I know I’m not the only one who’s given into this hustle culture that seems to dominate the millennial work environment. Time and again, I’ve been forced to the bittersweet realization that my health is more important than my hustle.
I’m not denying the importance of hard work and productivity. I love hustling and I love getting things done. It’s a satisfying and invigorating experience. But here’s the deal – I can’t get anything done if I’m not physically and/or mentally fit enough to keep up.
And the only way I can be fit enough to hustle is if I take out enough time for myself and don’t work beyond my capacity.
Now, self-care comes first and hustle is always secondary, but I had to learn that the hard way.
I started interning while I was in college, like everyone else my age, to get experience, exposure, and clarity on what I wanted to do in the future. One of the lessons I wish I’d learned early on was that you have to set boundaries with your employer from the very beginning. Just because you’re an intern doesn’t mean you have to work way beyond your capacity to prove yourself.
I internalized the idea that if I was anything short of ‘perfect,’ I was a failure.
This wreaked havoc on me. You cannot strive for perfection and still love yourself because perfectionism doesn’t actually exist and you’ll end up being disappointed with yourself – no matter what. I ended up overworking myself, repeatedly, not realizing what the long-term consequences of this could be.
I also had to learn that nobody else’s hustle can define my hustle.
I’m not my friend and I’m not that overachiever from my class. They have their limits and I have mine. We can only work to the extent that our bodies and minds allow us to.
This realization hit me like a storm during one of my recent internships when, in an effort to prove my worth, I did the usual – I pushed myself, as hard as I possibly could. Before this, my bosses had been considerate enough to notice that I was hard-working and usually told me to stop before I went overboard.
That didn’t happen here.
Here I was allowed to push myself as far as I could – until I cracked. And I cracked so bad that I was forced to leave that internship well before it was over.
I realized that I want to do well, but I don’t want it at the cost of my well-being. I want to grow organically and I want to evolve – personally as well as professionally.
Still, I struggled with self-love and maintaining a healthy relationship with my work for a really long time. Sometimes I still get the dreaded feeling that I’m not doing enough and I have to remind myself that whatever I am doing is enough.
It wasn’t until I started at The Tempest last month that it really hit me – I am more important than my productivity.
Here I have found a work culture among millennial women doused in positive ideas that are helping me grow, not just as a writer, but also professionally. This is so important and underrated in today’s “hustle-driven” culture.
We often forget the value the person.
Up until now, I thought I had to be on the brink of breaking down every time I got done with an assignment because that’s what hustle meant to me. But I’ve redefined hustle as I’ve come to terms with what I want my career to look like.
I have finally realized that I won’t be able to do shit if I don’t have my mental and physical health. And I can’t compare my hustle to anyone else’s hustle.
I have to focus on what works for me and achieve a fine balance between my work and health by reminding myself that my productivity does not define who I am.