Here’s my idea of a serious thrill on a Friday night: starting a brand-new book. It’s not an idea I’m proud of sharing, but why? There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert.
It can be hard for me to turn down invitations for wild nights out even when all I really want is a quiet night in. I can remember too many times where I’ve tried to “push through” my desire to stay in.
I’d be out at a club, hating that the music was too loud so I couldn’t talk to my friends, hating to have to push through a crowd of people anytime I wanted to walk somewhere.
One Saturday night in college, I finally hit a wall. I was getting ready for a party (you know, the only activity college kids do on their weekends unless it’s finals) and I felt my inner voice telling me to stay home, reminding me that I wasn’t in the mood to be surrounded by people or making small talk.
For once, I listened to this voice.
Even though I was fully dressed, I took off a full face of makeup, changed my clothes, and snuggled into bed. It was a start.
It took me a few more times of making the effort (in the moment) to do what made me the happiest before I realized I was really benefiting myself. People might think the way I choose to spend my time is boring — but when it comes to spending my time, what matters most is how I feel.
Stop basing your happiness on other people’s values
Sometimes it feels like I’m surrounded by people who are into different things than I am. It can make it difficult to stay true to the things I want to do. I’ll start to question everything about myself: Am I weird? Am I not cool?
Why does it matter so much that the thing that's making me happy has to be approved by someone else?
Now, I think it’s funny when my Snapchat story is a selfie of my head on my pillow with the caption “Friday night turn up!” But it took me awhile to truly embrace #JOMO — joy of missing out.
Everyone gets to have their own idea of what qualifies as boring, but you know what? Boring isn’t synonymous for negative.
There’s a club called Dull Man’s Club that’s all about “celebrating the ordinary.” It has a membership of more than 5,000 men and women. Want to photograph mailboxes? Visit all the train stations in the United Kingdom? Keep a diary of mowing your lawn? Not only will you be in good company with this club, you’ll probably find someone who loves what you’re doing, too.
Identify what’s just noise going into the void
When I first got a Facebook account at 18, I felt like I had to document every minute of my life so that my friends were aware that I was an interesting person. I also spent a lot of time comparing myself to the online personas other people were presenting.
Eventually, I couldn’t ignore the fact that these comparisons of my everyday life to what I saw online were causing me to feel pretty down on myself.
Daniela Tempesta, a San Francisco-based counselor, says this is a common feeling caused by social media. In reality, there were many times that what my “friends” were doing didn’t even actually look fun to me, but I was using them as a measuring stick (as Tempesta calls it) to how I felt my life should be going.
I’ve since deleted the Facebook app on my phone. The absence of the app helped me cut down my time on social media significantly. It took a few more weeks to break myself of the habit of trying to open the nonexistent Facebook app every time I unlocked my phone, but by swapping an app that gave me bus times into the place where Facebook used to live, I found myself trying to go on Facebook less and less.
Sometimes, new sites and apps will pop up. Instagram has resurfaced as Facebook 2.0, and I do find myself comparing myself to what I see other people posting.
This really hit home when former Instagram star Essena O’Neill hit the news. O’Neill used to get paid to promote companies through her picturesque Instagram photos. She suddenly deleted her posts and quit social media, saying she began to feel “consumed” by social media and faking her life.
She famously edited her captions to include details about how staged all of her photos were and how empty she often felt even though her life looked perfect on Instagram.
Her Instagram has since been hacked and her pictures have since been deleted and removed. But the echoes of her message still ring true.
Whenever I find myself comparing again, I remind myself this: If I’m trying to only provide my internet friends with a highlights reel of my life and not documenting the humdrum or negative things that can happen to me, chances are, that’s what they’re doing, too.
There’s a reason you love the things you love
At the end of the day, your personal happiness is the only reason you need to do a thing. Does your hobby keep you happy? Then keep doing it!
Learning a new skill? Don't worry about the final product just yet. Record your progress, focus on how it brings you joy, and look back when time has passed.
I spent a lot of time that I could’ve used practicing calligraphy wishing I had the craft or skill. I felt intimidated by the artists in the videos I’d watch. I was so focused on being as good as they were that I wouldn’t even try. But the only thing that was stopping me was myself.
I eventually bought myself a very basic calligraphy starter kit. I’d fill up a page in my notebook with one letter written over and over again. It was undeniable that as I kept practicing the same stroke, I started to get a little bit better. Even in the few short weeks I’ve been practicing, I’m already seeing improvement from when I started.
Carving out a little bit of time each day to work on a thing you love can pay out in some unexpected ways. Just look at this artist who practiced painting in MS Paint during slow hours at work. He’s now illustrated his own novel. In fact, there’s a whole community of artists who’ve turned their hobbies into an “encore career” — a lifelong hobby that’s become a second career.
I’m not holding my breath, but at 67, my calligraphy could take off.
Remember the positive things
And for the times when you don’t feel confident, not even to pick up your favorite knitting kit or puzzle … well, it’s normal. On those days, Tempesta recommends redirecting your brain toward more positive things. One way to do that is to write down at least three things that make you feel really proud about yourself.
Personally, I remind myself that I enjoy making and eating dinner with my boyfriend, having meaningful conversations with my friends, reading a book, and spending time with my two cats.
And when I look back, I know that as long as I make time for those things, I’ll be alright.
Emily Gadd is a writer and editor who lives in San Francisco. She spends her spare time listening to music, watching movies, wasting her life on the internet, and going to concerts.