Hustle culture is not new. It’s been around since as early as the late 19th century. Although in today’s landscape hustling is made glamorous and attractive. The nature of hustle culture permits individuals to work more, whether this means taking your work home with you, running a side business next to your 9-5, or working 2-3 jobs at once. The trouble is that this rise and grind mentality puts you in a position of inadequacy and often leaves you asking yourself: ‘am I doing enough?’. As a result workaholism, burnout and mental health are becoming more common. So what does this mean for our wellbeing and our future?
Although hustle culture has changed use since its early coinage, its meaning still sticks. It is now a lifestyle that prioritises stress over individual stability by abandoning the idea of a healthy work-life balance. The constant need to always appear to be doing something means we don’t work in the same way previous generations did. As a result, the detrimental side effects of hustle culture include several mental health issues ranging from anxiety to depression. It hinders individuals from partaking in much needed personal time. The question is whether we are setting ourselves up for the betterment of our future or suffering at the hands of it.
The history of the hustle
The culture of the ‘hustle’ finds its roots in late 19th century American society, when to ‘hustle’ meant to work extra hard. It was used specifically concerning African Americans. Publications associated blackness with laziness and stated that a lack of hustle was the reason black people struggled to integrate into the economy post-emancipation. During this time ‘the hustle’ became associated with illegal activities such as sex working and theft. From there, the act of bragging about hustling made its way into mainstream music in the late 20th century. Artists began to flaunt how much they hustle as the reason for their stardom and success. Fast forward to today and the hustle has become somewhat of a buzzword but with less buzz and more bleak.
Millennial and Gen-Z work culture is defined by how much you do daily to get ahead. It’s common for many of us to have more than one job or something that we do on the side. Throughout my working life, I‘ve met people who admit they have two or more sources of income just to live sufficiently, whether now or in the future. Hustle culture promotes the idea that doing more is better and pretending to enjoy it is even better than that.
The reality of the rise and grind
In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) chartered workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon. They define it as ‘a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’. With young people choosing to dedicate more time to work, this means less time for self-care. In some cases, excessive work can be a distraction to this.
While hustling for some is a matter of survival, the constant need to achieve more has become an obsession. This is clear in its glamourisation through social media. Hustling is often used as a marketing ploy via social media. Influencers and career-related posts illustrate a necessity to be busy. We are quite literally buying into the hustle as a result of this attraction to workaholism. The casualisation of work in this gig economy is sold as a lifestyle choice. Perhaps pretending to love working flat out is better than succumbing to the bleak reality that only a fraction of us will end up working in jobs that we enjoy.
Pressures of COVID-19
The pressure to be productive during the pandemic is a particular pitfall for this generation of entry-level workers and students. Working from home burnout has been just as prevalent amongst all other painful losses and changes of the global pandemic. The fleeting nature of Western society gives us an excuse for wanting to keep up the pace, which may well be both a rat race and a marathon. We live in a culture that encourages multitasking. Every day you are not working hard is a day wasted which ultimately leaves little room for prioritising personal health.
Of course, many have no choice but to work tirelessly to simply keep up with the demands of living. While some deem hustle culture as a ‘draining drip-feed hobby’, others depend on this extra income. Many young people believe that to grind tirelessly now means that you can reap the benefits later, albeit at the cost of your health. The general sentiment is to work hard now and rest later but you may not reap the mental benefits you’re expecting given the stress you experience at present.
Written by Lauren Johnson
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