Beyonce’s 6 in heels was one of my fav songs for a long time because the hook epitomized my life. She grinds day and night, she grinds Monday to Friday, works Friday to Sunday. For years my focus was trying to make the best of today but create a tomorrow that was worth something. Growing up poor and without a supportive family, I have known some form of working outside the home since the tender age of 8 years old to survive and pay my way to better. Working isn’t inherently flawed as it can teach a person to use their power for the benefit of self-preservation. However, in our hustle culture of today, if you aren’t working a 6 fig 9-5 and juggling multiple side gigs, you are nothing. Back then, I traveled for work on average 40-45 weeks a year and would sacrifice my weekends and any down time as you would find me in a corner in the airport working while waiting on the plane and on the plane ride to trying to make myself relevant for social media as an influencer.
Fast forward to 2020 and the start of the pandemic. I had just moved across the country and was adjusting to my first Mid-West winter, which is no easy feat. Along the way, what we know as Covid hit and made the world shutter at home. After the initial shock wore off, I, like many others, felt it was best to max the time at home to make ourselves better than we were. Every waking moment was supposed to be used to lose weight, plan and launch a business or write the most extraordinary novel. I felt this was a great time to focus everything on all the projects I had that I couldn’t do because I worked outside the home and needed daily respite. Then May 2020 hit, and everything was flipped upside down in the heart of Minneapolis. I struggled before with the onslaught of news coverage, but my depression intensified beyond my ability to distract. I could no longer push myself until 2 am and wake by 8 am for work and try to capture just the right image that may garner attention on IG.
Eventually, after 4 years, I had to let my influencer dreams go as enough time and resources had been invested without proper ROI. For the first time in years, I was like an ordinary person who just worked a job and nothing more. I felt numb for a while as I was exhausted but eventually, the hustle culture that had been engrained for 3 decades would pull at my identity. Taking a break meant only doing what I had to, which meant working. I noticed that I slowly went against my company’s culture of not working past 5 pm and definitely not on weekends or days off. I was recently given feedback that my passion focus equated to “doing too much.” It was a hard pill to swallow but forced me to evaluate why I felt I needed to overwork.
Hustle culture emphasizes productivity and achievement at the cost of one’s basic needs. When the world has told you that unless you are a 30 under 30 millionaire, especially if you happen to be Black or POC, you aren’t working hard enough, it fosters a mentality of self-sacrifice and not being able to pivot when it’s no longer feasible. One creates unsustainable timetables as they act like a protective cloak to reach those goals. However, often being so rigid can be like an invisible chain not allowing you to develop fully nor being able to get help when needed. As a Black woman who doesn’t fit into the ideal bucket of Black women, the need to achieve provides a buffer of protection or an illusion of security navigating the world. The token Black woman who has performed well beyond ordinary understanding. Growing up very poor and in a toxic home, I longed to escape any connection with my upbringing and to be the type of Black woman who was often desired and idolized.
The hustle robbed me of being able to celebrate my small wins that are needed fuel to continue the journey. All I could see was how I wasn’t on the way to C-suite while having a million-dollar launch, looking snatched, and being wine and dined. After ending my influencer focus, I have tried my hand at launching my consulting business, which focuses on helping women create their happily ever after life. However, with all going on in the world, the need for a coach has been a slow process.
Over the past year, I have self-reflected on why and how not achieving certain milestones has caused me to lose my zest for life. The need to understand and balance being ambitious vs. hustle mindset is very different. Sometimes we will tell ourselves that we are just high achievers, but actually, we are trying to distract ourselves from areas in life that may not be well developed, or we are trying to soothe our ego by the dopamine hit we get from always being on. The badge of honor we sometimes get for being always available and going over and beyond is real, especially if you don’t have anything else in your life. Who are you if you didn’t do all the extra? Do you feel worthy of greatness if you aren’t being shiny and grand for others to appraise you? These are just a few questions I had to ask myself that provided me with a wealth of self-reflection
In my self-reflection, I have pulled 3 ways to help move forward from the hustle culture and start to enjoy life. These may seem simple, but often, the madness of our doing needs something counterintuitive to help resolve the pain points.
- Take a hard look at your motivation.
Are you glued to your phone looking at everyone’s highlights from IG and Linkedin? If what is keeping you driving harder than needed is to be able to get your shiny moment, you have been hit by the hustle culture, and the only way to move forward is to release the object. If the goal truly makes your heartbeat, removing yourself from social media for a month is the next best thing. If you are someone that needs to have a digital presence, batch create your content and schedule it out. You may even want to outsource this item if you need to check messages for possible opportunities so that you can completely disconnect. This isn’t easy as we often go on social media mindlessly, yet seeing someone get that shiny promotion and get all the likes, and praise can push us further into the hustle.
- Take inventory of your life holistically.
I mentioned earlier that if your life isn’t fully developed, you tend to overcompensate in other areas. So let’s say you’re a single girl who doesn’t have a robust family and friends sector. It’s easy to fall into the hustle culture of overdoing to give yourself something to do. Or maybe you are a mom and wife, yet you never have time for yourself because you’re devoting all your waking moments to someone else. As much as it may look honorable as it may appear, take a page from the airlines, and put your mask on before helping others. This was a hard lesson that I’m still working on, but I have learned to sit with the discomfort of not jumping into things when not invited in and be ok with the boredom of not overworking. It’s also not lost on me how our society conditions what being a real woman is by doing all the things while needing to look fabulous at the same time, and this is even more compounded when you add the intersectionality of being a Black or POC woman.
- Accept being ordinary
Our society often rewards those who go over and beyond at the cost of balanced care. In my life, the single motivator was to put as much distance between me and my impoverished upbringing. It made my thirst more than what I am, the all-encompassing focus for all I do. I believed for many years I had no reason to sleep or rest as I wasn’t successful yet. This ultimately cost me in various areas of my life. In my quest to be an ideal Black woman, I lost my ability to appreciate how I was uniquely crafted and my gifts. I noticed a trend many years ago that those celebrated and often idealized were the world’s unicorns.
Being ordinary in our society is unacceptable! We shun anyone who isn’t trying to be up on this. As I look over my life, I’m not a millionaire model who is highly visible or well known. To accept that I may never be what I may uphold as the standard is challenging. However, we have all done hard things. It’s freeing to be able to choose our hard. By focusing on what I’m good at, even if it’s not going to lead to being a NY Best-Seller book or allow me to speak in front of millions, it would be a better quality of life to invest in my abilities and flourish within reason on the scale I can.
I hope this post helps someone who may be stuck on the hustle culture loop as it robs you of joy in life. Your identity isn’t wrapped in what you do but in how you can show up in the world. So often, the things we hold dearly or idolize will be broken, especially if they inhibit us from flourishing. I would love to hear your thoughts be it good or bad. And always, if you need help in strategizing your life, always hit the contact page, and let’s connect!