Ok. Here’s something I’ve been afraid to share. There’s this stereotype about business owners. They’re type A, detail-obsessed, high energy, high performing 24/7, insane hustle machines. I believed all of these traits were necessary to make it as a self-made businesswoman. I was proud of my grit, proud of the fact I had the endurance to work longer hours than others, and I wore my sleep deprivation like a badge of honor. The truth is…there isn’t one part of that statement that reflects who I am at my most authentic self— who I am and what I do when no one is watching.
When no one is watching I wonder why I feel so busy even on the days when I get nothing done.
We are living in a culture that glorifies hustle, and in this predominantly female community interested in “lifestyle and wellness,” we cheer each other on as we make room for our dreams, run towards risk, and get back up when failure after failure knocks us down. One could say many of us inherited a subconscious can-do belief that in this “land of opportunity” we must always be living up to our potential. It is here, in this duty to live up to the best versions of our self, that we cannot escape the damage hustle culture does to understanding who we are at our core. To constantly be focused on improvement, we avoid the stillness and truth that is revealed in the present. We stay busy to avoid going inward and truly asking ourselves what we want out of our lives.
As I’ve been prepping to write this essay, I went inward to work through what it meant to me to be busy all the time, and how it was tied to my self-worth, ego, and identity. Who am I without all the doing? Who am I if I don’t have my work? Minorities, especially WOC grow up realizing they have to hustle that much harder, be that much better, for the same opportunities. If busy is a badge of honor in American culture, who are we without all the doing?
Much to my dismay… I draw a blank when I ask myself who I am without all the doing. I feel emptiness… then a sense of honor when a voice inside my head says “you are a mother who shows strength through embracing her shortcomings.” Then, “your drive comes from curiosity.” This was new. When you remove what your work reflects to OTHERS, you have more room to explore the why behind the doing.
And then, I started to explore why pain was required for achievement. Perhaps it was years of dancing on bloody, fractured feet, but everything I had ever worked for had pain associated with it. I realized I looked at those long hours, the anxiety, the physical wear, and tears as a sign that things were going right… that if I just keep going I’d reach my goals. I have a lot of work to do to uncouple my self-worth from these associations but I know the answer is exploring what drives me towards my curiosity in the human experience and exploring creative mediums like writing, design, and art. I know I’m interested in people, in helping people find peace and acceptance inside themselves. Instead of looking for the pain in hard work, I’m looking for opportunities where the act of doing flows like water, to find the path of least resistance in each day.
As I get older, I get more comfortable with ambiguous endings. In unanswered prayers, the lessons in failure, the complexity of our collective human experience and the constructs that divide and separate. In understanding that beneath the shiny veneer of success can live an emptiness that money, power, and prestige cannot fill. Breaking up with being busy gave me a new perspective for those driven by knowing who they are, who live by rules governed by their authentic selves, not ego. I’ve also uncovered a deeper empathy for the shy girl inside of me who wishes I hadn’t founded a business on social media. I have a new understanding of the strength it takes to advocate for life choices that are not glorified in a capitalist culture. More than anything, I want all of us to know, in a heart, that we are so much more than the labels we are given.
BY Kate Arends - November 20, 2018
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.