My grandfather paints in his spare time. He paints cowboys riding horses and mountains with sunsets in the background. When he’s bored, my father sketches detailed portraits of people around him with ink pens on scraps of paper and tissue. Three of my cousins recently took up digital painting, and now they regularly post their art on Facebook and Instagram. So far, two of them have won drawing contests.
Me? I’m the one in the family who wants to draw all the time but seems to be awful at it. Yet, what’s important is that this doesn’t stop me from drawing anyway.
I’m not trying to be modest when I say that my list of talents doesn’t seem to include the ability to draw, despite it being one of my hobbies. A couple of years ago, I sent my friend, who is an art student known for his bluntness, a stickman sketch as his birthday present. His response? “Your stickman isn’t proportional.”
It’s not that I haven’t made attempts in studying art. I took lessons when I was in elementary school, and chose visual art instead of music as an elective during middle school. There was also a period in high school when I was so determined to improve my drawing that I carried my sketchbook everywhere.
Despite all of this, I rarely feel confident enough to show people the things I create. Some days I don’t have the time or energy to start, let alone finish a drawing. The idea of putting so much effort into one only to end up displeased with it just doesn’t appeal to me. I often get discouraged when I go online and see other people’s work, knowing that I still have a long way before I would be able to create such stunning art.
But maybe it’s completely fine for me to suck at my hobby.
Maybe it’s okay that my stick figures aren’t proportional and it’s fine that I’m completely hopeless at drawing hands. Of course, it would be wonderful if I could be a professional at drawing. I think that one way or the other, everyone dreams about turning their hobbies and passions into a career.
However, a hobby is also supposed to be an activity I enjoy. It should be a reprieve from the routine of my everyday life, and not something that causes me apprehension. Pursuing a hobby should leave me content and recharged for upcoming life challenges. When I focus so much on being good at drawing, I forget the joy of it. I forget that I’m allowed to appreciate my hobby for the sake of doing it, instead of solely to master it.
A hobby is room for self-development through experimenting, both with new activities we’re excited to try or old routines that we’re familiar with. Self-development doesn’t come merely from mastering skills, but also from the feeling of contentment that rises as we engage with things that we love.
A study by Matthew Zawadski, a health psychologist at the University of California, found that hobbies have positive benefits for our physical and psychological health. Enjoyable hobbies can help us reduce stress, improve mood, and even maintain greater physical health. Since hobbies are indicative of our greater interest, we will also be more likely to stay away from activities connected to boredom and disengagement, such as smoking, that can create poor health behaviors. In the long term, regularly practicing a hobby can motivate us to integrate constructive habits into our lives.
These positive benefits emphasize the importance of enjoying our hobbies, because these benefits are born out of our delight. If we concentrate solely on being good at our hobbies without being happy about them, then our hobbies will only add stress to our lives. This is counterproductive when the main reason we pick up hobbies is to relax and develop interests that bring us joy.
It’s easy to stray away from a mindset which encourages us to be open to learning, while becoming too set on the notion that we have to instantly master everything we do. Sometimes, we just need to leave some room for ourselves to relax, be happy and understand that our hobbies can be the perfect opportunity for our growth. I often forget about this mindset, but I hope I will remember it more and that you will too.