Let’s talk about the whole concept of the hustle.
Man, does that word ever rub me the wrong way. The kind of working culture that hustle has come to represent and encourage is an exhausting, counter-intuitive, soul-sucking way to live. I’m all for hard work, don’t get me wrong – but what I’m not here for is turning every single interaction, relationship, interest, and activity into some sort of promotion or business venture.
The whole idea of constantly hustling is especially poisonous for those of us who work in a creative capacity or cultivate a personal brand, whether for social validation, aesthetic expression, or out of professional necessity. Being a creator is already an emotionally vulnerable and challenging way to live. The things we create are little shards of our soul that we’re brave enough to send out into the world. We want them to do well.
It’s the most human thing ever for us to want to make a good impression on others. That’s just instinct. But you are not on this earth to live your life for social media. Your life should not be an externally beautiful but essentially empty thing, carefully crafted for the consumption of others.
Trust me, I’ve been there. Even though I’ve always tried to be authentic, I still carry a lot of embarrassment over how many things I’ve done solely for the ‘gram, how many moments I’ve interrupted to take and edit a photo, and how many other successful creatives I’ve tried to emulate, all for the sake of a few more followers or pageviews. And God, the worst part is that it’s so addicting when it works. Validation! Popularity! Financial compensation! The promise of becoming one of the elite, fabled Influencers! That sinking feeling, when the high wears off, that you’re a fraud and a faker! … oh, wait.
I am certainly not saying that you shouldn’t use social media, create industry relationships, or hone your craft. I’m saying that there has to be a part of your life that only belongs to yourself, or one of these days, you’re going to wake up and feel like you have nothing real left.
You are good enough.
I read a piece of blogging advice a few years ago that royally fucked me up. It was something along the lines of, “In order to create good content, you must live good content.” I’m sure it was meant to inspire the reader to live their best, boldest, most beautiful life, and I hope it did that for some people, but all it did for me was fill me with anxiety that my life wasn’t good enough for my career to be successful. That my relationships, hobbies, clothes, thoughts, feelings, and stories were all boring bullshit, because they didn’t look like what I was seeing in my Instagram feed.
That little nugget of advice made me conceptualize my life as something best lived for other people to consume. Rather than helping me recognize the many beautiful, poetic moments in my life, it made the other parts of it seem bland and bad, not worth appreciating or sharing.
I mean, right now, I would love to tell you that I’m curled up in a beautiful, airy cafe drinking a matcha latte (do people really like matcha lattes?), wearing something beautiful and ethical and expensive in a size 6, taking a little writing break between my morning yoga class and a full afternoon of meetings with my adoring editors. In reality, I’m at my chaotically messy desk in an old sweater in desperate need of de-pilling, sipping day-old cold Folgers in an alligator mug, staving off menstrual cramps with a hot water bottle. That’s my real life. And even though it’s not ‘grammable, it has value.
You are a person, not a brand.
What you put out in the world, by necessity, is always edited. And that’s okay! We are all multifaceted, and I don’t think its disingenuous to showcase only one or two of those facets of your personality and lifestyle in your work or social media. But I think it’s important to pay attention to how often you’re doing things for the benefit of other people, or with the intention of being noticed and sponsored by corporations or businesses.
We need weirdos far more than we need more of the same. Showcase that wonderful strange mix of qualities that makes you who you are, and don’t give into the gradual homogenization of voices that so many of my favourite bloggers have fallen victim to.
You are more than your message.
I began writing because I knew, in the very marrow of my bones, that I had something to say. I feel very strongly that my purpose here on this earth is to serve by creating and sharing. But I am more than that. I am more than my career, more than my blog, more than my instagram grid, more than my dream. I am so much more than what I put out there. We all are.
We weren’t given the gift of life to hustle it away in the pursuit of wealth, fame, and empty admiration. It is NOT a virtue to work from the moment you wake to the moment you fall asleep, and it’s so important to protect and celebrate the part of your life that exists outside of social media.
I’d love to hear about your thoughts on this! How do you maintain your own unique voice? What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done for the validation of others? Where do you draw the line?