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How I Learned to Embrace the Word ‘Hustle’ as a Person With a Chronic Illness

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As a chronic illness warrior who runs a business, I used to hate the word “hustle.” The full-on, full-throttle way many in business talk about getting things done repelled me. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and I couldn’t help thinking, “How dare you tell me to work harder? Don’t you know how hard it is for me just to do the things you take for granted?” 

I was upset, but I was curious. I wanted to know why this type of language triggered me so badly. I didn’t want to feel anger and resentment. I just wanted to understand why I had these feelings, so I got out my journal and wrote about it, and this is what I discovered: “Hustle” reminded me of how inadequate I felt compared to the people using that word. It was like normal little me looking up to some superhero and feeling in awe but also so small and insignificant. The word put me on the defensive so quick it was like someone had flipped a switch inside of me. 

I asked myself why I felt this way and then I tried to flip it. Instead of saying to myself, “It makes me feel small, it makes me feel weak and it reminds me of the things I lack,” I thought to myself, “OK, is that true? Am I weak, am I small, do I lack?” And the rebel inside of me (she always wants to argue) said, “Heck no!”

That rebel reminded me I am the strongest person I know. I’m a fighter. I don’t play small. There’s nothing I lack that really matters to me. I changed my story. Then something strange happened: I stopped feeling bad when I heard the word “hustle,” and it actually started to resonate with me. Suddenly, I felt like I had more in common with the people I looked up to. 

One of the new things that suddenly resonated for me was “giving 100 percent.” Because that’s what hustling is all about, right? But I had got it all wrong. It wasn’t about giving 100 percent — it was about giving my 100 percent. That’s a huge difference. Hustle isn’t about trying to match up with someone else’s 100 percent. It’s about discovering what 100 percent means in your life and owning it. 

It doesn’t matter if 100 percent to you is 20 percent to someone else. It’s your energy, your life and it’s yours to use to its full potential. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have that same capacity every day, either. It’s about making the most of what you do have in that moment. Stop comparing to others, go back to your own life and be in the moment.

For a chronic illness warrior, I think “hustle” or “100 percent” means doing whatever it is you’re doing to be your best in that moment — in a healthy manner. I learned you can hustle at anything

You can hustle your meditation, which means you can truly dedicate your whole being to the act of meditation. 

You can hustle your relaxing bubble bath, which means you can commit to making relaxation and self-care a regular priority.

You can hustle your family time by being ruthless about keeping your time with loved ones sacred and not be encroached upon by other non-priorities.

Hustle doesn’t have to be hard work. How many times do you procrastinate and end up doing something that seems more fun, but then you spend the whole time feeling guilty and not enjoying it at all because you know you’re meant to be doing something else? I do it all the time! 

The difference between giving yourself permission to do something nice and doing something nice but feeling guilty about it is that it gives you a massively different feeling. And that’s the difference I now see between “warrior hustling” — as I now understand it — and not hustling.

It’s about not wasting your moments. When you make something a priority and give yourself permission to dedicate those moments to it, then you’re free to enjoy or appreciate those moments instead of feeling guilty about it.

If your body is crying out for rest and recuperation, then hustle that recuperation! Rest like you’ve never rested before! Challenge yourself to be the most amazing caregiver to yourself! Imagine you are up for an award in looking after you! 

Don’t fear “the hustle,” my warrior friends. You can turn it into a tool for good and well-being.

You can join my free community on Facebook at the link on my profile. Just click on my name to find it.

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Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: November 28, 2016
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