“You don’t have to be a prodigy to be unique,” Cavetown
If you’re anything like me, you had a whole load of hobbies growing up. From primary school all the way through to year 9, I would do a different activity every night of the week. From athletics to piano to drama club, you name it, I’d tried it.
I was never the best at any of my hobbies. I couldn’t sing very well, so I never did solos in the school musicals. I got passes and merits in my music exams. I came last in javelin at the athletics competition. But, at the time, I didn’t care. I was having fun, and that was what mattered.
However, as I grew up, I became conscious of the notion that if you aren’t great at your hobbies, you should stop them. My newly-developed self-consciousness and perfectionism allied together and made me feel embarrassed and inadequate to pursue hobbies that I wasn’t ever going to be ‘perfect’ at. This was especially the case when I could see people around me who were actually talented and had a genuine chance of becoming professionals in their skills. I would compare myself to them, and then think that it was pointless for me to continue with my hobby, because even though I enjoyed it, I’d never be as good as they were.
By 15, I’d stopped every hobby. I spent the next three years doing exams and getting good grades, then I went to university and realised there weren’t any societies I felt I could join, because I didn’t have any hobbies anymore.
This really affected my sense of identity. Not knowing my interests made my self-image vague, which also meant that it was harder to meet people similar to me. I saw all of my new friends joining societies and expanding their friendship groups while I stayed home and watched Netflix. Apart from a student, I didn’t know who I was.
And then suddenly Covid-19 hit. With everything shutting and everyone having to stay at home, I (along with everyone else) got bored quickly. As someone who prefers to be busy, I knew that having something to spend my time on would make me much happier. Eventually, I resolved to try out a couple of new pastimes, despite the fact that I still didn’t truly believe there was much point unless I could get really good at them.
I started off with something I’d always wanted to do: play the ukulele. I got a cheap ukulele from Amazon and eagerly began trying to learn all the different songs I’d pictured myself playing. However, I soon realised that lots of the chords were too difficult for me to play, and strumming was way harder than I’d expected. Defeated, I left the ukulele alone for a while. Boredom made me try a second time, but this time I watched a beginner tutorial on Youtube and learnt a very basic version of ‘You Are My Sunshine’. I was still frustrated that I couldn’t play how I wanted to, but I realised that playing had made me feel good, and had taken my mind off all of my Covid and work related worries. Since then, I’ve continued to play in my spare time, attempting the easier versions of songs I like and learning proper strumming patterns. I can only play a couple of chords right now, and my singing is out of tune more often than not, but playing is great for my mood.
I’ve also started doing the odd bit of sewing, mostly just ‘uplifting’ old clothes slightly by sewing patchwork scraps onto the pockets of my jeans and jumpers. I’m by no means perfect, but I’m not trying to be: just the act of sewing itself relaxes me, and I get cool ‘new’ clothes out of it!
It was only once I’d tried these hobbies out for a while that I truly realised the ‘you-have-to-be-good-at-your-hobbies’ mindset was harmful, and importantly, completely wrong. Shockingly, even as an adult, you can pursue hobbies solely for… fun. In fact, that’s what you’re supposed to do.
While taking up new hobbies can do wonders for your happiness, you shouldn’t pressure yourself to continue with a hobby that you genuinely dislike. If you pick a new hobby and don’t ever feel like doing it, or it feels like a chore when you do, it probably isn’t right for you. That’s okay . If you’ve been like me and not had hobbies for a while it might take a bit of trial and error to work out what your new interests are. You will find some eventually, and it’s a great moment of self-discovery when you do.
Since finding a few new hobbies, I’ve tried hard not to compare how good I am at them with others in the way that I used to. Of course there will be people far far better than me, and I am not a failure because I am not as good as them. I keep reminding myself that I am getting enjoyment out of the activity, and that is all that matters. Despite the fact that I used to think so, you don’t have to be good at something to justify doing it.
I’ve also worked on worrying less about what others think of me. I often used to be anxious that those who were better than me at something would judge me for not being as good as them. I think a lot of us have these thoughts, and often they are simply our worries projected onto other people, with no truth behind them. But, of course, some people do judge. Remember that when they do, it’s more a reflection on them than you. If you’re happy, the person who decides to judge instead of celebrating with you isn’t worth worrying about.
I guess that’s how I’ve been learning to embrace being mediocre at my hobbies. It’s definitely been worthwhile; it’s nice to have other ways to spend my time rather than just Netflix. (I absolutely still watch a lot of Netflix though.) If you’re in the mindset that I was in, here’s your sign to at least try out a new hobby. It might be the best thing you do today!
Words by Verity Alice Cartwright
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