Reddit cofounder Alex Ohanian originally coined the term "hustle porn" and has been raising awareness of it ever since. (Image via Yahoo)

How Hustle Porn Stole My Self-Confidence

Rise and grind.

The defining trend of 2018 was not the inconspicuous comeback of velvet or high-waisted paper bag pants, it was working yourself to the point of utter exhaustion in the spirit of something called “the hustle.” It’s fashionable to hustle 24/7.

Live on coffee, whole grains and chia seeds. Answer emails before getting to the office. Have a lunch meeting while confirming appointments and finishing a press release. Balance a bubbly social life with meal prepping and maintaining macros. Do it all effortlessly while silently recognizing you work your ass off. Then blog about it or write a listicle.

“Hustle porn” was coined by the co-founder of Reddit, Alex Ohanian, and consists of media such as articles, blog posts and videos that fetishize chasing your aspirations while sacrificing basic physical and mental health. While the term originated among entrepreneurs, hustle porn has become increasingly popular across all career paths from CEOs to mommy bloggers. Everyone from college students to creators of media conglomerates share their “10 Secrets to Successfully Having It All,” but what they are really instilling in our minds is that you aren’t doing enough unless you suffer and work every hour of your day.

If there’s one thing that scouring the Pinterest ethers at 1 a.m. has taught me, it’s that you’re not a #GirlBoss if you aren’t up by 6 a.m., meditating and preparing an Instagrammable plate of fresh fruit before washing it down with a glass of lemon detox water and the reaffirmation of your daily goals. Articles plaster mantras of “rise and grind” and create an obsession with striving, reinforcing the idea that you aren’t successful in life unless you are in the work place.

Don’t get me wrong, I gobble those listicles up faster than lions feasting on a meaty gazelle carcass. I gorge myself on habits of productive women, time management skills and all that other bullsh—t. Before I rip them apart, I think it’s fair to give them some credit.

I will admit that they force me to confront my unmotivated, distracted self and give her a pep-talk. They encourage readers to be productive and “get after it.” However, just like lions devouring their dinner, too much rich advice can make you sick to your stomach. Keep clicking article after article and you’ll find yourself further down the productivity rabbit hole than ever expected.

Articles like “8 Habits of Extremely Successful Women” preach lifestyles filled to the brim with work. This complex of the hustle goes way beyond the classic workaholic syndrome. Hustle porn promotes a complete abandonment of a healthy work-life balance, yet masks itself by throwing in advice like “meditation” and “organic meal prep” to make it seem like being health conscious is still a thing. In essence, my massive consumption of hustle porn told me that the life I was living wasn’t good enough.

Hustle culture is infectious and doesn’t hesitate sinking its claws into anyone. I’ve been in numerous workplaces where there were silent yet not so silent competitions about who slept the least but still showed up for class, or who hadn’t eaten yet that day but managed to meet their deadlines. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” was a war cry I heard at least three times a day, and it’s sad that a culture of involuntary deprivation was celebrated so heavily.

Here’s a newsflash: depriving your body of essential sleep, nutrients and general happiness shouldn’t be celebrated. It shouldn’t be a “who’s more miserable” contest. I would get blackballed when I offered to buy someone lunch who hadn’t eaten or sent someone home who complained they were tired.

But here’s what I wish I could have screamed at my staff: “You’re not a hero because you worked your shift on four hours of sleep. You’re a human being who made a choice.” Fetishizing “hustlers” who put work before their health needs to stop. Deprivation isn’t as sexy as “Devil Wears Prada” paints it to be.

I am guilty of buying into the hustle culture. On numerous occasions I have exhausted myself to achieve success while desperately trying to keep my life together. I work constantly but still think I’m not working enough, not doing enough, not being enough. I judge myself harshly. I sit on the toilet scrolling through articles, asking myself a million questions. Why don’t I meditate? Why don’t I have a vision board? And why don’t I have five internships going out of college and a book deal?

I read hustle porn when I feel bad about myself. Of course, I seek it out with the intention of motivating but that ends up backfiring as the slew of information has me comparing my life to that of some random blogger. The hard truth to face is that I have a differently paced life than anyone else, and I am in control of that pace.

Why don’t I wake up at the same time every day like successful executives? Because I choose not to. Why don’t I incorporate a vegetable into every meal — even breakfast? Because I consider hash browns a valid vegetable substitute. The point is, the only person I have to blame for my life is me.

There’s nothing wrong with writers encouraging their readers to be motivated, put themselves out there and get after the grind. The trouble is when the common culture transforms into an unhealthy obsession with exhaustion. You don’t need to place yourself on the brink of extreme mental fatigue to prove your success.

Just like regular porn, hustle porn is a fantasy of what life would be like if it cooperated perfectly. It’s a skinny, sexy version of success uninterrupted by anxiety, fear and obligation. While it’s fun to fantasize, buying into the hype that you can execute every aspect of your work-life flawlessly is dangerous.

I encourage you to push back, to scroll past those articles and develop your own ideals on what being successful looks like. Be real with yourself and examine what holds you back. Give yourself credit when you work hard, and don’t beat yourself up when you take a break. Repurpose the energy you spend feeling sorry for yourself into positive motivation. This is what will truly propel your work ethic forward.

Lastly, understand that “doing it all” won’t erase your shortcomings or force you to confront what’s really holding you back. Hustle porn is a Band-Aid people stretch over their unattractive, unremarkable work lives to help themselves feel better. No amount of pilates, poached eggs or planned routines can compensate for genuinely owning your sh—t and working hard. Tackle challenges head on, and don’t hide behind hustle porn. Reclaim your self-confidence and show that future who’s the boss.

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