I’m a bit of a closet introvert. In my own little element, I thrive — I’m enthusiastic, informative, and energetic. I like to discuss, debate, share, and absorb knowledge on all geekdom. Outside of that box, I am polite smiles and pleasantries, but still reserved and, secretly, mildly uncomfortable. While I can brazenly claim aloud to others that I am what I am and the world must learn to deal with it, my self-esteem is in fact low and struggling to find the little sunshine it needs to nurture into more. My words do not match my feelings.
This has, unfortunately, left me much a closet-geek in my younger years. Anyone who knows me from that time will be shocked to hear me say that. “You?!” I hear them exclaim in disbelief. “You were a closet geek?!” Yes, dear friends. Even with my novelty t-shirts and my vocal appreciation of games and anime within my friend circle, I still very much hid my enthusiasm around others. My classmates knew I liked to draw cartoons — they didn’t know I drew anime. They knew I liked computers and technology — they didn’t know that also (see: mostly) meant games. I expressed myself enough to be vaguely labelled, but not enough for anyone to point out anything more specific. Even amongst friends, I tried to rein in my enthusiasm. I had so much more to give, and I shared it with barely anyone.
The closest thing I’ve ever done to cosplay is dressing in a Renaissance Sorceress Halloween costume at the Renaissance Festival when I was a young teenager. I enjoyed it immensely. I felt like part of the fair, immersed in the fun and revelry. I didn’t even mind that another girl there had the same costume — who cares! But even then, I wasn’t fully free of my closet-ness. If questioned why I did such a thing, I had the fallback that costume-wearers were granted free entry to the fair. No one asked me this naturally, but the fact I felt the need to have a back-out clause rather than just being able to say “I wanted to do it, so I did” had become a common theme with me.
I could list a million different reasons why I’ve never done true cosplay, from the overly thought-out to the mundane and nitpicky. I could rattle on about how I feel like a phony if I’m not invested in the character, able to embody them like I’m some Oscar-winning actor. I could lament that I feel uncomfortable with cosmetics, contact lenses, and wigs, so finding a character that fits me without much of those things is nigh impossible. And I could confess that I have no discernable sewing skills to speak of with which to make any such garments in the first place. There’s also the one where I’m a lazy git — that’s certainly a hindrance.
But those are all convenient excuses, fed by the underlying anxiety I’ve felt for many years with regards to my own self-identity. My plummeting self-esteem makes it difficult to find any stability in my own identity. I am not confident in who I am, so how can I be happily comfortable with cosplay? How can I be comfortable enough to then be confident and just do what I want with no ulterior excuses? The cycle is fueled by worry and rumination — fantastical, absurd possibilities swimming neverending within my mind, horrifying me with things that could-be and paralysing me from doing much of anything.
Let’s take a trip into Lindsey’s mind! Please keep all hands and feet inside the cart — it can get a little sticky. For example, let’s say I liked the look of Lucca from Chrono Trigger:
Her character design fits well for me — I have glasses, my hair is actually a purple bob at the moment, and her clothing design lends itself well to body builds on the heftier side. She’s a bit of a tomboy, so I wouldn’t have to worry about feeling too feminine and exposed. Sounds like a winner, right? Rational-Lindsey thinks so.
She is promptly steamrolled by Worry-Lindsey who says, here are all the reasons I CAN’T do it:
- You’ve played some of Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, but do you really know enough of the character to cosplay her? Of course you don’t. Get your head out of your ass.
- You have no sewing skills to speak of, so anything you make you won’t be happy with anyway. And cosplay is a tough crowd — everyone will be judging you! Seriously, what’s going on in your mind?
- You’re a girl — you know if you do cosplay you’ll be objectified. Even if Lucca isn’t a sexual character AT ALL, you know people will be judging your body. And let’s face it, you’ve let yourself go. Why would you open yourself up to that criticism?
Worry-Lindsey is supported by her right-hand woman, Ruminator-Lindsey. Since Worry-Lindsey has a pretty good haymaker and keeps Rational-Lindsey down most of the time, Ruminator-Lindsey doesn’t have a lot of bad past experiences to pull from to support her arguments. But she can still manage to pour salt on the wounds for her mate with shots of “Remember that time you felt fat? It’d be like that, but with other people” and “Remember that time someone asked you something you didn’t know about and you felt dumb? It’ll be just like that, but worse!”
Sound exhausting and horrible? It is, and it’s my entire day. It’s not just cosplay — anime, games, comics, and anything else I love. It’s my whole damn life, every waking moment (and some of the sleeping ones, too). For the most part, with everyday tasks and decisions, I can push through it because I know what is appropriate and approved by greater society. I know what to do to keep everyone else happy. In the end, it leaves me little energy or wits to rationalise how to make me happy. Rational-Lindsey has it together. She knows all the reasons why I should go for it, and all the REAL reasons I shouldn’t. But she’s been fighting throughout the day to keep things functioning in the public eye. Once she’s out of the spotlight, she’s pinned down. She’s done. She doesn’t have the strength to shout out past Worry and Ruminator.
Rational-Lindsey has one saviour, though not the one she really needs. We’ll call her Sales-Lindsey, because she has to sell the idea of doing something to Worry-Lindsey. Sales-Lindsey helps Rational-Lindsey by spinning convenient stories to fall-back on, in order to satisfy Worry-Lindsey. If something is ever questioned, we’ve got an answer as a shield. She’s a hard-seller, and will sometimes stretch or twist the truth to get her way:
- C’mon, that’s what Wikipedia is for! We’ll brush up on our history and know everything by heart, from Lucca’s eye colour to which type of screwdriver is her favourite.
- No sewing skills? Hey, why don’t we buy a costume from a cosplay creator? It’ll be good and support artists of the craft.
- No one’s happy with the way we look. Maybe we’re being just a little too harsh, huh?
Sales-Lindsey sometimes has some good points, but she’s also not above bending the truth or telling little white lies to make Worry-Lindsey see her way. Sometimes, she makes the sale and frolicks along, an ego-bruised Rational-Lindsey dragging herself in tow. More often, Worry-Lindsey sees through the ruse and puts Sales-Lindsey in her place. Either way, Rational-Lindsey is left with a bad taste in her mouth over all the manipulation and deceit. Why can’t we just do what we want to do if it’s a reasonable thing that will make us happy? Why are we obsessing over what-ifs? Why do we have to twist things to get past the what-ifs and just say “this is what we want and we’re doing it”?
The struggle has become real in the last few years. Not “real” in the sense that it has intensified, but in the sense that words have been put to feelings and I now know what the struggle is. That which was faceless now has a face. My desire to rebel against the mind-battles is that much greater now that I am aware of what’s happening.
I may not become some great cosplayer. Odds are, I’ll try it once and then decide it’s not for me. But it could be. I won’t know that, though, until I push past the fear and just get on with living and enjoying my life because I want to. I think it’s about time Rational-Lindsey had a serious She-Hulk buff-out and knocked Worry-Lindsey and Ruminator-Lindsey down a few pegs.
To paraphrase Scott Pilgrim: Lindsey earned the Power of Self Respect.