When you meet someone new, one of their first questions is usually, “So what do you do?” It’s a seemingly well-intentioned question, but we all know it really means, “So what do you do for work?” As if that’s the most notable thing about a person.
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Recently, I went to dinner with some friends I met through book club, and one of them shared something that really stuck with me. She said we’re so often defined by what we do for work that we need something else to focus on that’s just for us. Something fun that we don’t get paid to do and that allows us to feel confident in ourselves.
That’s why we all joined our book club in the first place. We wanted an escape from our hectic days that could reduce stress, help us connect with new people, and most importantly, grant us permission to read as many books as we wanted without judgment. This is what a hobby is for—to help us center ourselves and find pockets of joy in our overcrowded lives.
The Importance of Hobbies Outside of Work
The average person spends about one-third of their life at work. (It’s also said that we spend about one-third of our life sleeping, but that part I’m definitely OK with.) With so much time spent working, it’s no surprise that our sense of self is muddled by our careers. Don’t get me wrong! Our jobs are really important, but they shouldn’t make up our entire identities. Spending our time outside of work on activities that fill our mental cups with positivity can help remind us who we really are.
We’re so often defined by what we do for work that we need something else to focus on that’s just for us.
Why Your Job Shouldn’t Define You
When I first moved to a big city for work, I was determined to be the very best at my job. I threw myself into my career—I arrived early, worked through lunch, stayed late, and absolutely never worked from home. I spent my weekdays at my desk, and on the weekend, I attempted to have a social life while prioritizing other responsibilities.
Since I spent most of my time at the office, I basically only hung out with coworkers. I took projects home with me, giving them space in my head long after I left for the day. That left much less time to spend on the things I once loved. I neglected my blog, let my bookshelf get dusty, and watched as my camera slowly turned into very expensive decor.
After a few months of letting my job rule my life, I realized I felt so disconnected from myself. What was I supposed to tell people who wanted to get to know me beyond what I did for a living? Who was I at my core? I knew I needed something to help me get back to being myself and stop letting my career define my identity. Luckily, I stumbled across my book club shortly after. This new hobby rekindled my love for reading, helped me learn more about myself, and helped me regain my confidence.
How Hobbies Affect Your Sense of Self
Your sense of self is a deep understanding of your likes, dislikes, morals, passions, talents, and, ultimately, how you view yourself. To develop that, you need to try new things, learn new skills, and meet new people. That’s why having a hobby can have such an impact on who you are as an adult.
Many life experiences shape who we are, but hobbies are something we choose to do rather than something we are forced or expected to do. It’s important to reflect on how new activities make you feel. Are these experiences recharging you, or are they draining you?
How to Find a New Hobby
Don’t be afraid to try out a few things before you find the one that brings out the best in you. Search websites like Facebook or Meetup to join a club or team. Or try out a hobby you can do at home, like cooking, painting, or needlework.
The beautiful thing about hobbies is that you don’t need to prove anything or meet anyone else’s expectations. There’s no judgment, no (major) obligations, and the journey is personal to you. You can practice yoga, join a sports team, learn a new instrument, or become a plant parent. Whatever it may be, the only criteria is that it should help you feel whole and, ultimately, like the best, most authentic you.