The Toxicity of Hustle Culture in High Schools
Do you believe that the harder you work, the more successful you will be? This mentality of being productive at every moment is very difficult to break because in today’s world, hard work is idolized. Here’s how the Runrun.it blog defines hustle culture: “devoting as much of your day as possible to working — hustling. There is no time out or time in at work. Work is done in the office, outside the office, at home, at coffee shops — anywhere” (Ramos 2020). This term does not only apply to the workforce; it is very prevalent in our generation as well. People look up to those who work hard. The term “hardworking” possesses different meanings for every individual depending on his or her circumstances. A student working outside of school to provide for their family while balancing school is just as hardworking as someone who studies everyday to maintain good grades. Yet as we continue to engage in the “rise and grind” lifestyle, it has become ever-so important to address the issue of burnout among high schoolers.
For example, if a student takes five advanced placement classes in a year, as opposed to someone who doesn’t take any, the person with a more challenging course load is seen as “more hardworking”. Hardworking students often seek validation for all the effort they put into their activities, thus fostering a sense of competition within schools. Students are always comparing what achievements they’ve recently earned, what activities they’re involved in, and the list goes on. When students are surrounded by other people who constantly work hard, they feel the urge to match or exceed a certain level of productivity.
For many high school students, attending an elite college seems to be the final destination. Students work hard all four years, hardly taking any breaks, just to reach their “ultimate goal.” But admission into your dream school is not guaranteed, and the conception that longer work equates to a higher chance at success, is false. A study published in Occupational Medicine states, “Longer working hours are associated with poorer mental health status and increasing levels of anxiety and depression symptoms. There was a positive correlation between these symptoms and sleep disturbances” (Afonso, Fonseca, Pires, 2017). At my high school, many students sacrifice their lunch time to study, including myself. I often headed to the library during lunch because I needed to complete homework or do last-minute studying for a test. There was just not enough time for me to do my extracurriculars, finish my work, and take care of my well-being in 24 hours.
Everyday, you can walk past a student in the halls with their head buried in a textbook or witness a classmate doing work for another class instead of focusing on the teacher. Hustle culture is all about striving and being productive, but overworking leads to many negative consequences. We should all be mindful of how we are spending our day-to-day lives because in the end, living a balanced life is far better than burning out.
Afonso, et al. “Impact of Working Hours on Sleep and Mental Health.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 June 2017, academic.oup.com/occmed/article/67/5/377/3859790.
Ramos, Timothy. “Hustle Culture: More Harmful than Helpful.” Runrun.it Blog, 22 Mar. 2019, blog.runrun.it/en/hustle-culture/.
Robinson, Bryan. “The ‘Rise and Grind’ of Hustle Culture.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2 Oct. 2019, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-right-mindset/201910/the-rise-and-grind-hustle-culture.