Molly-Mae: How toxic productivity shaming and hustle culture harms our wellbeing

Molly-Mae has faced extensive criticism on social media about her ‘tone-deaf’ comments (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Molly-Mae Hague has made waves this week after comments about wealth and success from an interview recorded last month went provoked outrage online.

Speaking on Stephen Bartlett’s The Diary of a CEO podcast, the Love Island alum and influencer claimed ‘Beyonce has the same 24 hours in a day as we do. I just think you’re given one life and it’s down to you what you do with it. You can literally go in any one direction.

‘If you want something enough, you can achieve it. It just depends to what lengths you’ll go to get to where you want to be in the future.

‘And I’ll go to any length, I’ve worked my absolute a*** off to get to where I am now.’

Molly-Mae was accused of being ‘tone-deaf’, pointing out that ‘getting out of poverty’ is not simply down to mindset, but is affected by systemic and societal issues.

Though a lot has been said about her comments, what hasn’t been discussed as much is how her rhetoric feeds in to rampant productivity shaming and the emphasis on hustle culture.

The glorification of work

Molly-Mae’s words glorify working 24 hours a day (or near enough) and suggest she is constantly hustling for the lavish lifestyle she has, and so we should too.

While many critics have focused on what they consider to be ‘classist’ about her comments, some have touched on how she is inspiring millions of young people (mostly women) to constantly be productive, prioritising working long hours and capitalist material gain over other non-capitalist pursuits.

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Many have also said that they have to spend much of the day working in low-wage jobs to pay the rent, dealing with chronic illness, seeing friends, doing chores, and simply surviving – they don’t have the resources or the time to be ‘hustling’ non-stop.

As a capitalist society, our lives are wrapped up in our jobs, our success (in work), and our monetary worth leading us to overwork ourselves and suffer from productivity anxiety.

Money, of course, grants us access to things that make our lives easier: better healthcare, good food, enjoyable activities, good housing options, and fancy holidays when we want a break.

But, more than that, some believe and feel that it is intrinsic to our self-worth to have a ‘good’ job and a successful career. This is called workism: ‘The belief that work is not only necessary to economic production but also the centrepiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose’.

In a Pew Research report on youth anxiety, 95% of teenagers said ‘having a job or career they enjoy’ is one of the most important things for them, while a Gallup survey suggested that for the millennial generation, ‘a job is about more than a paycheck – it’s about a purpose’.

In some industries we view our work as ‘who we are’, something inherent to our identity rather than seeing it for what it is: a capitalistic exchange of labour for money.

Many felt like they were being ‘shamed’ for not becoming a millionaire at 22. (Photo: Getty Images)

Hustle porn and social media

As Niels Eék, a psychologist, previously told Metro.co.uk, social media adds to this pressure.

He said: ‘Seeing a continuous stream of job updates on social media makes us acutely aware of what other people are doing and achieving, which may not have mattered to us otherwise.’

Not only do we need to have a great job that we excel at, there has been a significant rise in people with full-time jobs embarking on ‘side hustles’, turning hobbies and alternative skills into another monetary avenue, and posting about it on Instagram and Tik Tok as a form of ‘hustle porn’.

While they post about how perfect their lives are, and how they’re managing to live three lives in one, the rest of us are astounded by their success, confused by how they manage it, and inevitably feeling like our lives pale in comparison.

As Ruth Micallef, a counsellor based in Edinburgh, says: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’.

We see these influencers online, showing off their Gucci and Chanel bags, jet-setting to Dubai and New York every other week, and we’re ask ourselves: What did they do that I didn’t? Where did I go wrong? How can I work harder and become like them?

Social media can force us to compare ourselves to rich influencers and feel bad about our own lives (Picture: Molly-Mae Hague)

Ruth tells Metro.co.uk: ‘For womxn, it often feeds into feelings of internalised misogyny, the push that we should be competing with each other to be “the best”

‘It pushes us to cope in ways that destroy our mental health, towards burnout and away from our authentic sense of self and values.’

What is not seen on social media is the fact that these rich influencers have a huge support network, including cleaners, chefs, managers, and a whole host of others that are literally hired to streamline their existence.

The rest of us don’t have the same luxuries, and the small things that take up our time (laundry, washing the car, managing our diaries, sending emails) are not taking up the time of millionaires like Molly-Mae.

