The Unspoken Truth About Hustle Culture

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Written by Shaina McGregor

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Free doesn’t mean available?” You know when your boss or a friend asks for your availability and you offer up every time on your calendar that isn’t already booked?? Experience has taught me time and time again that every free block in my schedule does not mean that I’m available.

I learned this lesson after countless fatigued hours of overworking because I’d scheduled every minute of my day. When I look back at my younger self: overbooked, overworking, and spread too thin, I want to give her a loving hug because I know she did the best with what she knew.  She was influenced by a force whose name she didn’t know.

Many of us unconsciously subscribe to hustle culture, this idea that we must work endlessly in pursuit of our goals, despite its impact on our health and wellness. Hustle culture is a logical outgrowth of capitalism and is encouraged by most workplaces. 

Don’t get me wrong: It’s admirable to set goals and work towards achieving them, but not when it comes at the cost of your overall well-being. Because let’s be honest, how sustainable is it to continually pour from an empty cup? I’ll go first, it’s draining and doesn’t last too long. 

It’s hard not to acknowledge that many of us partake in hustle culture because we’ve been conditioned to believe that our productivity and professional accomplishments are directly linked to our success and self-worth. It can be difficult to break a mold that’s so heavily ingrained in the messaging we hear and what's been passed down to us. But, what we don’t talk about as much is what we’re actually avoiding in the grind. In some ways it’s easier to blame the grind on unhealthy desires of productivity, but it’s harder to realize how much we’re unconsciously avoiding what’s underneath it. 

Our selves. Our emotions. Our identity. The parts of ourselves that we welcome with a sweet embrace and the other parts that we try to shy away from. You may have character traits that you are proud of and happily share with others, yet there may be other traits or behaviors that bring a lot of self-judgment and shame.

Hustle culture gives us an outlet to avoid sitting with ourselves. Extra chunk in the day? Let’s fill it with tasks or say yes to extra work instead of being still. One reason may be financial need, which is real and another important conversation. But, another reason is sitting with yourself means sitting with your thoughts and emotions. Woof. Are you comfortable with being alone with your thoughts and emotions or does the very idea make you uneasy? It’s ok if it’s the latter, you’re not alone and possibly don’t feel equipped to even hold space for what may come up.

Why do your thoughts and emotions matter?

It’s understandable to want to escape your mind and emotions, and focus your energy on work. But, avoiding them doesn’t mean the energy around them doesn’t exist and it won’t affect other areas of your life or well-being. Remember, energy can never be created nor destroyed, only changed from one form to another. So, yes imagine that you’re a magician and hold the power of changing the energy inside of you. Avoiding something because it’s “negative” won’t make it disappear, but you hold the power to shift it into something more useful.

So, our thoughts are a reflection of our beliefs and perspective. They form our mindset, which has an incredible impact on your well-being and how you show up in the world. Now, your emotions can also impact your actions. Personally, I see emotions as signals. They’re my body's way of communicating to me what I’m feeling, experiencing, or witnessing, and they impact how I relate to myself and others. 

What’s most important is truly being comfortable with yourself- not avoiding but embracing and accepting. In this place, we can practice self-love, listen to our intuition, and do the things that we want to do. 

How can you practice acceptance and not avoidance?

Here’s a simple framework that can help you: AFFIRM

A-acknowledge what you’re trying to avoid- is it a thought? Feeling? Circumstance? Just by bringing your awareness to what you’re trying to avoid, it can create space for you to work through it.

F-focus on what you can control- things outside of our control can feel overwhelming, so focus on what you can.

F-find time to slow down- create the space in your schedule to be with yourself, take care of yourself, and do the things that bring you joy.

I-invite a new perspective- changing your energy, feeling your feelings, and acknowledging your thoughts will take a different mindset. 

R-reframe old narratives that talk you out of self-love and self-acceptance

M- move forward with these shifts and repeat when necessary

Practicing AFFIRM will get easier with repetition and consistency. So, the next time you find yourself being a busy-body and feeling drained from the demands of hustle culture, notice if there’s anything lurking under the surface that needs some more TLC. 

It’s worthwhile to consciously choose to do less and unsubscribe from the taxing demands of hustle culture. It’s also such a gift to be able to sit with yourself, enjoy your own company and not be afraid of what may come up in your head. It’s an ongoing journey to learn, embrace, and love yourself but it’s worth every step. 

Shaina McGregor is a proud multi-passionate creative: certified life and mindset coach, professional dancer, and fitness instructor. Shaina is committed to helping professionals, creatives, and entrepreneurs live fulfilling lives, release fear and stress, and confidently step into their purpose. Her mission is to bring more awareness to the power and importance of consciousness and mental health.

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