The “Do what you love” mantra is bullshit
Before finding my way to Fuckup Nights, I spent 4 months desperately looking for a job. It got to a point where I thought “whatever I can find is ok” and accepted some interviews in companies I didn’t see myself working at.
Many of those interviews were in those typical co-working offices where you are bombarded with positive messages in elegant fonts and bright colors, like:
Do what you love <3
It always seemed ironic to me the contrast between that message and the dozens of stressed-out people who were waiting for the elevator.
It’s the same thing on Instagram and those stock images libraries. It won’t take long for you to find a nice photo or post that says “Do what you love”. And you know, all those other #Ilovemyjob, #Blessed, or #FollowYourPassion hashtags. And it sounds simple, right? Do what you love and you will be happy, do what you love and the rest will follow.
And I didn’t realize what this mantra meant to me until it started to mess with my mental health. Am I doing what I love? What if I don’t? What do I love anyways?
After a while, I understood my problem with this mantra: It’s not for everyone.
There are many exciting stories about people who quit their jobs, told their boss to hell with them and followed their passion. The rest is an inspiring story of success, fame, and money. If you follow your passion, everything will align in your favor, that’s the promise.
We’ve previously talked about the ladder of privilege and the lottery that implies being born in some countries and certain social contexts. The mantra of “Do what you love” applies only to some people because it comes from a perspective of privileges and opportunities.
Okay, I’ll do what I love, but who will pay my rent? Who will feed my family? Who will pay my bills? “Do what you love” if you have a family inheritance, your parents’ house to return if things don’t work out, a relative in the government to give you a temporary job. “Do what you love” if you have connections inside an industry, if you received quality education or have studied abroad. Following that mantra is not a possibility for many people.
It is necessary to recognize our privileges, the ones we have and the ones we don’t, and to be aware that sometimes we take some for granted. We shouldn’t be ashamed of having privileges. We should be thankful, aware of them, and willing to share them as much as possible to help others climb the ladder of privilege.
And even having privileges in our favor, sometimes mental health can play against us. In a world where you constantly have to show that you are worthy, that you are unique and special, it is normal to get worn out and go through bouts of zero enthusiasm and willingness. Having a healthy mind is a privilege and when you can’t afford it, there’s also a heavy culture of shaming around it.
Saying “do what you love” is like saying “don’t be sad ” to a patient with chronic depression.
Capitalism and the culture of shaming
When doing some research about this particular mantra, I came across an internet speech from a famous entrepreneur and CEO where he said:
“Your life is too precious and valuable to spend it doing something you don’t enjoy. Every minute of it should be spent doing things that you love and care about, and that makes you happy. “
Because it’s so rude of us to just work to earn money and survive. That is not enough. In addition, you must love it, it should inject you with a daily dose of passion, because “if you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a single day of your life.” Right?
The problem with the “Do what you love” mantra is the shaming that it carries below the surface. Low key, if you don’t do what you love, you are a poor bastard, you are selling your time and soul to an evil capitalist corporation, you are being taken advantage of and you should be ashamed for not pursuing your dreams. Similar to that kind of shaming on social media about not being able to take a shower in less than 10 minutes while a huge multinational company dries entire springs in the blink of an eye. We are not looking at our privileges, we are ignoring the big picture: why are there people not doing what they love?
And if all of this wasn’t bad enough, there’s also the:
Do what you love, money will follow $
Welcome to capitalism, make yourself comfortable. Because everything must be monetized, even the love and passion for what we do.
But what if the things I love to do are underpaid or need a lot of investment to perfect them? What if I suck at what I love to do and no one wants to buy it? “Do what you love” because you love it, not because it will generate money and you expect to make a living from it. “Do what you love” because it fills you up, makes you happy, and it’s an escape from reality.
Doing what you love goes beyond the economic advantages it can give you. Doing what we love is being in touch with our true selves, our human side, and the ability to feel useful and fulfilled in our own way.
Making money from it is an extra (a very good one, not gonna lie), but we must get rid of that fake promise that it will provide us goods, and recognize that at least it will give us happiness and that it is as important as money.
And I get it, the “Do what you love” comes from a positive place, it inspires us to improve. But there’s something they don’t tell you and I’d like to because I would’ve loved to hear it before:
Do what you love. When you can, as you can. No hurries, at your own pace.
Find your own definition of happiness and success. You don’t need to quit your job to start that hyper-romanticized success story. Here are some things that I think can help you do what you love, without getting into that imposed rat race:
- Take advantage of what’s available: You may not have had specialized training in what you would like to do, but perhaps you have other skills that bring you closer to that. Skills that are not generally obtained from educational institutions such as the ability to negotiate, adapt to environments, resilience, etc. What they call the “street smart” Where are you standing? You can develop new goals and dreams within that context.
- Find a balance: No, you don’t have to quit your job to pursue your goals. Try to find spaces to practice, learn something new or let yourself go. Ask for a vacation to spend some time doing what you love, save some money to finance something related to what you love. Don’t hate the job that helps you survive, you may not be able to quit to start a singing career, but you can quit to find something similar with a little more flexibility or a better salary.
- Don’t rush: Social networks are immediate, and they might pressure you to post everything, every step you take, what you do to move forward and enter the circle of those who are winning in life. Take your time. In this fast-paced world, it seems as every day lost is an inch deeper a hole. It’s okay to take some time. Doing nothing and thinking about what you really want to do is extremely valuable and contributes to your self-knowledge.
- Recognize your privileges and help others: Within your few or no privileges there might be an advantage that others don’t have. Acknowledging your privileges can be a great gratitude exercise, and sharing them can balance the opportunities for everyone. Do you know someone with lacking opportunities that you can recommend? At the end of the day, helping others creates a network of people who support each other and fight against systemic inequality.
It’s not my intention to turn this blog into an ode to conformity. Because it DOES matter to do what we love, it DOES matter to make an effort and it doesn’t mean that because we lack privileges, our dreams are canceled and we should feel sorry for ourselves.
It simply means that going after them will take some extra work. And although the hard work culture and meritocracy are issues that we should address, there are ways to swim upstream, in your own style, and ignoring a superficial Instagram post that demands us to “Do what you love”.
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