How Are You Hustling?

If deep down we believe that we're not enough as we are, we do everything we can to prop up our self-esteem and avoid feeling that pain. So instead of doing the inner work to heal the wound, we simply hustle for our worth.
03/06/2014 01:42 pm ET Updated May 06, 2014

You know when you're doing it. You push that bit too aggressively. You let slip a sly put down. You manipulate the situation to show yourself in the best light. This all-too-common ploy is called hustling. It's a defensive mechanism that's reaching epidemic proportions, and it's not doing us any favors.

The act of hustling is defined as "obtaining illicitly or by forceful action." It's all about pushing, jostling, bumping, knocking, shoving, and elbowing to get what we want. It's rife in our workplaces, homes, parenting, schools and friendships. Just look around you -- you'll see people hustling everywhere.

So what drives this behavior? It all stems from feeling a lack of innate worthiness. We don't feel good about ourselves, and it leads us to push and step over each other in order to build ourselves up and display our supposed merit. It's based on this one limiting belief: I need to prove myself so that I get the love and belonging I desperately want, but that I don't actually feel I deserve.

Women are particularly prone to exercising their hustle muscles. If deep down we believe that we're not enough as we are, we do everything we can to prop up our self-esteem and avoid feeling that pain. So instead of doing the inner work to heal the wound, we simply hustle for our worth. We perfect, criticize, compete and push others out of the way as we clamber to shine.

But do you know what?

Enough is enough.

It's time to stop this destructive behavior that brings us all down.

We need more sisterhood and brotherhood. We crave connection, and yet our desire to create it is often what destroys it. If you believe that you have to push others out of the way to feel like you belong and are worthy of affection, you're not creating with others -- you're creating from them.

How are you hustling?

The answer is in small, everyday ways.

When someone triggers your shame by saying, "My daughter's doing brilliantly at the best school," and you swipe back with a bitchy retort or change the subject to something you can brag about.

When your boss asks, "What made you choose this option?" and you tighten up and defend your perspective with excuses and stories.

When your friend says, "You've gained weight," and you smile sweetly, seething with resentment, and hit back later in the conversation with a calculated dig to even the score.

When you're trying to build a new relationship or make a sale and you're jumping around like a bouncing Tigger, practically shouting "Pick me, pick me!" It's just like back at school, when they'd do that horrible line up to choose kids for the sports team.

But you're not that little kid anymore.

There is no line up.

You don't have anything to prove.

You really are innately worthy as a human being, just as you are -- born at this point in time with a unique purpose and incredible strengths.

How do you let go of the need to hustle?

1. Start noticing when you do it. You'll know because you'll get a feeling in your body. Like a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach or a tight feeling in your throat that renders you temporarily incapable of speech.

2. Breathe. Slow everything down and don't react. Just breathe and get that oxygen up to your brain, because in the moment all the power has drained to your hands and feet as you get ready to take fight or flight.

3. Choose to empower yourself. You don't need to do anything here -- reaction gives your power away. Make the choice to stay in the moment -- exactly where you are -- and centre yourself.

4. Connect with your truth. Get back to your values and what's most important to you. What matters more -- propping yourself up with smoke and mirrors? Or honing in on your truth and acting for your highest good?

5. Figure out what you need, then give it to yourself. Connect with the feeling that has been triggered and ask yourself what you need. If you need space, give it to yourself. If you need some time to recover, say so -- "I just need a second to gather my thoughts here. I'm going to go and stretch my legs and get back to you."

Let's dive into an example.

I have a lot of clients who run their own businesses. Sometimes, potential customers will say things to them about their products that immediately get them feeling defensive or reactive. When my clients react by hustling, they push back, trying to persuade and convince the customer. But it doesn't work. Not only do they not make the sale, it also undermines their confidence.

But if they instead choose to get clear about their business values, what's important about their work, the heart and soul that fuels them, they show up differently. They believe in themselves and the product and they don't have to hustle. They simply meet the client's needs from a place of worthiness and self-belief; non-reactive and without the heat. It takes the push and strain out of it all. And they're way more likely to make the sale.

So the next time you catch yourself hustling and working too hard, try these five steps, and remember that you have everything you need already. How you react is simply a choice. Do you choose to empower yourself, or to prop up your self worth? How are you hustling?