I grew up hearing “do what you love,” and since I heard it said in other households too, I assumed it was what all children heard growing up. Parents place their children in different extracurricular activities, hoping they develop a passion. With age, an extracurricular activity can become the center of the universe — and a potential career path — for a dedicated child. Expectations are inevitable, but perhaps some passions should simply stay a side activity for our own sake.
The experiences of young dancers show some of the disastrous impacts too much dedication to an activity can have. My friend started dancing at age 3 and loved it so much it became one of her personality traits. She spent upward of 10 hours every week in the studio, but it was never enough. Hyperfocused on the activity, she analyzed every minuscule comment from her teachers and scrutinized details about herself that she didn’t see in other dancers. Dancing in rooms full of mirrors, her expressive outlet eventually became her daily dose of feeling inadequate due to her inability to meet the expectations of the art or that she set for herself. Burned out and with poor mental health, she stopped dancing to heal herself from the art she loves.
The dance industry has a flawed foundation that emphasizes an ideal body type that’s tall, slim and flat-chested, so my friend is not the only dancer feeling distant from something she used to admire. I still dance but have had similar experiences that make it difficult to continue the art. I started my training in jazz and hip-hop when I was 8 and had a big dream to join the dance department at New Mexico School for the Arts.
That was me following my parent’s advice to pursue what I loved. I built my life around becoming a dancer, which I later learned was only a road to disappointment. When I started training in ballet four years later, I analyzed each movement with the automatic assumption I was doing something wrong. I constantly compared myself to my peers and realized that I would always feel like an imposter in a dance studio. I stopped pursuing my dream to attend art schools during high school and college.
The circumstances can change within the topic of interest. The concept behind “do what you love” is to spend life on genuine passions. In one way, that’s important because it leads to a healthier life that “lowers stress and contributes to greater happiness,” according to the New York Times. Leisure activities keep us from sleepwalking through life, which often happens in a 9-5 office job and takes a toll on mental health. However, to pursue a passion without placing pressure or expectations on it is difficult. As mentioned previously, expectations are inevitable, but they can take away the joy or pleasure of activities.
To maintain a passionate drive and avoid disappointment and disheartened minds, I hope parents stop pressuring the idea that what you love should be what you pursue. This way, children stop building their future around their passion and simply enjoy it at the moment. This way, they do not set such rigorous expectations for themselves at such a young age.