Hustle Culture Actually Just Really Sucks

Hear me out.

Angely Mercado
Mar 12, 2019 · 4 min read

henever I go on Unsplash and search “hustle”, I see phone backgrounds with phrases like “how bad do you want it?” and so many mugs that say things like “Go Get Em.” There are also inspirational type photos of people on mountain tops, working out, looking official in suits, and more.


I feel like I’m not working hard enough despite my crazy schedule, I hate everyone in the photos, and I feel like an idiot for getting a full night of sleep. Go to Google Images and plug in “hustle.” You get a lot of the same thing; quotes, inspo type posts, and annoying quotes:

hustle via Google

The thing is, hustle culture sells a lie.

It makes so many people overwork themselves in an unhealthy way. It tells people born in a world with income and educational inequality that the reason they’re poor is because they aren’t working as hard as that millionaire whose parents could help them afford an Ivy League school, private tutoring, and fancy clothing for networking events.

That’s not to say that millionaires don’t work hard. And it’s not to say that hard work isn’t good for us– it definitely is. I’m not saying quit everything, but I do want us, and our work culture and workplaces to consider looking at how hustling 24/7 isn’t do ourselves or our productivity any favors.

But no one should work themselves to death. It often feels like all I do is work. Very few people my age have a social life anymore. We work a job that doesn’t contain itself in 40 to 45 hours a week, like initial contracts promised. We’re monetizing all of your hobbies to afford life, and we’re afraid of downtime.

Hustle culture tells us that relaxing is bad, that if it’s not making us money or reaching a goal, it’s a waste of time.

It’s lead to viral articles like “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation” on BuzzFeed about millennial burnout, and a response article titled “ This Is What Black Burnout Feels Like.”

It’s also lead to posts like “Why We Need To Talk About Side Hustle Burnout” in Forbes about how we’re all just optimizing our “hobbies” to bring in cash. We work all the time, rest a lot less, take less sick days, less lunch breaks, and vacation time. All of which has been proven time and time again to be detrimental to health and creativity. If we’re overworked, we don’t get better at what we do, we get worse.

Hustle culture makes me feel like taking a weekend off to visit a family member makes me horrible person, so I spend a lot of the time traveling to a place while on my laptop instead of relaxing or napping. I keep my phone and other devices fully charged so I can read emails, and write posts, and tweet. The moment I’m not doing that, I feel like I’ve stopped hustling and striving towards a “better me.”

It takes me away from being with friends and family. It takes me away from things that would make me enjoy my work a lot more.

Hustle culture kind of feels like a scam.

We can’t out work ourselves out of income inequality, if that was true, there would be no income inequality. There would be no fear of a mass round of layoffs that keeps us working two side gigs to survive. No amount of inspiration mugs, phone cases, or t-shirts will make it healthy to grind away for hours and hours with no rest.

I plan on hustling this year. I plan on working towards staying in media, an industry that hasn’t been kind to me at all. But I refuse to be part of hustle culture anymore. I can’t keep destroying my mental and physical health and neither should any of you.

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Angely Mercado

Written by

Native NYer. Freelance writer in The Nation, Teen Vogue, The New York Times, Vice & more. Hire me:

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