My roommate and I were recently talking about a feeling we have both experienced where, when talking about hobbies with other people, we both feel a sudden flash of jealousy, slight anger and the need to somehow prove that we like that hobby more than anyone else.
This feeling, however, doesn’t ever happen with friends. My roommate and I have bonded over our shared love for art and writing. We both want to learn how to do things like knit, crochet and embroider things. She wants to learn how to play tennis, and I know how and am absolutely willing to teach her.
And yet, if anyone else that I didn’t know as well expressed interest in these hobbies and skills of mine, I would feel almost defensive of them and want to start gatekeeping. Although this feeling is hard to understand fully without simply just experiencing it yourself, I can offer a bit of an explanation for why I feel that it happens.
Personally, I take a lot of pride in my hobbies, skills and whatever various talents I may possess, even if I haven’t touched them in months. Sometimes, seeing other people actively participating and advancing in these skills makes me feel like I’m lying to myself or that I’m just not good enough.
This feeling of inadequacy isn’t typically present when I am with my friends. One of my skills that I value the most is writing. When I am with my friends, I typically know that I am the only “serious” writer in the space. Meaning, I am the only person in the circle who wants to take on writing as a career.
Unless, of course, I am with my writing friends. Because we bonded over writing, the feeling cancels out. But, really, that’s besides the point.
While my friends and I share a common interest, I know that when I am with them, my place as the group writer is secure.
When I meet people outside of my group, that place is no longer secure. Any person I meet could be infinitely better than me and my skills are therefore overshadowed.
Obviously, that’s a really odd thing to feel. Anyone you meet could be better, worse or equal in their skills as you.
It is the same thing in my creative writing classes. I know that any English major in the room is most likely at the same level as I am. We all enjoy writing, even though the genre may vary, and we all want to take writing further than just a hobby.
Then, in those same classes, there will be a STEM major, and all of a sudden that need to gatekeep comes rushing back. It doesn’t make much sense, I know. That STEM major obviously has some interest in writing or else they wouldn’t have chosen to take that particular class.
I will say that I 100% think that gatekeeping any common skill is wrong. There’s no right or wrong way to end up in a hobby, and hobbies are made to build communities and to have fun.
Still, I think that the need to hoard your skills comes from a want to feel special, which I really don’t is inherently wrong. I think it’s completely normal to want to guard the things that you love.
If you’ve ever felt this way before, you should know that you definitely shouldn’t gatekeep any talent or hoard all the craft supplies from Michael’s. You can, however, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone in this feel of despair. We’re all just trying to hold onto any shred of serotonin that we can find. Yes, even those people you think should leave “your” skills alone.