The Facade of Perfection

I distinctly remember my first ever tennis class: A bright-eyed 12-year-old walking onto the court with a novice Prince racquet, excited to learn something new, to make friends. Imagine her dismay at being met with the sight of every kid in a corner, with their guardian, minding their own business. All robotically going about the class - so young and already being pushed to strive for perfection. 

Growing up, I often came across the infamous question, “What are your hobbies?”. It used to scare me, for I gave up so many things I enjoyed because they started stressing me out. Which is highly ironic, because hobbies are supposed to help one destress. Unknowingly, I also became a participant in this rat-race of trying to be good at everything. I set my expectations to excel wherever I went because the competition followed me everywhere. And when these weren’t met, I either freaked out or gave up something I actually liked.

Such is the case with most of us. What’s important to realize is that the activities we take up are meant to provide an escape from the worries of the world, not add to them. However, the latter often snowballs into a heavy source of tension and takes away from your life than adding to it. 

Urban lifestyles, especially, border on the toxic necessity to mechanize everything. This pattern is evident in the parents of children as young as two to three years old pushing them into an activity they know nothing about. They’re conditioned to live up to certain standards set for them at an age they can barely comprehend what’s happening around them. Many urban households do this in order to keep their child busy, and also live out their unfulfilled dreams through their offspring. This mental conditioning inhibits the ability of children to freely explore themselves. Forcing competitive behavior at such a young age often makes one feel socially alienated as they grow up. 

As I became a high school student, I completely forgot what hobbies really were. I only now realize how important those little activities were for me, and the pandemic has helped me rediscover them. It has also made me realize how crucial it is to be able to pick up a craft without feeling the need to perfect it. The constant need to be productive at all times is a highly toxic trend, especially in urban areas. Relaxing or leisure time is rare, and more often than not, accompanied by the guilt of not ‘doing anything.’ 

As children who are avid readers grow older, they feel the pressure of constantly reading, and also remembering facts about the books. If you’re a fan of a band, you’re expected to know everything about every move of every member. You’re told to strive for perfection for everything you do so that the awards and certificates that come out of it can go onto your CV. Hobbies slowly turn into gateways to college, and those hobbies usually leave the child a few months into college. Children are expected to capitalize on the few things that they enjoy outside of school and academics, and that is neither healthy for them, or their peers. 

What’s important for us to realize is that we need something to turn to in times of stress. Especially these days, when we’re all living in these extraordinary times. Instead of coming together, many of us feel like we have been pitted against each other in a productivity contest. This is where we question ourselves as to why this ‘hustle’ culture has taken over our lives in ways that are so detrimental to our mental well-being.

At last, let's drop this facade of perfection; let’s bring back the art of just being. Of just picking up something pointless because we want to. Of not expecting it to yield us accolades or validation. Of doing something for ourselves, because it makes us happy.