You don’t have to be good at your hobbies
I love my new bouldering gym. With its walls dotted in colourful holds, bathed in a soft light, it feels like a playground for grown-ups. Everyone there wants to do cool things to reach the top of the wall, with no purpose or reason other than to prove we can. The instant gratification upon completing a new route gives me a high that lasts for days — or until my next bouldering session. It’s become a welcome escape from the noisy streets of London above.
I’m a bit crap
Despite this joy, I am not very good at bouldering. I haven’t practised regularly in years. During my first few sessions, I rediscovered muscles that I had been lying low, hoping that I would not notice them and get them to do any work. I failed at the simplest of routes. After a few tries, I was cooked and just lay back on the thick mats, watching other climbers gracefully ascend, putting their bodies into seemingly unreachable positions, making metre-high jumps to grab onto far away holds, their lean, effective muscles clearly visible through their chalk-covered sportswear.
This would usually have been enough to dissuade me from going back. There is this widely shared misconception that you are supposed to be good at your hobbies. In our competitive, capitalist society, to justify having downtime, grown-ups are supposed to at least show that they are excelling at something. There is little room for playing, for exploring and learning. There is little room for doing things that we suck at, just because we enjoy doing them.
In defence of being bad
Yet that is the purest, most honest form of enjoyment. It is focused on the activity, rather than the results. It leads us to compete only with ourselves, to feel good about our own improvements and to stop comparing ourselves to people who are clearly fighting in a different weight class.
Women, in particular, are discouraged from being bad at things. Studies show that boys receive more praise for their efforts and attempts at an activity, while girls are praised for results, behavior, or inherent qualities like being pretty or smart. This leads girls to believe that our actions only have…