Invisibility, Acknowledgment and Self-Esteem

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Post by reboundstudent on Sun Jul 05, 2015 11:56 pm

Disclaimer: Not sure if this is the right spot. Involves social skills, maybe?, but not dating. Feel free to move.

I got back this afternoon from my yearly nerd Mardi Gras convention. It was a fantastic time-lots of fun panels, time with friends, meeting new folks, and showing off the costumes I've been working for months on (Lolita Iron Man, Pride and Prejudice zombie, Winter Soldier.) I've noticed that each year after returning home, I fall into a kind of depression. Partially it's just everything catching up with me-lack of sleep, lack of introverted time, wonky eating. But there's also something I struggle with every year, especially as pictures start popping up on social media.... a feeling of invisibility.

I know that I'm not the best costumer yet. I was on a panel this weekend with professionals who have been doing costuming for decades (I'm at 3 years!), and there was absolutely a feeling of not belonging and lacking. Especially as I'm still screwing up and making rookie mistakes (example: to make my Winter Soldier arm, I wrapped my arm in plastic + plaster strips. Another panelist was like "No don't do that, that's a horrible idea!") So right off the bat I have difficulties with embarrassment and alienation.... everyone's costumes just seem to good and professional, and I'm still struggling with basics.

There's also frustration at, well, lack of acknowledgment. Don't get me wrong, I love the process of sewing and creating, but part of why I love cosplay is the "acting" portion, that thrill that someone else enjoys what I made, and wants a picture or other people want to include me in their groups/pictures. It's very hard when I spend a lot of time and energy on a costume, only to get very little acknowledgment. Sometimes that's understandable (my PPzombie was always going to be rarely recognized) but sometimes I really don't get why.

It's like, is my costume bad? Is that why no one wants my picture? Did I pick a boring cosplay? Is mine a "cosplay fail"? Am I just not attractive enough for folks to want my picture? The big question just haunts me: Why do so few people seem to like my costumes?

It's really a struggle when I see costumes on social media, some of which seem incredibly popular and photographed constantly. I want that. How do I get that? How do I rid myself of the cosplay invisibility? How do I know I'm doing a good job?

Doc always says not to compare yourself to someone's highlight reel. But how do you handle the anxiety of being an idiot in a sea of geniuses? How do you get over not feeling like you belong, and like no one really wants you there? How do you get acknowledgment and reassurance that you are noticed, and you are liked? Or, conversely, how do you figure out what's wrong so you can correct it and thus belong?
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Post by Gman on Mon Jul 06, 2015 7:11 am

Well, I have some similar feelings when it gets to the dance scene of mine, even though that I am sure there are major differences between cosplaying and dancing Razz

There was a very long time I used to feel extremely inferior to a lot of people from my dance scene and till this day I still feel that I am not working hard enough on my dance, even though I now get plenty of compliments from women on my dance. In particular, there is this one guy who is the most addicted person in the dance scene that I know. He is 5 years younger than me (I think), considered the "Rising Star" in the scene and his personal dream is to go to europe and study dance instruction there on an almost "academic" level in the most prestigious dance schools there. For a long time I used to feel inferior to him and that in general I suck, because I'm not as good as he is - even though that realisticly I would never be able to get to his level and frankly I don't have his ambition, desire, or as much time for dancing as he has. He began his dancing life from a young age in ballroom dancing for over a decade, before entering salsa dancing and such.

So after a while I realized that I need to stop comapring myself to him so much. Learn from him if I can, sure, but understand that my goals and desires when it comes to dancing are entirely different than his so there is no real value in comparing to him on a 1:1 level. The minute I realized that, I actually began improving a lot faster, because I wasn't so occupied with thinking "why am I not as good as he is" and freeing mental energy in enjoying the dance and improving on a personal basis and not a comparative one. I still find myself thinking "I'm not good enough, I don't know a lot of variations, etc." but it's a lot more managable than before.

