“Fake it till you make it,” they say, but what happens when we can’t continue to fake it? There’s this myth that hard work equals prosperity, that any personal issues need to just be ignored, you have to “get over it, snowflake.”
Ask any of the essential workers, and they can tell you that’s a load of BS.
Now, I’m not saying to prosper you don’t have to work hard but you need to work hard in the right ways. Find the ways that also align with your ethical playbook so you can remain true to yourself. Otherwise you end up just spinning your tires and digging yourself a deeper rut. Mental and Spiritual wellbeing have been left behind, but they’re just as important as our physical wellbeing. Many of us end up in a decision paralysis, stuck in jobs we hate unable to leave because we need the money. This capitalistic trap of always MORE allows companies that harm society to continue to prosper, and make the rich richer, and the poor more trapped.
Let’s think about that for a second; people are spending the majority of their lives doing something they may not ethically agree with, making themselves unhappy, so they can pay for things. Our world is a non-consensual Pay-to-Play environment, a massive social experiment to see how much They can get away with before people speak up.
We pay for things with our time. We can never get our time back, where things are replaceable, disposable, designed to break down and require us to give more time to buy it. We’re grinding away to level up, but what else is there?
I consider my upbringing fortunate in the financial regard; I never worried if there would be food on the table and I had many opportunities that turned into transferrable skills that I apply to everything I do today. But many, many others haven't been so lucky, and being financially stable isn’t a magical cure-all for misery. It is a major foundation that gives you a head start though, in this world of self-imposed scarcity led by our companies, our leadership, and our government.
Expectations and assumptions (in mind, body and spirit) of how the world works develop from your first days and shapes every experience you have. Imagine asking a child of royalty vs. a child of a single parent in subsidized housing to describe a birthday party; I can guarantee there are vast differences in what a birthday party looks like to those two children.
Humans are iterative patchworks of their experiences; your limitations are not what happens to you, but what you do with it and what you learn from them. Wealth doesn’t protect you from harm, but it softens the edges, and makes it a lot easier to get started.
The goal is not to not see differences, but to be inclusive of differences, to correct our communities assumptions so that skin color, religion, gender, etc. are not justifications for lessor treatment.
My first job was working at McDonalds, and one of the major slogans was “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” Funny though, there was always a lot of leaning by the owner, or the selective managers.
Fast forward to today and my resume has diversified; I have worked at an oil change shop, as a dance teacher, at a land registry office. I have sold cosmetics, printed photos, sold cell phone plans. I have been a travelling food sampler, a sandwich artist, a mystery shopper, a life model, an online technical support assistant, an account and project manager, a graphic designer, a photo model.
I have worked for mom-and-pop shops to international companies. But today, I’m not working a whole lot. I’m struggling because maintaining that workload at that pace wasn’t sustainable, and my heath took the brunt of the hit.
In 2015 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and around 2018 I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic condition.
I have had 5 eye surgeries for retinal detachments, and have struggled with various anxieties, and depression, for as long as I can remember.
I had always thought that if I just worked hard enough, I’d be rewarded with success. I work hard, but I’m still a product of my environment, complete with the quirks I can and can’t control.
Job after job, I’ve had the compounded messages of being “not enough” or “too much.” Regularly, this isn’t communicated or coached, because in the freelance or business industry there’s a line behind you of thos wanting to be in your place. I feel incapable of fitting into this system, but I know that I bring value in my perspectives, my application of design and user experience, by sharing my view through paintings.
Yet I feel like a failure, no matter my achievements, because being differently-abled means I’m not as convenient, they don’t want to put the effort in to work with me, just want me to work for them. How do I hustle to make my mark now, when I’m discarded for things outside of my control? I do what I can, what I should yet it’s not enough. Or it’s too much.
So in hopes of helping those who might also be struggling with feeling like they’re too much and/or not enough, here’s a list of the top 5 ways that Hustle Culture has harmed and erased my experiences.
Maybe you can relate, maybe you can’t, but we’re all in this together and WE shape our community expectations, we can help fix these ways that humans are slipping through the cracks and not being given the chance to contribute their unique voice.
Sacrifice is Standard
Everyone around your desk stays later than 5pm, yet you don’t get overtime. This is an example where going above and beyond is the expectation and when YOU don't, you’re seen as a “problematic worker.” When it comes time to fire someone, guess who’s on the top of the list. Companies hold little to no accountability as far as ethically and candidly providing employee protections, because it’s always money as the bottom line. We need companies to be multifaceted; taking care of employees and creating an ethical future because they should, not because they have to for marketing.
