I've been thinking about this more and more, and the more I do, the more it seems to be a liberal rather than conservative idea.
Liberals constantly stand up for the working class, and constantly advocate the redistribution of wealth away from the "greedy" towards the "needy". Those who are needy are those who work hard and get stuff done.
Conservatives seem to advocate rugged individualism, but only when they embrace social liberalism on the side. I have never heard from a social conservative that rugged individualism is a way of life. Libertarians? Yes. Authoritarians? Yes.
Conservatives? No. Conservatives understand the value of balance and relaxation, not living a life of vanity, and not driving yourself crazy. Conservatives understand that we work to live, so you don't overheat yourself just to get a job done. If you're a rugged individual, a conservative justifies it because of an intense way of life, not "just because".
Liberals don't seem to grasp this, though, and even big government liberals seem to embrace rugged individualism because they enjoy humiliating non-politicians/bureaucrats into doing dirty work so they don't have to. They're basically spoiled brats who enjoy making others feel guilty as if they have to prove their dignity to be entitled to respect. On top of that, the government supposedly offers health care and welfare so hard workers can keep on trucking while not actually having lives.
I'm a customs broker, and this really hit home today when I was discussing the matter with some coworkers. On one hand, they were imitating how truck drivers and cargo handlers struggle in the docks. On the other, they were saying society needs to make sure people like that are OK.
It seemed very elitist because my coworkers come from privileged backgrounds. I don't. I come from a working class background, and it's partially because I wasn't bullied as much as my peers that I was able to study, focus, and mentally prepare for my brokerage license and socially network into my office. My peers struggled in school growing up because they just couldn't think about what was being taught. They were always wondering "How is this going to help me in life?"
Liberals seem to thrive on rugged individualism because it preserves their social status while making people feel guilty until proven innocent. If people aren't rugged, then they don't deserve respect. They deserve to endure frustration and humiliation such that they can't elevate in social status.