Perfectionism in Hobbies

Why perfectionism stops us from creating new habits and why you don’t have to be good at your hobbies

We have all started a new habit or hobby that we then abandoned one week later because it did not go as we imagined it would go. Three days into meditating every morning, you overslept and it ruined your streak. Three days in and you already cannot keep up with the aesthetically pleasing influencer. Besides that, you do not have a pretty meditation corner by a big sunny window as she does. You enjoyed the meditation but decide it is not for you to be committed to such a habit like this. 

The perfect idea of how our new habit will go is pretty much never how it actually goes. There will be times when you skip a day due to sickness, tiredness, or being busy. Or you just simply forget because your new habit is not settled in your (daily) routine yet. Your new hobby might not instantly improve your quality of life as you imagined and everything does not go as smoothly. When this happens things get derailed, because the reality does not match the perfect idea of how this habit would go. Our excitement and optimistic thinking turns into disappointment. The idea that we should be super consistent and perfect in our habit attempts is one of the main obstacles to forming habits. Our hopeful idea of how it will go, and then our disappointment and frustration with ourselves when it doesn't go that way.

It is no problem to miss a couple of days or for the habit to turn out a little different than you imagined it would. You can just pick it up where you left it the next day. The problem is the perfect image you have made in your head about it and the expectations. It can be really fun to imagine what your life will look like when you have implemented the new habit and you can still do this if you do it right. You should not get mad at yourself when it does not go as planned. Most people overestimate what can be done in a week and they underestimate what can be done in one year. Next time when your new habit did not go as you expected it would go, ask yourself, why did it not go as planned and what would it be like to start again tomorrow, fresh. What if we simply said, "Let me try to bring a daily ritual of doing X into my life, and be curious about what it will be like"? 

Same with starting a new hobby. You don't have to be perfect or even good at your hobby for it to be a valuable hobby. Not when you just started and not when you have been doing it for a long time. We live in an era where everyone seems to be converting their hobby into a side hustle and where everything seems to have to be productive. If you can make money out of your hobby then good for you, but this does not mean people that practice their hobby just for fun are not worth doing their hobby or are not doing it correctly. Hobbies are meant for fun and relaxation. 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, which can create poor health behaviours.

These positive benefits emphasise the importance of enjoying our hobbies because these benefits are born out of us having fun. 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.

Also, when you become good at a hobby, it's easier to feel guilty about the time and money you spend on it, but fight that urge. You probably do enough productive things in a day, so let this hobby be there for relaxation and clearing your head. When you are doing something for yourself and fun, it is easier to be present and to enjoy it. No one expects anything from you, including yourself, you are free to make mistakes.

For me, my hobbies are there to escape from reality and to recharge myself by being creative or active. I don't want to worry about how well I'm doing my hobby, as that's not the point of it. My hobby helps me relax and feel good, and I don't need it to be a source of pride. I still struggle with perfectionism while practising my hobby sometimes, but being conscious and aware of this is already a step in the right direction. What also helps for me is to decide, when I start practising one of my hobbies, if I will do it to create something 'perfect' and neat or if I am just messing around, doing it for fun and to try new things. If I am drawing something to become "perfect" I tend to stick to things I have already drawn before, because I am simply better at drawing them due to practice. But if I am in play mode, and allowed to make mistakes, I feel free to try new things.

Next time you are practising your hobby, don't limit yourself to only doing things that live up to your expectations. Let yourself be free to make mistakes and let your creativity flow.