I came upon this idea later in life than some of you may have. Thanks to an abusive childhood and a fairly demanding church involvement in my teens and twenties, I was about 30 when I finally gave myself the freedom to take on a hobby just because I enjoyed it.
For me, I grew up never feeling good enough or worthy. I needed someone else to tell me it was OK for me to do something, or heaven forbid to spend money on something just because I liked it. My role, as a child, was to be the peacekeeper and people-pleaser. That made me an obvious target for abuse since I was very unlikely to tell anyone or do anything that might upset others.
In my late teens, I then got involved in a church community where taking time, or again money, to do something for myself was considered somewhat selfish. I was forgoing an opportunity for community with other church members or for reaching out to non-church members if I simply wanted to spend too many evenings reading fiction or playing a sport for fun. No, you could only do those kinds of things with the group if the group was interested. Again, since I had lived my whole life up until then with the belief that I didn’t deserve to do something just for myself anyway, it was all too easy for me to fall in line and feel guilty if I just enjoyed something without having some higher purpose for it. Those higher purposes became my way of getting someone else to tell me it was OK to do something.
I was reminded of this yesterday while looking at a photography site. Specifically a video about how you don’t need to share your photos.
The thinking there wasn’t so much that you needed someone else’s permission to be interested in photography, though that was another lesson I took way too long to learn, but that you can take a photo just because you like it instead of worrying about how people on social media might react to it.
I, for one, feel like we’ve entered this odd world in social media where we are all living and creating for an audience when that shouldn’t be what living is about. I see it with hobbies like photography, where you only shoot to appease the social media demands as opposed to just doing something you love for its own sake and I see it even in the ways we practice self-care. We seek out the experiences that we can then turn around and brag about on social media, whether they are actually effective for us or not. I’m guilty of this too. How many times do I consider the “shareability” of a given activity before doing it, or avoid talking about activities that are hugely helpful for my own self-care but that don’t fit the social media norms? I’ll admit it, it’s too often. Far too often. Running errands, getting a haircut, having my eyes checked, getting new glasses, or binge-watching Law & Order reruns with my wife on a Sunday afternoon might not be highly engaging stories to share on social media, but they help me take care of myself. They are my self-help.
So go do the things that make you happy. Do the activities that help build you up and give you the energy to go on with your life no matter what they are or whether people on Instagram or going to applaud you for it. Do it for you because you deserve them and you are not required to get permission from anyone else to do things you enjoy.
Your enjoyment and happiness are enough.