Will the world ever run out of ways to make women feel bad? Just as we’ve reached a point where we’re beginning to feel good about our bodies, regardless of shape, size, ability, or color, more and more of us now have a judgey inner voice that asks, “Oh hey, are you making your own bread from scratch in between your Pilates class and that unpaid extra work your boss has you doing on weekends and also how’s the website you’re building for your sister coming along?”

If just reading that sentence makes your heart race, you might be caught up in hustle culture, a movement that tells women they can have it all, do it all, and be their own manicured, blemish-free organic yogurt supplier and handmade sweater knitter, too. That is, if they just try a little harder.

hustle culture stress work life unattainable

Hustle culture fetishizes doing and having it all the way glossy women’s magazines used to swoon over the “perfect” proportions of swimsuit models like Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer. While diet regimens, weight-loss pills, and the torture device known as control-top pantyhose used to be the products readers were prescribed, now it’s a mortar and pestle to grind your own spices (sorry, pepper mill), a bottle of “Ayurvedic antioxidant transformational food” (whatever that is), and travel-sized massage balls to soothe your muscles after those twice-daily workouts you really ought to squeeze into every business trip. Insert silent scream here.

The place where hustle culture meets wellness is particularly confusing. It can be inspiring to read about, say, a 25-year-old who runs an ethical retail empire in between building schoolhouses for children in the developing world with her bare hands — and still finding time in their day (every day) to meditate and practice Bikram yoga via Skype with the guru she met last year in Bali. But without seeing the complete picture of a person’s life, that kind of image can also make you feel inadequate. (Like in the way that Kate Moss’ cleavage made this writer feel inadequate during her insecure teenage years.)

The products and suggestions themselves aren’t the problem (yes, okay, a travel-size massage ball feels amazing on your feet at the end of a long day). Rather, it’s the idea that we’re told we need to buy or do certain things to be successful and whole and well by people who aren’t simply inspiring us, but selling us an idealized version of their lives — you know, that thing we all do on Instagram. The line between what’s real and possible and what’s aspirational and unrealistic has become blurrier than ever.

In the same way we’ve stopped modeling our physical selves on the unattainable standards set by supermodels, it’s time to stop beating ourselves up for not “having it all” and realize that basically, that phrase is meaningless. What is “all” anyway, when people are individuals who want different things? On that same note, you don’t have to do it all, and that’s totally okay. Forgive yourself for being human. Think of what you do do, and celebrate those accomplishments along the way; who knows, you may even get inspired for more.

(Image via Filip Bunkens on Unsplash)