Workism: my new religion

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

Student Life

Girls Who Like Money: Why we’re workaholics

Answer: we don’t know


Girls Who Like Money is a column written to help you feel less bad about your money habits, plus some advice on how to finance your expensive taste.

What is it about being 22 that makes you realize who you are? Is there some sort of old and wise threshold that you need to pass in order to understand all those parts of you that don’t make sense?

I’ve been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember, and for a long time that was all it was. I have always been artistic, creative, independent, down-to-earth, and a go-getter. However, I am also forgetful, never on time, stubborn, jaded, and chronically depressed and angry.

Everyone’s good traits have a dark side (call it yin and yang). For me, perfectionism manifested into hard-core-BDSM-level workaholism. Some might call it ambition. I call it perfectionism, but often throughout my life it appeared as the exact opposite: carelessness.

I suppose it’s because it’s impossible to be perfect all the time, but my nit-picking has always been selective, and school was last on the list. I took the easy way out with everything that was required, but anything not required had to be executed to perfection.

The other day I started thinking about high school. I don’t remember much from my time spent in class, apart from harsh fluorescent lighting and the constant feeling of wanting to get in and out of it as soon as possible. I was always rushing to school, as two tardies got you detention, and rushing out of school, back to my other life.

My other life, my real life, was work. I’ve always loved learning, but having long-ago realized the arbitrariness of grades, my brain must have logically pushed them to the bottom of my priorities. Schoolwork was just below chores, which were below exercise, which was below friends, which were below family, which, admittedly, was below work.

Work is over everything, and when you’re not working, you’re thinking about more ideas you can execute and whether something needs revision. Somehow, you always create more work.

You hope to surround yourself with other workaholics, so that your priorities don’t get in the way of, but rather support the friendship. So that’s how I’ve always met my best friends — through work. And that’s just one way a workaholic unconsciously creates a life that is centred around their job(s).

But how does a workaholic manage the other aspects of life? A workaholic might respond, “What other aspects?” Family, friends, relationships, and health all take a backseat when there’s work to be done. And there’s always work to be done… even when you’ve finished it all..

A workaholic often stays up late to top things off. Nine-to-five work hours are suggested for other people, but not for us. How does one kick off a budding career with all that time spent sitting around? Answer: one doesn’t. Instead, we use the omnipresent threat of said “budding career” as a reason to push harder.

We often wake up in the middle of the night to write things down, set our alarms for way too early, and end up sleeping in. Our Google Calendar app is where we feel most at home.

Even now as I write this, my partner and I are spending quality time, as we always do, cuddled up next to each other. As usual, he’s sleeping and I’m deep into this semi-necessary extra-curricular task.

We’re both workaholics, and as I explained once to my therapist, “It works out well because we have the same schedule.” She responded, “Yeah, but when do you spend time together?” I painted, for her, a picture of this exact moment: The Office plays in the background, he’s sleeping next to me, and I’m getting through the work I’m still catching up on from the day. That counts, right?

If you’re reading this and you think this may be you, I’m sorry but I haven’t figured out why we’re like this. If this article seems chaotic, that’s because it’s a reflection of me. However, there has been one discovery to come out of this.

As much as I love money, I realize now that money has nothing to do with my workaholism. You know how I know? Because I have three jobs. Two jobs are fun and make me almost nothing. The other job sucks and makes enough to pay rent and then some. Guess which job I do most?

I always thought I loved money so much that all I wanted to do was make more of it. But the truth is, I just want to do stuff. I always want to stay busy, because when I’m not busy, I just have ideas that never come to fruition.

It’s like getting in a metro car that never closes its doors. It just stays still for 20 minutes and you wonder if you should get off. And then another 20 minutes go by and you get off and you have to figure out another way to get to the place you’re going. It’s the same feeling.

People talk about balance, and I wonder how I can do that too. Let me know if you figure it out.


With love,


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