Recently on social media I have seen a huge focus on the importance of finding and doing something that you love — whether it be a sport, activity or job — and incorporating it into your life on a daily basis.
Whilst I do agree that it’s necessary to find and do the things you love, I think it’s essential to address the harmful possibility of passions developing into obsessions, which I feel can be the root of numerous mental health issues and unhealthy habits.
To contextualise this a bit for you, I want to relay my personal experience with falling victim to an obsession, which in my case was running, and the detrimental effects it had on my life.
Let’s take it back four years ago; I was only 12 at the time, and after completing my entrance exams for my next school, I had gained a bit of weight and lost the majority of my fitness. With no exams or work to worry about, I decided to get back on track with my running and began training a few times a week.
At first, I developed a passion for the feeling of elation I would gain after completing a challenging run or training session, and that sense of achievement after each workout fuelled my passion a little bit more, until I was completely and utterly hooked. Running became my life, and everything else was just background noise. I distanced myself slightly from my friends and family as my mind, body and soul was engrossed in running, improvement and my ultimate goal for success. Both my friends and family noticed a change in me, but I would simply brush off their concern and confuse it for nosy interference. When I broke up from school for the summer holidays, the obsession expanded its reach and encompassed all forms of exercise at my disposal: swimming, running, working out… anything that would give me that adrenaline and dopamine hit. As my passion transitioned into an obsession which was spiralling out of my control, I developed an eating disorder and depression. This passion — which had originally been a harmless activity for stress-relief, enjoyment and fitness — had morphed into a dangerous addiction that compromised my health, happiness and ultimately, my life.
“Running became my life, and everything else was just background noise.”
Now, I realise that this all seems very serious and dismal, and I promise that I don’t intend to put you off pursuing your passions, but I do want to highlight the fine line between passion and obsession, as I don’t feel there is enough awareness around the topic.
Having passions, dreams and ambitions are excellent, if not essential, to ensure your success and, more importantly, your happiness. The prospect of returning to running in a safe, sustainable way is actually what stimulated my recovery from my eating disorder, and now that I practise it as a passion, I am a much healthier, happier version of myself. I’m only human and by no means perfect, so sometimes I do stray into the grey-area between passion and obsession, but being aware of the dangers associated with obsession, I make sure to remind myself regularly that the reason I run (or engage in any hobby) is because I love it, and not because I feel obliged to do it.
The message I want to leave you with is this: not everyone will find themselves in the same predicament as I did, where passion evolves into obsession, because everyone is unique and no two struggles will be the same. Just make sure that in your race to progress in whatever your passion might be, you don’t lose sight of the original enjoyment that motivated you to start in the first place.
“Not all passions become obsessions, but all obsessions stem from passions”
Try to focus on several activities that you enjoy and incorporate all of them into your life rather than narrowing yourself down to one single passion, as this is when you become in danger of developing an obsessive approach. Not all passions become obsessions, but all obsessions stem from passions, so it is incredibly important to be aware of this risk both for yourself and also for those around you. If you spot an obsession in either yourself or a friend, just make sure you either seek or provide the support necessary to restore your (or their) love for that hobby. A happy mind will very often correlate with a healthy mind, which are your two greatest tools for success.
Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you found this article useful, or if you have any issues concerning something I wrote. I’m only human and therefore I’m not perfect or immune to making mistakes, so if you have any feedback or thoughts on this topic I would absolutely love to hear them!