Take a quick look at your Instagram feed and you’ll probably come across more than one pseudo-motivational video trying to push you to work hard and to play harder. It’s the same formula each time: some bait slow-tempo music in the background with a cheesy quote from a self-proclaimed successful entrepreneur compelling you to give everything up and quite literally burn yourself out.
According to them, being able to put your hands on a substantial level of wealth is everything you should be striving towards. But is the juice really worth the squeeze?
It’s a debate as old as time. Recently, it’s a conversation that’s been happening on social media. Narratives on the need to sacrifice family, friends, (and practically everything fun) to reach success are far too common now. It’s almost like the only way to be happy is to work, eat, sleep and repeat until reaching financial prosperity. In short, hustling is the new lingua-franca of success in our societies.
The reality of that way of life is bleaker yet. Overwhelming stress, ensuing health issues and feeling like you’re never doing enough is what often comes of it all. Scientists are adamant about it. Dr M. Tasdik Hasan, a mental health researcher, claimed that although “the direct link between overworking and mental health is still unestablished”, “such exhausting schedules may lead to disruption in the biological rhythm of the body and can have significant effects on work efficiency, sleep patterns, mental health, psychological or behavioral changes (…)”. And the list goes on.
And in its most extreme cases, overwork can be fatal. It has previously been proven that a correlation does indeed exist between feeling like wanting to put a premature end to one’s life and overworking. A quick google search will tell you everything you need to know. The Aokigahara forest in Japan is a prime example. The forest, which is tragically known as a popular destination for suicide, has been linked to Japan’s rigorous work culture. Kim Kardashian’s recent vouch for hustle culture might sound a little tone-deaf with this in mind.
“Get your fucking ass up and work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days,” she said in an interview with Variety. “You have to surround yourself with people that want to work. Have a good work environment where everyone loves what they do, because you have one life. No toxic work environments.”
There are a lot of problems with Kardashian’s statement, first of which is the false impression that people “don’t want to work these days.” But if we were to dig in a bit deeper, it’s her lack of understanding that hustling comes from a place of fear and doubt that comes through. For the less privileged, hustling is not often a choice. Overworking is commonly a necessity to bring in ends meet for most populations. And that isn’t a culture to be glamorized. One would think that pandemic has taught us one thing, no amount of money is worth compromising our health.
Although we live in a society that overvalues the importance of labor, alternatives do exist to live a healthier life in terms of balance. The classic 9 to 5 office jobs are thankfully becoming less essential as they used to be. Freelancing, working from home or simply being satisfied by making ends meet and having a stable household are viable solutions that can help us all reach the financial stability we’re all so desperately craving for.
It’s worth it to accept that hustle culture isn’t for everyone. And perhaps it shouldn’t be for anyone at all. The way I see it, centering your work schedule around your life should be the new norm. If people fancy overdoing themselves at work, then be it. But don’t make it sound as if it’s the ultimate path for success. In my father’s words, “always remember that they’ll find someone to replace you the following Monday, but nothing will ever make up for your lost health”.