What’s the difference between passion and obsession?
Are either entirely quantifiable?
As it’s National Mental Health Day, I thought this was the perfect moment to write about how blurry the line between the two can seem, and how it’s not always our fault when we can’t see it.
I have had many passions/obsessions in life, and I notice when old habits threaten to creep in and take over. For example, in my late teens and early twenties I was ‘passionate’ about food and losing weight. Even objectively, I can’t deny that this was an obsession that took over almost unnoticeably, until my life didn’t seem to be mine anymore and I couldn’t delve through the fog to remember who I was.
Sometimes, when we’re ‘passionate’ about something, we forget everything else. Nothing else seems to matter and we can push our relationships and other interests to the side. Even when we notice it’s a problem, it can seem like the obsession has settled in permanently as a part of our personality and we might never be able to shake it. But can we go back from obsession and just enjoy our passions in a healthy and grounded way?
Speaking from experience: yes we can.
Just two and a half years ago, I was 21 and battling a pretty serious fixation with calorie counting, my weight and the quantity I was eating. Now, I have a wonderfully healthy diet and take a great deal of joy from cooking and discovering new recipes. I’m incredibly grateful that I managed to keep one of my biggest interests whilst taming my unhealthy obsession.
We are all completely unique, and my path will be completely different from yours. However, the one unique lesson I can pass on to anyone dealing with any mental health issue is this:
Be kind with yourself.
When I look back to how I treated myself in the past I am horrified. I constantly put myself down and told myself I was terrible, hideous and unfixable. The key moment in my recovery was looking internally and giving myself a big, warm hug.
You’re doing fine. You’re human and you’re trying. You deserve love.
We are so often so hard on ourselves because we believe it pushes us to do better, be better, look better. The cold, hard truth is that it just doesn’t. It results in unrealistic expectations, impossible goals and fruitless self-punishment. When we treat ourselves like this, nothing is ever enough. More importantly, how can you give love and compassion to other people in your life if you don’t believe you’re deserving of it yourself?
When I was kinder with myself, my life opened up. I let people in, I appreciated their kindness and I reciprocated it because I could. I realised that other things were important too, and that they brought me so much more joy than control ever could. My obsession slipped slowly into the background, until it became secondary to my own sense of wellbeing and happiness.
Whatever you’re dealing with, show yourself some compassion. You really, really deserve it.