Let’s Talk about Bell #LetsTalk; They champion mental health as a priority, yet their employees are plagued with mental health issues. Instead of putting all of this money into advertising their dy, why don’t they take care of their own employees first? The cal wait times are always forever, and the monopoly thy hold on the market means they can get away with treating everyone however they want, while rewarding the choices and behaviours that benefit them instead of the greater good or even the employees that keep things running at the Bell offices.
Limitations Make you Stand Out
Taking time to make sure you are well affects productivity, and saying you’re doing your Best means they can’t pressure you to do more.
When that happens, or when you need time to heal, employees are replaced for those who can do more, no matter what you have given. Forget coaching or helping, replacing is cheaper. Introduce chronic or invisible illness, an accompanying stress leave, and suddenly you’re out of work. When you have found ways that allow you to work better, they are denied merely because others’ don’t have that option.
This is a carry-over from the education system which uniformly tests students to make sure that everyone has the same knowledge when the reality is all students have different capacities, aptitudes, and inclinations, and don’t need the same levels of support in the topics. By ensuring that students (and employees) thrive in the ways that they contribute best, and pairing teams with complementary skillsets to ensure coverage of the needs, we ALL can simultaneously be more productive while feeling inclusion and that we’re pulling our weight for our society.
Let’s match people with the jobs where happiness is a consideration, because happy, passionate workers are better workers anyways. You can teach skills, you can’t teach passion.
Uniform Expectations, Few Accommodations
Let’s look at an example from my past. When I was working in technical support, there were three main channels of support: email, phone, or online chat. Pretty standard.
I excelled at chat and email, writing has always felt more comfortable than speaking for me. After a short-term leave at the onset of symptoms and diagnosis for Fibromyalgia, I had developed a phone anxiety. I felt I couldn’t speak, and I would start crying, and I felt like a failure.
My email and chat confidence and comfort was still there, yet because I could not take phone calls without having a panic attack, I could not return to my role.
Instead of accommodating my ability and allowing me to return for chat and email support, the focus remained on what I could NOT do, and I had to find another role.
Nuclear Family Detonation
The majority of jobs do not allow for supporting yourself off of one income alone, requiring people to have roommates, live with family, and/or have multiple jobs to live comfortably. It’s not practical to expect everyone to live in the same family dynamic when there is diversity of individuals and their relationships and differences in ability and capacity.
Buying power, income, rent, education, housing market, goods and services; these have not inflated at the same rate. The cost of education, which is essentially a prerequisite for entrance to the “Real Jobs”, is a barrier for many individuals. This uniform expectation for how people live is not sustainable, everyone deserves to be safe and given the autonomy of choosing the life that’s best for them. We need to support individuals and put in the extra effort to find where we fit in and where our help would be beneficial.
Deny and Delaying Accountability
When confronted with something that’s gone wrong, companies and institutions typically try to cover up any wrongdoings. They will NEVER admit that they did something wrong, because then they’re infallible.
Fines are seen as the cost of doing something for the wealthy. They’d rather clean house and hire all new employees who are more receptive to the demands of the company driven by profit. Instead of working on their management style or the underlying problems, they’d rather throw together an obligatory training sheet so they could say “There, it’s inclusive!” where they should dig into the roots of the issues and create an inclusive environment. It’s all lip service to delay accountability.
This reminds me of “Positive Vibes Only”. If you pretend hard enough, bad stuff just goes away right? If we don’t acknowledge the fire spreading across the curtains, I’m sure it’s not an issue.
They can’t make reparations, because that’s admitting guilt. The ego of needing to seem infallible blocks the human connection needed for a compatible team, the compartmentalization of where humanity is and is not acceptable is killing our souls.
As a creator, I feel the responsibility I have with whatever I put out in the world, whether it’s music, paintings, poems, articles, baked goods; in times of duress we find solace in the arts. It’s how our souls speak without words, or how we find words to connect the experiences of royalty to the impoverished.
We need to empathize to understand, and that happens by talking about our experiences, the good and the bad. We are less afraid of what we can comprehend, the unknown is the great darkness that we were scared of as a child and it’s followed us to our adulthood.
Time to open a window, or find a light switch.