach the end along with an overlook of the end itself which can be both positively liberating and bleakly overwhelming.
A couple of months ago when my friend, a twenty-year-old with a billion dreams, succumbed to a serious illness, people remembered her through her work ethic. As condolence messages took over our WhatsApp groups, even in her absence, her image as a persevering young woman who struggled through her illness balancing her work and her vulnerabilities was cautiously established. What wasn’t done with as much caution was attempting to understand what we as members of a common society had done to push people to keep hustling through their hardships. We’ve become so used to reaching our destinations via glorified bumpy rides that we place our entire self-worth on the overcome of these and unknowingly perpetuate these with little or no respect for the peace of simpler routes and re-energising halts.
When we sing of struggles, even as a form of genuine praise, we unconsciously send a ripple down several generations of naïve humans who organically subscribe to preaching, performing and promoting forms of toxic productivity. Toxic productivity refers to the belief of individuals that all of their self-worth bases itself on how productive they are through their lives thus promoting them to work through grave mental, physical, emotional, social, economic and material challenges in life. It inevitably propagates a “rest is for the weak” approach and hence, is both mentally and physically draining. When the fulfilment of the hustle culture looks so glossy on the outside, we can barely blame others for turning themselves onto routes of internal damage. Hence, as absurd as it sounds (for no textbook ever covers this), taking a break from romanticizing hardships can save several lives.
While we’re all equal parts of the problem, a few of us are also doing our bit in ensuring it broadcasts throughout the world. Media houses are increasingly capitalizing on individual struggles. Ironically, today, while one headline informs us of the triumph of a student even in the absence of electricity and technology, another parallelly runs to tell the story of another who died by suicide while mourning the absence of the same facilities. Yet, the awareness that the same triggers and the same beginnings might lead to converging endings in different situations is unexplainably lacking. If this weren’t so, we’d be living in an abysmally robotic world having no distinctions of human emotions and experiences. If media houses don’t stop using seemingly romantic hardships to their advantage, we’d be morally obligated to boycott the news that prevents far too many people from analyzing the gravity of individual struggles and the risk on human life that glorification, as opposed to an empirical analysis of the issue, poses. Dissolving the grey area that lies between recognizing and rewarding the overcome of hurdles and de-romanticizing individual struggles will mean irrevocably pursuing and pushing the practice of recognizing individual differences and building a space that allows every person to spin their design of an achievement, to base their self-esteem not on their abilities, to use their labor to ensure that every moment is one of productivity but on their existence as fully functioning, sensitive beings who must live every moment of life with patience. It will also ensure understanding hardships at face value for being extremely damaging to life even as ascending them might look sweetly romantic.
Sometimes, strength means letting go and starting fresh as instead of holding on and inciting harm.