I don't really know how this translates to the cosplay world. I guess my point was to show the similarites of how focusing too much on others can harm your own progress. If you feel that you don't get enough feedback on your cosplaying, then maybe ask a few trusted fellow friends/cosplayers and such. Though again, I have absolutley zero knowledge about cosplaying or the social rules that apply to it.
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Post by BasedBuzzed on Mon Jul 06, 2015 9:48 am

Post pics, I'm curious how they look. Also, look at all the pictures of the event, and then look at the social media following of the pics of those that seem to have the most likes. FB friend numbers, posting frequency, etcetera. Some folks spend ages cultivating those social ties and it pays off.

Also, there's that plateau effect DNL harps on. The fact that you notice so many flaws means in part that you're gitting gud at it.

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Post by Guest on Mon Jul 06, 2015 9:52 am

So, this isn't exactly the "highlight reel" argument, but it's maybe something similar.

I had a kind of epiphany a few years ago when I realized I was comparing "what I get" to "what they get", as if all other people were a pool demanding equal attention to me individually.

So at an event where everyone was doing a thing, I would look at everyone getting praised while I got maybe one compliment and feel really slighted. But the truth is that "everyone" is not a singular noun. The praise was mostly going to 3-4 people, and everyone else is mostly overlooked. The last con I went to, there were 3-4 costumes that made everyone ooh and aah, and then a lot of people that, if I was in conversation with them, I'd comment that they looked really cool, but I'd never approach about it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that in my experience, the people with the costumes that make everyone gasp tend to spend forever on them, and then wear them to every event for a really, really long time. They aren't doing a new costume for each event. They made a whole lot of costumes. And eventually, they got their awesome one, and now they're sticking with it. You're not seeing people who win on every roll of the dice. They all went through the same period of not being the best. People just didn't notice them then, because they were part of the crowd.

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Post by Perlandra on Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:51 pm

I do a bit of cosplay stuff, but I mostly just throw something together with what I have on hand or can borrow from friends. I get some compliments, but not major "Can I take a picture with you?" action. Wink I agree with ElizaJane that even the pro costumers usually have a couple of cool costumes that they stick to for years before starting a new one. http://malisvitterfolk.tumblr.com/post/123160675608/cosplay is especially inspiring, since she doesn't do super-sexed up costumes, she's very sweet and friendly (I've met her in passing a couple of times). She's been going through her newest work-in-progress on her blog recently, so you might find that interesting.

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Post by eselle28 on Mon Jul 06, 2015 8:23 pm

I think this is one of those occasions where it's good to look at everyone, and not just at the professional cosplayers who've been at it for 30 years. You've been at it for 3, and sewing and design aren't the only things you do with your days between costuming events. When I say look at everyone, I don't mean all the dorks bopping around in tank tops and jeans. I mean the people who put varying degrees of effort and skill into wearing some kind of costume. I suspect a lot of their results weren't anything like on par with yours in terms of success, and I'm guessing a lot of people who dressed up weren't asked to take any pictures at all. You worked harder on your costume than most of them did, of course, but you've also developed skills from that work.

This is the part where my knowledge of cosplay kind of breaks down, because I don't have a huge network of people posting pictures from such events, but I'm sort of curious whether some of the most photographed people spent a large part of their con in very public places where pictures sort of invited themselves. If they are, someone who's having a more balanced experience being on panels and going to parties might not really be on the same playing field, whether or not the most devoted cosplayers have better costumes.

By your own acknowledgement, you're also coming off the back end of a pretty grueling weekend. I think this might be a good night to not come to firm conclusions about how you feel about things.
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Post by Conreezy on Wed Jul 08, 2015 2:50 am

I have a little bit of invisibility in the fencing world. I'm not unknown locally (after 10 years, one would think not), but if I travel to a tournament just one city over, I know no one and no one knows me. That has been true for 10 years, because, with a job and a life outside of fencing, I infrequently compete. I certainly don't travel. Most of the "big name" competitors are young kids with no lives, or older coaches who do that sort of thing professionally.

