Hustle culture doesn’t make way for healthy habits

A look into hustle culture at Queen’s

Image by: Curtis Heinzl
Hustle culture is as big as ever as life gets more challenging.

Hustle culture is a phenomenon that’s spread from the real world’s expectation of constant progress and success—a by-product of the American or Canadian dream—into the Internet, where it’s morphed and mutated and burst back out into the real world in a new, worse, form. 

In a school as competitive as Queen’s and a world as tough as ours, we’re immersed in a culture that values success over all else. Success is essential for our grades, job prospects, and survival in a challenging economy. Programs like Commerce and Engineering in particular embody this need for success, developing reputations for being difficult and competitive in different ways.

On top of degree requirements, Queen’s is full of clubs and employment opportunities. Each one presents a new line for your resume—a new stepping stone to success. Internships, retail jobs, and 8 a.m. classes all add up in the end.

To succeed you need to hustle, and to hustle you need to sacrifice sleep, rest, and relaxation. Of course, we do it. For Queen’s students, grades matter the most, and in a competitive high-ranking school like ours, you can’t afford to get a C or take a step back just to relax. There’s eminent pressure to meet a bar that’s a bit too high.

Of course, constantly working and never resting is extremely bad for your mental and even physical health. Work takes its toll, and a proper work-life balance is necessary to maintain a good lifestyle. It’s not good to always sit hunched over a desk and never see your friends, but the hustle culture mindset doesn’t allow for a healthy balance.

Instead, it insists on constant work and overloading your schedule with a new activity you can profit from in some way. It eliminates the few hobbies you have left by turning them into small businesses.

Of course, I don’t want to dismiss the necessity of making money, and I don’t want to be condescending by telling hard-working university students what they already know. Every day, we’re inundated with self-care tips and mental health workshops.

But what can you do when deadlines are inflexible and bills need to be paid?

With inflation making everything cost more and gas prices staying high, of course the pressure to succeed weighs on us more than ever. So, I want to turn my critical eye away from students and look at Queen’s and the faculties within it instead.

Queen’s profits from having hard-working students and employees who work round the clock to maintain its pristine reputation. Recently, Queen’s has been offering more support for students as the importance of personal health and safety has become a prominent topic in the past few years, and COVID-19 has exposed a lot of the flaws in how this university operates.

This still doesn’t change the fact that most faculties haven’t adjusted accordingly to curb the academic side of hustle culture.

When it comes to talking about mental health and self-care, the onus is often on the individual to take the time to reflect and step back to take care of themselves.

Students should come together to share the burden of work and lighten the load for each other. But we also need to look at the structure that guides our day-to-day and start thinking about the ways Queen’s could change to ensure we’re both educated and able to take care of ourselves.

Hustle culture shouldn’t mean sacrificing our physical and mental health for education.


Academia, Commerce, Mental health, Study

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