People often speak of being “passionate” about a career choice or an area of study. If someone asks what you are passionate about, it is not socially acceptable to say that you don’t know, and even worse to say that you are not passionate about anything.

Maybe it’s a matter of semantics. It seems that anything you remotely enjoy qualifies as passion. In order to convince employers to hire you, you might be compelled to say you are passionate about whatever is mentioned in the job description.

Sometimes, we might declare passion to one-up our peers or strangers by demonstrating that we are sufficiently consumed with an activity, as if that is somehow a superior quality that proves we are better human beings than they are, or at least just as good.

The abuse of the word “passion” suffers the same ailment as some other hyperbolic expressions. Just as “I’m dying” means you are mildly amused, and “this picture of Zac Efron topless will give you life” means you might feel some sexual attraction when looking at said photo. The expression doesn’t mean as much as it promises to.

From a personal point of view, in the strict sense of the word “passion,” I’m not too passionate about anything in particular. I enjoy a wide variety of things and activities, but not to the point that I want to do any of them exclusively or indefinitely for all of my waking life.

For instance, I enjoy programming because it helps me achieve a desired result, but that doesn’t mean I would like to spend hours poring over code for no particular reason, when I don’t need to solve a problem. I enjoy working in journalism because that is a field I have received training and work experience in. That doesn’t mean I am obsessed with chasing leads.

I enjoy creative writing because it offers therapy, and it pleases me when others like my writing. I don’t want to do that all day everyday, because I don’t have enough material to compete for readers.

The culture of insisting on declaring passion in one’s activities puts undue mental pressure on people who simply aren’t inclined to harbor that kind of obsession.

If you do have a passion for anything, as in you wouldn’t mind if you weren’t allowed to do anything else for the rest of your life, that’s very fortunate. If you don’t feel this way about anything, it should also be acceptable. Passion (other than sexual desire between your parents) is not required for any of us to exist, or to make a living. It is not required for anyone to function as a good and upstanding human being.

If you don’t feel something, why bother feigning it?