I'll tell you this, Marty: I've learned to love being the invisible underdog. It makes me work harder, and I get immense satisfaction out of being the "surprise," even if I don't place or win--just making a highly skilled fencer put in some work to beat me makes it all worth it.

My mark of success isn't adulation and winning, it's what I call "making it out of the montage." You know how in every martial arts/sports tournament montage, there's one guy (or team) that isn't a main character, but the main character has to beat to get to his nemesis? The guy who beats everyone through the montage and catches your eye for a second? You get to see his whole fight/game. That's his moment in the sun.

In the movie in my mind (uh-huh, that's a Miss Saigon reference in the middle of a sports analogy) if I can't win-- and no one wins them all--I want to be that guy. No lie, I watch Zorro and the Karate Kid before every tournament to put myself in the "give it all you got, but remember that what you're doing is really ridiculous, so have fun" mindset.

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Post by celette482 on Wed Jul 08, 2015 8:39 am

How much of this is the let-down? The noon Christmas Morning conundrum.

that feeling we get when we've been working and anticipating and dreaming up in our heads and planning for a thing for so long (I've been watching your sewing progress on facebook, so I know how much time is going into these costumes) and then it's over.

Everyone else has some good points re: you versus the pros, but I'm also hearing some "I've put in all this time and got nothing to show for it" in there. That noon Christmas morning feeling is a lot harder to fix. Maybe never anticipate and get excited for anything? It's a feature, not a bug. You're working on something that you'll wear one day to one event and may or may not get recognition for, since you've got people who literally make this their job, probably not. And next time you have a similar event, you'll be thinking up some new costume instead of reusing one you already wore (it's like sorority formals that way, though we switched dresses with each other half the time). So unless you drop out of cosplay altogether, you're always gonna risk that feeling of "All this work... for that???"

I don't cosplay, but I do cook. (I think you do too, so you probably know where I'm going with this.) Cooking is the ultimate in unappreciated efforts. Even though Mr. Celette is very polite and complimentary, I work and plan and cook, usually for at least 45 minutes, often much much more, and we sit down and it's gone in 10 minutes. 20 tops. And that's with conversation. And Mr. Celette doesn't really know how much work goes into things. So while he has learned to thank me sometimes the hardest stuff that has left me frazzled get a grunt of acknowledgment while the super easy things get effusive praise. And it used to drive me batty. Ooh it would make me so mad! ALL THIS WORK, and NOTHING! And I realized at that point I had a choice. We are DINKs, we can totally afford to buy ready-made meals from the grocery store to supplement going out, if I thought that cooking was not worth my time. Mr. Celette wouldn't care, we'd both get fed, and I'd have a bit more free time to myself at the end of the day. And I would never feel like all my hard work just vanished in a puff of forks and knives. But, I realized that I liked the process. That for me, the process was pleasurable so I didn't care that I didn't get any sort of recognition and that it was so ephemeral. I was cooking for myself and my own pleasure. Yes, because I liked to feed the guy I love good homemade food. But mainly because I wanted to explore and try and learn for my own self. I also became less shy about saying things like "Damn, this vichyssoise is the bomb dot com" (seriously, sooooo good and buttery) and host dinner parties when I really want the adulation.

Cosplay, it's like cooking. Hours and hours of work for a single moment of potential glory that may not come. (Actually, that dinner party thing gives me an idea- you have a lot of cosplay friends from what I can tell via facebook, is there a way you guys could have between-con or pre-con intramural competitions? a literal amateur hour? because competing against people who do it for a living is a guaranteed self-esteem killer)
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Post by Xexyz on Wed Jul 08, 2015 12:39 pm

celette482 wrote:And Mr. Celette doesn't really know how much work goes into things. So while he has learned to thank me sometimes the hardest stuff that has left me frazzled get a grunt of acknowledgment while the super easy things get effusive praise. And it used to drive me batty. Ooh it would make me so mad! ALL THIS WORK, and NOTHING!

This frustrates me too, but I've had to accept it's just part of the creative process.

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