Prisoner to the Pressure

Prisoner to the Pressure

We are living in the digital age. The intersection between our digital identity and reality is becoming harder to distinguish since our digital footprint lasts forever. Social media has become the sneak-peeks and highlight reels of our lives. If we’re not cognizant of the time we spend scrolling down our timelines, comparison and anxiety can begin to fester within us.

A couple of months ago, I participated in The Newhouse Career Development Center’s webinar titled, Getting the “Right” Start to Your Career featuring alumna Jessica Blair. Listening to her non-linear breakthrough in her career assured me that at 24 years old I’m not going to have it all figured out and that is OKAY. Moreover, she forewarned us about becoming a “prisoner to the pressure” and it is a term I’ve been constantly reminding myself to avoid.

I’d define prisoner to the pressure as succumbing to the expectation influencers, peers, social media gurus, or even what society places on what success looks like.

Prisoner to the pressure is also synonymous with hustle culture. Hustle culture glorifies relentless work that oftentimes is linked to a decline in mental, physical, and/or emotional health. Robert F. Smith once said, “This is the first time in the history of mankind that wealth can be created just from your mind.” The information age has diminished the barrier of entry and has made opportunities accessible for many people. However, don’t let workaholics and social media influencers guilt you into thinking “you aren’t doing enough” or “you aren’t enough”. In an Entrepreneur article, author John Boitnott frames how hustle culture deteriorates our health. He highlights,

  • Hustle culture sets up unsustainable expectations
  • It encourages an unhealthy lifestyle
  • Hustle culture promotes burnout
  • Hustle culture breeds a toxic sense of competition

Psychology Today notes, Social comparison theory was first put forth in 1954 by psychologist Leon Festinger, who hypothesized that we make comparisons as a way of evaluating ourselves. At its root, the impulse is connected to the instant judgments we make of other people—a key element of the brain’s social-cognition network that can be traced to the evolutionary need to protect oneself and assess threats.

Here are some methods I utilize when I feel like hustle culture tries to sabotage my progress:

Log out

I like to unplug from the commotion of online chatter. Silencing the noise of our robust digital connections grounds me to hear my inner voice. Try meditating, you’d be surprised at the small difference by taking a few moments every day to be alone with your thoughts.

Community > Followers

Find your community of peers who support and uplift you. In a video interview, Issa Rae noted the importance of networking across. Keep like-minded friends who are down in the trenches with you. Mentors do not always have to be someone at a higher stage of their career—reach across not only up. Surround yourself with peer mentors who hold you accountable, they are also great sounding boards for encouragement and collaboration.

Be Patient

The golden saying, “patience is a virtue” is something I still struggle to grasp with sometimes. Let’s face it, we’re living in the microwave generation but that doesn’t mean results and success comes overnight. Set attainable expectations so you would not be crushed by the disappointment of setting an unrealistic timeline of what you want to do or accomplish by X amount of time.


Jot down how you feel in your moments of feeling inadequate or frustrated with where you are currently. Releasing how you feel on paper is a great period of introspection and managing stress. Also, strive to end with something you’re grateful for. My personal mantra is gratitude over attitude; when we remember to sprinkle gratitude into everyday moments of our lives it has exponential positive benefits. Check out this article on the 83 benefits of journaling.


Exercising releases endorphins in your brain, aka the feel-good hormone. I like to grab an upbeat playlist and put all my frustrations into a workout. You’ll also find that in fitness and our career path both take a lot of discipline and patience to reap the success of your hard work.

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t mastered avoiding becoming a prisoner to the pressure but these methods keep my fear and anxiety at bay. I always resort to these methods when I feel fear and doubt are taking over and crippling/downplaying my progress. Remember, you have unique gifts meant to share with the world. Be patient with your progress. Give yourself permission to fail. With all of the uncertainty 2020 has thrown at us, I’m learning to loosen the reigns of what I think my life “should” look like. I’m finding it easier to ride the tide of change versus fighting against it. What are some tactics you do to avoid becoming a prisoner to the pressure?

Erica Rawlins
Erica Rawlins is a graduate student at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She is studying Public Diplomacy. Her interests lie in advocacy, branding and harnessing the power of social media. Upon graduating from Syracuse University she hopes to tie her interests into a career that impacts emerging markets.