I am creating again, and it feels really effing good. You may never read the book I’m writing, and there is a very real chance that I won’t finish it, but I enjoy writing it. I will never release the songs I write. Any paintings or drawings I make may hang in my home, but you won’t ever see prints of them available on Etsy.
I do these things for myself and sometimes for people close to me. Sure, I have this blog and a book, but the vast majority of the creative pursuits I engage in are for me. Being creative helps me feel good about myself. It validates me, and helps me to maintain my (hopefully) accurate and healthy level of self-esteem.
That’s what hobbies are supposed to do – make us feel happy and fulfilled.
When I am playing guitar and the riff is right and the tone is exactly what I want it to be, I feel a certain sense of peace. If I write a particularly good bit of description, or dialogue that doesn’t make me cringe, I feel like a writer. If I like one of my doodles enough that I hang it up, or give it away as a gift, I feel like I’ve created something worthwhile, and that, in turn, makes me feel worthwhile.
If I were of the mindset that I needed gobs of external validation to maintain my self-worth, my hobbies may actually have the potential to harm my self-esteem. For instance, I’m an okay guitar player, but I can’t really write songs. It’s also worth noting that I don’t have to bother playing in time since I only play for enjoyment, which is much more noticeable in a recording. Releasing my songs to the rabid masses on the internet would open me up to all sorts of criticism and indiscriminate hatred. Obviously, this wouldn’t feel so good.
Similarly, if I choose to release a story I’m writing for fun, or posted pictures of the rare scribble I finish, the door swings wide and anyone in the world can tell me how awful it is. And, from what I’ve learned about the internet, everyone would do so, with vicious accuracy. Again, not the greatest thing for my self-esteem.
Fortunately for me, I choose not to use my creative endeavors to seek out external validation. I do these things for myself, and that is enough. The act of creating validates me. I don’t need the approval of others to accomplish this.
Maybe you also like to write, draw, paint, play music, or something else creative. Perhaps you garden. Or cook. Or build cars. Or take pictures, make macaroni art, build model trains, build furniture, or knit scarves. Whatever it is you do, hopefully you are doing this for yourself instead of others.
Our hobbies are supposed to be an outlet – a way to reduce our stress. Because our culture has bought into the ideals of the Self-Esteem Movement, we have been conditioned to seek out validation by any means necessary. Instead of engaging in hobbies for our own enjoyment, we may feel compelled to use them in a way to generate external praise.
We would all do well to engage in something for ourselves every now and again. Not only is this good self-care, but it also helps us to remember what it’s like to feel good about ourselves regardless of the opinions of others. It doesn’t really matter if we can’t color inside the lines, or play out of tune while singing out of key – it matters that we are doing something that we enjoy and that we are validating ourselves.
I’m going to stop writing this now and probably go write something that no one will ever see.