Forget the glamour and mystique of moonlighting. I’m happy right where I am.
Nowadays, it seems like everyone has a side hustle.
When I was a kid, I never thought about having work on the side. I believed that my ultimate goal was to work hard toward one stable job and to achieve fulfillment through family, friends, and hobbies.
As I got older, I was flooded with social media feeds featuring other people’s numerous accomplishments, and I couldn’t stop comparing myself.
I had been content and proud of myself before. Now all of a sudden, every milestone I hit felt ordinary and small. I started to get caught up in an ultra-competitive mindset.
I became drawn to the idea of being unique. I was in awe of the people who created something that was their own.
I worshipped those who worked outside their 9-to-5 gig, those who harnessed their talents to create something extraordinary — all while generating an alternative stream of income.
By day, these superhero entrepreneurs worked away at an office job. In the after-hours, they were writers, fashion designers, influencers, successful bloggers, YouTube starlets, and more.
At least, according to their social media feeds.
The side hustle seemed so wonderful, so glamorous, so fulfilling. I decided to give it a shot, too.
My days blurred together as I went to my day job and returned home to work on my side hustle.
I began to have constant headaches from too much screen time. I found myself being short and abrupt with friends from the stress of endless deadlines. I felt like I was always rushing.
I sacrificed sleep and found myself exhausted at my real job. My well-being plummeted.
It reached a point where I had to get honest with myself that my side hustle had become a burden. I had turned a fun hobby into something that I hated. What was worse, it was chipping away at my health.
Right around this time, I had a major realization.
I can’t do and be everything all at once. I can’t work full-time, eat nutritious meals, sleep, exercise, spend time with friends and family, AND have a side hustle.
This kind of constant striving leads to burnout.
Why was I pressuring myself beyond my own limits? Why was I comparing myself to others constantly?
Rather than pushing myself to side hustle in my free time, I decided to focus on the other aspects of my life that had been forgotten.
So I walked away from my side hustle.
When I let go of the pressure to hustle even in my free time, I learned a few important lessons.
Sleep is everything
When I had a side hustle, staying up late to complete projects or hunt for more became the norm for me.
During the day at my full-time job, my concentration and productivity sagged. I struggled to make it through the end of my shift. I couldn’t be present in my everyday interactions without quality rest.
My body was telling me that I was not meant for this lifestyle, and I needed to listen to it.
Fully resting allowed me to feel rejuvenated and brighter each day. Feeling healthy and having the energy to be present far outweighed any fleeting sense of accomplishment I got from my side hustle.
I enjoy and value sleep much more now that I know how it feels to sacrifice it.
Hobbies can just be hobbies
I admire people who turn their interests into a legitimate form of revenue.
For me, the benefits of my hobby are found in the sense of freedom they give me. My hobbies give me freedom from deadlines, unrealistic standards, and people-pleasing, and I like them that way.
I learned that I resent my hobbies when I make them into required activities. That pretty much defeats the purpose of having a hobby in the first place.
Nowadays, if an interesting income-generating opportunity presents itself, then great! If not, that’s fine. I’ll just keep doing my hobby for the sheer pleasure of it.
That way, my hobbies leave me feeling energized instead of drained.
I deserve care
You know what gets neglected when you turn a 40-hour work week into an 80-hour work week? Taking time to say “thank you” to yourself.
When I removed the pressure of needing a side hustle, I realized that I had forgotten to care for myself.
I started taking the time to practice mindful movement. I took walks in places that gave me joy. I enjoyed a warm cup of tea after practicing yoga.
Rather than rushing, I took the moment to be present.
Instead of coming home to a busy evening on my computer, I now spend evenings cozy on the couch with a book. My body and mind thank me every day.
Practice positive self-talk
The biggest realization I took away from side hustling is that I am often my own worst critic. I was always viewing my accomplishments with a “glass half empty” lens.
After all, no one on social media was telling me that I was inferior to them because I didn’t have a side hustle. It was my thoughts that were giving me this idea.
I truly found peace with my decision when I banished my inner critic and learned to reframe my thinking with supportive and affirmative self-talk.
I truly do admire those around me who have created their own empire through side hustling.
However, I have accepted that this lifestyle is not for me. Side hustling is not my speed.
When I get home from work, I want to take care of myself. I want to leave work at work. I want to be there for friends and family. And of course, I want to be able to relax and enjoy my hobbies.
Maybe one day I’ll find a way to turn my passion into my career. If I do, you can be sure it’s going to involve a balanced approach that respects my limits.
If I don’t, that’s OK too. I can just appreciate right where I am.
Azra Chatur, BScPharm, is a freelance writer based in Edmonton, Canada. Passionate about writing, she strives to use her evidence-based pharmacy knowledge to promote health and wellness. Connect with her on LinkedIn.