Why You Shouldn't Let Yourself Fall Victim to Hustle Culture

Hustle culture (n): the complete abandonment of finding healthy work-life integration, and instead, defining oneself's worth, and perhaps one's entire life, by what is accomplished in the workplace. (Definition courtesy of New York Times.)

When I came into college, I couldn’t really conceptualize hustle culture. All throughout high school, I tried my best at everything I did, and that was enough. I anticipated college would be the same thing, so that’s what I did freshman year: I put solid, whole-hearted effort into things that were of value to me, and I felt good about that. 

I’ve always been an ambitious person, and with that, I also have always tended to push myself beyond limits I didn’t realize I could surpass — which sounds like a good thing. It’s good to go out of your comfort zone and try new things and blah blah blah. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I was pushing myself for the wrong reasons. 




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Every time a new opportunity that would boost my resume or — as vain as it sounds — give me a bit of an ego boost presented itself, regardless of whether it would make me happy or not, I took it. I felt like being a student, especially in the communications field, was a competition, and being the naturally stubborn person I am, I wanted to win it. I thought that meant saying “yes” to everything, always jumping through hoops and dodging obstacles to get myself ahead professionally in almost any way I could… I was brainwashed by hustle culture. I saw (and still presently see) everyone around me landing the best internships, taking the best classes, writing the best stories, and I wanted that for myself because… well, I thought it would make me happy. That intangible status boost was something I selfishly longed for, and it wasn’t until about three weeks ago that I realized how incredibly awful I felt about myself and how I was choosing to live my life.

Teddy Roosevelt once said that “comparison is the thief of joy,” and hustle culture is only an example of how this quote still holds to be unequivocal. By looking at your accomplishments in comparison to others, or by simply comparing yourself to others in any facet, you will never be happy — take it from a person who did nothing but compare herself to others for months, even years. 




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If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past few years of my life, it’s to just get rid of the things and people in your life that aren’t serving you positively. As cliché as it sounds, our lives are so short, and our young adult years go by in a blink. It’s so important to keep searching for ways to have fun and pursue your passions in life, and everyone deserves to have a positive circle of friends to experience those things with — especially when you’re young and not tied down to anything or anyone. 

I let myself become a slave to hustle culture. I thought, the more I manifested “girl boss” energy, the better off I’d be and the more successful I’d become. The funny thing is, though, (in my opinion) being a “girl boss” and hustling are kind of subjective. Everyone has different limits, and just because your friend may be able to handle three leadership positions, a full course load and a job doesn’t necessarily mean that you can, too. You can still unlock your full potential and succeed without working yourself to the bone and draining any ounce of happiness, or sillyness, or joy that you once had. 

There is so much more to life than internships, your grades or your club leadership position. There is never any reason to compromise your mental health or happiness for these things. Do you need to work hard in life and push yourself so you can achieve your goals? Yes. Is there a way to find a happy medium between being productive and still keeping your mental and physical health in check? Yes. 

Point blank, do what makes you happy, and do only that.