Workism: my new religion

Graphic by Wednesday LaPlante

How do you separate your identity from your work when you’ve become a workaholic?

Last spring, I wrote an article about the hustle culture affecting my mental health and leading to burnout. A year later, I still struggle to find a healthy balance between work and my personal life.

My problem last year was that I felt a social pressure to overwork myself. I kept comparing myself with other people’s achievements and felt insecure about my work in journalism. At that time, I was even questioning my career choice.

Today, I have a similar problem — but now the pressure is coming from within. Though I finally love what I’m doing and take pleasure in writing articles, I’ve let my work define me and have left no space for other hobbies.

“Who am I apart from being a journalist?” I asked myself a few weeks ago, on the train back home after being out working for 12 hours.

I kept holding back my tears for the entire hour-long train ride. I was exhausted, but refused to be upset about it.

That Saturday was the most emotionally and physically challenging day. I woke up at 7 a.m.,  attended a meeting online for another job, went to a café to work on an article, attended a protest, then headed to the library to write another article on the demonstration.

“You love your work and everything you’re doing. You shouldn’t complain,” I kept whispering to myself as I sat on the train with my eyes half-closed.

This has been my routine and mantra for the past month.

Since February, I’ve been working three jobs. I work my nine-to-five internship during the week, then spend my weekends writing for The Concordian and supervising Concordia’s Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) winter 2022 elections. My mind is constantly occupied with work.

This may sound exhausting to some, but I love it. I absolutely adore what I’m doing because it makes me feel so fulfilled. I get an adrenaline rush attending protests and knowing that the articles I write matter.

I feel as if I have a purpose. Though only one of the three jobs pays me well, I decided to take on as many jobs to fill my CV and feel accomplished. Yet, I can’t help but think I’ve become chained to my work.

The religion of workism has taken over my life.

“Workism” was defined by Derek Thompson a few years ago in The Atlantic as, “the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.”

Working three remote jobs made it easier for me to let work define my worth and who I am. With my phone glued to my hand, it’s been challenging to disassociate myself from work. If I’m not working for my internship, I’m constantly looking for story ideas or responding to emails.

I no longer have time for leisure activities like reading, journaling, running… I tried squeezing in a day to ski every Sunday during the winter months. Even then, on the slopes, I was working! I kept checking my phone and worked on the chairlift between the runs.

On top of that, the few times I go out and socialize with my friends, I find myself checking my phone.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to get to know someone at a social event, and my phone kept buzzing. Work messages buzzed in my pockets every few minutes as I profusely apologized for the rudeness.

The worst thing was I didn’t even feel that bad because at that moment, if I’m being honest, I would have rather checked my phone than continued the conversation. I couldn’t enjoy my night until I was sure the work was done and settled.

I have yet to set boundaries to keep a healthy balance between work and my personal life but I can say that I’ve acknowledged that if I don’t change my work-life, I will have another burnout.


Graphic by Wendesday Laplante

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