One of the reasons I hated being in college was because I was never able to keep up with my overworked and sleepless peers.
I remember there was always someone who pulled all-nighters only to be running on fumes the next day.
Even worse, the moments we could have spent sleeping, we used only to prove to everyone else that we weren’t.
It was like the less you slept, the more chances for you to be successful.
Sleeping seems like such an atrocious crime in today’s hustle culture.
Too often are we glorified and celebrated for sacrificing our physical, emotional, and mental health for the sake of productivity.
Suddenly, an overabundant and punishing schedule equates to a stunning work ethic.
This narrative has been perpetuated by what psychologists refer to as impression management. It is defined as our attempt to control or influence the perception that other people have of us.
Toby Thomas, CEO of EnSite Solutions, says the phenomenon is like a man riding a lion:
“People look at him and think, ‘This guy’s really got it together! He’s brave!’ And the man riding the lion is thinking, ‘How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?’”
When we care more about how we are being perceived instead of how we are treating ourselves, we relinquish our personal autonomy and become a slave to internal and external pressures.
Consequently, we unknowingly use these pressures as our driving force to persist that we ultimately forget they are in fact detrimental to us.
The Cost of Hustle Culture
When we associate success with money, power, or status, it is easy to fall into the belief that the only way to achieve it is to be single-minded and sleep-deprived.
However, our brains were not meant to be overworked like that. In fact, we need to sleep to become more productive. Logging anything less than six hours a night is an effective way to burning out almost immediately.
Sleep deprivation alone costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.
While that figure may be too abstract to comprehend, the consequences of hustle culture spill over to other areas of our lives as well.
A study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that working 61–70 hours a week increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 42% while working 71–80 hours increased it to 63%.
Another study found that jobs with high demands and low personal control increased the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 45%.
There is a growing body of research that cites the physical health effects of toiling, but none is as prevalent and as dangerous as that of the toll it takes on our mental health.
Back in May 2015, Austen Heinz, the 31-year-old founder of Cambrian Genomics, took his own life.
While it is irresponsible to assume what could have pushed him to commit such an act, it did spark a conversation about the high-pressure and constant demands of the startup culture.
In a study conducted on 242 entrepreneurs, UCSF clinical professor Dr. Michael Freeman found that 72% reported mental health concerns, citing depression, anxiety issues, and bipolar diagnoses.
Rise and Shine, Not Rise and Grind
With the current culture we have set up, it is difficult to confide our fears and problems to the rest of the world. After all, our physical and mental challenges are highly personal.
However, it is not yet late to course-correct and pivot to a more forgiving, and less judgmental mindset.
It relieves you from the mindset of completing a task for the sake of it, and instead promote an enriching approach to work by encouraging you to enjoy the process.
In this way, it allows you to be drawn into your present mind rather than be driven by your past regrets and future worries.
When you learn to value yourself and be in the moment, you do not enforce anything else but calm and centered peace that puts you in charge of your life instead of being a slave to your work.
The hustle culture has effectively attached our self-worth to our productivity and results.
So to avoid the risk of losing ourselves, it only takes recognizing our work as simply one facet of our life.
There is nothing worth more than our overall well-being. Even if it meant that our march to success would descend to a slow yet even pace.
After all, the tortoise won the race for being slow and steady, not being quick and reckless.