Photo by Fernando Farfan
I think everyone has a moment of crisis about their self-worth at one point in their life. Maybe you have many, or maybe you haven’t had yours yet, but I believe that it’s part of being human to question things. Questioning one’s self is just one of the glories of being sentient. (Yay?)
I’ll try to keep this as related to cosplay in general, though some existential theory might pop in thanks to my high school Philosophy class… funny how I remember the class I was meh about and forgot so much of chemistry that I really enjoyed. ;-;
ANYWAYS. Last night while I was struggling to sleep, I had one of Those Moments.
Why do I cosplay?
Why do I blog about it?
Am I good enough to even blog about it?
Does anyone even enjoy reading about it?
What do I even contribute?
[insert generic body-conscious thoughts here]
I’m going to just get this out of the way before I go forward: It’s okay to think about this. It’s okay to have self-doubt because that’s part of being human, and especially a woman in our current society. As a woman, I’m told to Lean In, but also not be too proud of what I do or I’ll be full of myself. There’s so many conflicting messages out there that it’s no surprise that Imposter Syndrome is so prevalent these days. Maybe it’s always been a thing, but we just have a word for it, but it seems that so many of my peers face it daily.
Imposter Syndrome: a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. [Wikipedia]
It’s so easy to get stuck in the questioning part of self-reflection and forget about the more positive aspects that I thought I’d talk a bit about how I manage to not go (more) crazy over them. As with anything I’m speaking from my own experience, and yours may be completely different, but it’s still valid.
On top of all this, I’m reaching a milestone birthday soon (30) that I honestly never really believed I’d get to due to health reasons. It’s still hard to believe that I’ll see 2017 as a 30 year old, and standing on the edge of one life where I tried to cram in ALL THE LIFE EXPERIENCES and the empty and possibilities of post-30 life… looking back at where I am and where I thought I’d be is something I’ve found myself doing more and more.
Why do I blog about Cosplay? Am I even GOOD enough to blog about it?
A friend, in the middle of a rather… heated… discussion, told me recently that I do things that she thinks are wrong in my costumes, but that she doesn’t point it out. Unpacking this statement and removing the intent behind it, (because that won’t help anyone), this stuck in my head much longer than it should have.
Intellectually, yes. I know I do things incorrectly. I’m still learning when it comes to cosplay. Everyone’s still learning, no matter how long we’ve been at this. If you stop learning, you become stagnant. And as I’ve said before, stagnation breeds mosquitoes and cholera. Some people will be a waterfall of learning, while others will be a lazy river.
But the stupid reptile part of my brain held onto those words the way gollum holds onto the One Ring. Yesss my precioussss, it whispers. You are not good enough to talk about thissss, it whispers. And just like Gollum, when you kick it into the mud, or stomp on it, it just waits and comes back, muttering to itself. Stupid reptilian brain.
AM I good enough to blog about cosplay and sewing the way I do? I don’t know, to be honest. I enjoy writing, especially about things that I enjoy doing. I like analysing trends within the cosplay community and culture, and I like trying new things. I started the blog long before I was ‘good’ at cosplay, and I most posts that I write for it are based on topics that I would write about whether I had two readers or two hundred. (The reality is closer to like, 50 regular readers? I think?)
I blog for myself, and now for the readers that have reached out to say that they look forward to my posts or that a post I’ve written has helped them.
But at midnight, trying to sleep after a bout with the flu, intellectual thoughts often lose out to Gollum-thoughts and can turn into a spiral of doubt.
Why DO I cosplay? Am I bad at it? Does that even matter?
I’m not 5’4″. I’m not my goal weight. I’m not my goal level of fitness. I can’t wear heels for long periods of time, and I don’t have a large cup size. I don’t have a cosplay-friendly face, meaning that the number of characters I can actually look like is… uh. Miranda Lawson? Maybe.
But cosplay, as I’m happy to tell other people, isn’t about how you look, or a popularity contest. It’s about enjoying costumes and making them. Do I enjoy dressing up? Yes. I do. Do I enjoy making the costumes? Yes, I do. So why then, do I feel like I’m not a good cosplayer?
Hmm. Says Gollum brain. Wait, I can think of a reason… or two. Just give me five minutes. Gollum brain is an asshole, so normally I just ignore it.
Maybe my definition of being ‘good’ at cosplay is different than someone else’s. That’s okay. I might be bad at one person’s definition if that means facebook likes, popularity and guesting at cons. That’s okay. If I’m good at my definition, it makes it easier to tell Gollum to shut the hell up.
I make and wear costumes. Yeah, I do that. Cool. Shut the hell up, Gollum-brain.
The 50/50 Rule
When it comes to relationships, my family aside, I usually use a 50/50 rule to evaluate if they’re good for me, or if they’re not. (Note: marriage, children, a house, etc all mitigate this rule because y’know, commitment on a larger scale. But since I have none of these, I’m pretty free to use the rule)
- Does this make me happy/feel good for 50% or more of the time?
- Yes? Good! there’s issues but they’re worth working on, or giving time to address.
- Cosplay: I enjoy cosplay for about 75% of the time at worst, and 90% for most of the time. It’s worth doing, despite what Gollum brain says.
- Blogging: I enjoy blogging for about 80% of the time, and take breaks when I need to for health/life reasons. It’s worth doing until the day I feel that there’s not much left to talk about on the blog.
- Does my enjoyment of something fall under 50%?
- If yes, I sit down and seriously evaluate how much it means to me. Some things are worth keeping, and some aren’t.
Example 1: I don’t enjoy my job, but I enjoy being able to eat and have a heated shelter. I enjoy the financial comfort that allows me to do things I love, like cosplay. So, my job is worth keeping.
Example 2: Pole Fitness was fun to do 40% of the time, but the other 60% was physically painful beyond bruises and muscle aches. Over time the ratio changed from 40/60 to 30/70 and damage to my joints became more apparent. This isnt’ because of the pole fitness, btw, just my shitty-shitty hyperextendible joints in my wrists and hands. As much as I LOVED dance and being fit, I had to give it up for good or risk doing serious damage to myself.
So. What do I end up with?
Gollum-brain isn’t going anywhere. But cranking up the positive vibes and thoughts helps to drown him out. He’ll keep coming back, and I can’t ever stop him. But, I can mitigate how much he affects my life.
It helps, I think, knowing that I’m not the only one who deals with these self-worth crises and imposter syndrome. My cosplay-senpais do. My writing-senpais do. Even the people that seem to have their lives together deal with the questions of ‘am I good enough’ and ‘what if I’m not?’ It’s part of being human. Not a great part, but it’s still part.
So some days I sit and stare at the pile of foam pieces that will become armor thinking ‘what did I do? I’ll never make this work. I shouldn’t have bothered’ while other days I’ll stare down a corset and tell myself ‘I got this’.
Those days I can literally climb mountains in a corset. Photo by Lichon Photography
Um. This turned out to be more self-reflexive than I’d first meant it to, but I hope that it helps anyone who bothers to read it. You’re not alone, even if it feels that way sometimes. That’s a third and final reason I write blogs about things like this. It wasn’t until I started talking about dealing with my depression that I learned it was chronic in my family. It wasn’t until my friend admitted that she was dealing with depression that I had a name to put to the grey fog I’d been living in for years. Sometimes knowing that you’re not alone is enough to help. Sometimes it’s enough to help get on a path of progress towards a healthier life.
It’s amazing how cold, hard, logic can help shut gollum-brains up. I also recommend cat purrs and a hot cup of tea.
Hope everyone has a wonderful week,