We spoke to Dannielle Haig, business psychologist and director of DH Consulting, about ‘hustle porn’ and the impact of social media on our work lives.

She says: ‘Showing off your work ethic and materialistic gains has become socially acceptable and even praised.’

Social media has a big part to play in this ‘image maintenance’, as it portrays a version of your life that isn’t necessarily showing the not-so-fun bits.

‘We now have 24-hour access to other people’s “lives” – or what they want their lives to be perceived as, anyway – and therefore can 24-hours-a-day be told how we ‘should’ be living our lives,’ Dannielle says.

Instagram and other social media platforms allow these influencers to portray a ‘perfect’ life, making our lives seem mundane in comparison (Picture: Getty)

‘And when we are constantly being shown how amazing other people’s lives are, it makes us feel like we are missing out on experiences and existences that others have attained – so why haven’t we?

‘In recent years, the concept of the “hustle culture” has been crescendoing into madness.

‘It is so very toxic to shame people into not sleeping, having side-hustles and generally just to keep up with the never-ending lifestyle trends being pushed on social media.’

Buying into the ‘hustle’ of social media influencers like Molly-Mae can undermine our confidence and self-esteem, Haig explains.

The myth of meritocracy

Molly-Mae’s comments, which suggest that we are the same in every respect and therefore that we could also become creative directors of giant fashion brands at the age of 22 without any formal qualifications, are disingenuous and make us feel bad about the achievements we already have or the age at which we achieve them.

It can make us feel like we’re not doing enough in comparison to these rich influencers, that we’re failing for not hustling for a level of wealth that that the majority of the UK will never see – the UK’s average annual salary for 2020 was £31,487. By contrast, Molly-Mae is thought to earn around £11,000 per week.

Focusing on our own happiness and being grateful for what we have can prevent us from overworking to ‘keep up’ with influencers. (Photo: Priscilla du Preez/Unsplash)

The messaging is that if we simply work harder and utilise our 24 hours in an effective way like Molly-Mae, maybe one day we can be just like her – and if we don’t become like her, we simply haven’t ‘worked our a*** off’ like she did.

For those who do feel ‘shamed’ by Molly-Mae and other influencers, and guilty that they may not be seen to work as hard as she does, Haig has some advice: ‘These people who you follow, are being paid to make you want to buy something. It is as simple as that.

‘So, delete influencers that make you feel bad about yourself, no one needs that toxicity in their lives and learn to see the greatness in your life and appreciate and love what you have.’

She adds that no one ‘needs’ a side-hustle, and advises people to not let the competitive and comparative nature of social media force you to do more than you can handle, or do things that won’t make you happy.

While we do all have 24 hours a day, we all have different responsibilities and trying to force more into that time can lead to anxiety, depression, burnout, addiction, sleep deprivation, and other mental health problems.

Molly-Mae is estimated to be worth £2 million and her Pretty Little Thing deal is at least seven figures. (Picture: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Pretty Little Thing)



Molly-Mae’s response to the backlash:

Molly-Mae has since hit back at the criticism, with a statement sent by her representatives saying: ‘Molly did a podcast interview in December about her own rise to success. If you listen to the full conversation and interview Molly was asked about how the nature of her potential grows and how she believes in herself. This part of the interview was discussing time efficiency relating to success.

‘Molly refers to a quote which says “We all have the same 24 hours in a day as Beyonce”. She was discussing her own experience and how she can resonate with this specific quote.

‘Her opinion on if you want something enough you can work hard to achieve it is how she keeps determined with her own work to achieve more in her own life. Molly is not commenting on anyone else’s life or personal situation she can only speak of her own experience.

‘Her opinion on if you want something enough you can work hard to achieve it is how she keeps determined with her own work to achieve more in her own life. Molly is not commenting on anyone else’s life or personal situation she can only speak of her own experience.

‘She acknowledges that everyone is raised in different ways and from different backgrounds but her comments here are in reference to timing, hard work and determination in her own life. If you listen to this interview you can see the whole conversation was about her own personal circumstances, how she has grown up and this small clip in the conversation was talking about a quote that inspires her.

‘Social media users have shared a short snippet from this interview with words such as “if you are homeless buy a house” and “if you are poor be poor” these are absolutely not Molly’s words, these are not Molly’s thoughts and this isn’t at all the meaning or thought behind that conversation.’

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