What Cosplay Taught Me About Confidence
In May 2014, I put on my first suit at the convention. It was a simpleDr. Krieger of Archer . Getting into the shoes of a character I liked seemed to be a fun way to spend the weekend. Instead, it turned into a study of what it means to be confident.
By becoming someone else, you can experiment with new personalities.
There is a reason we associate pretend play with childhood. When you are young, you still don’t know who you are. During the early years of development, children imitate the actions of those around them to see what works and what doesn’t. When a child attaches himself to the cape and pretends to fly, he is, of course, playing a game, but at the same time he is trying to look like a “superhero”. Most people stop doing this when they come of age. We can try on new roles, but usually it’s something more mundane, like “manager” or “dumb uncle.” Gone are the days of pretending to be a rock star, queen, or dragon.
The first time I put on the suit, it woke up some of those youthful experiments. I chose Dr. Krieger, but as soon as I was in his clothes, I was faced with the unpleasant realization that I was not a Krieger. He is a mad scientist who has a crush on Rush, builds robotic arms, and has no medical background . Okay, so maybe we’re not that differently. However, it was weird to pretend to be someone else. Getting into Krieger was like a new form of Impostor Syndrome .
The feeling was surprisingly familiar. I felt like an impostor when I first got a paid writing job. I felt it when I went on my first date. At times I felt as uncomfortable in my life as in the life of a possible Hitler clone . This discomfort was not proof that I do not belong. This meant that I had a new experience, and I needed to adjust in order to feel comfortable. For example, wiggle your ass a little on the new chair until it fits.
The longer I spent in Krieger, the more I enjoyed feeling uncomfortable . I was able to get used to expressing aspects of my personality through him. At one point, I built a robot arm that matched the suit. Normally I would have kept the fact that I am fiddling with such small gadgets to myself, but after demonstrating this with Krieger, it became more comfortable for me to play the role of a mad scientist.
Costumes allow you to instantly communicate with the people you are dating
After Krieger, I decided to tackle new and different costumes. So I changed my yellow shirt to a blue one and became Rick fromRick and Morty . He is an outgoing, moody alcoholic scientist who loves parties, and I am just one of them. So I grabbed my portal pistol and crashed into the floor.
It was almost impossible not to feel comfortable in the role of Rick. As a character, I joked that I thought it was too weird under normal circumstances, and people liked them. I spoke to dozens of strangers in one evening because they recognized this character we both loved. Each conversation was a little more practice in the complex art of small talk , but with the advantage that it started out with shared interests. From the very first conversation, we knew that at least we both enjoyed the show.
More importantly, it gave me the opportunity to talk to others about cool things. I made an Arduino powered portal gun for use with the suit. Although I was proud of it, it was foolish to say, “Look what I did!” to anyone other than my girlfriend, in any other context. However, wearing him as Rika, everyone immediately recognized him. Complete strangers asked about this gadget. In the end, this led to unusual conversations about how I built the support. I need to talk at the store about Arduino, 3D printing, and tower construction – hobbies that I would otherwise keep to myself. It can seem dumb and lonely when no one around you is interested in something, but the suit gave me an excuse to turn a niche hobby into a regular conversation and make connections.
Even without the portal gun, I enjoyed meeting people who shared the same sense of humor that I do. In most cases, it is difficult to tell if you are going to get along with someone at the time of the meeting. Being Rick meant that I instantly connected with other people who liked the show. In fact, he has worked with every costume I have ever owned. When you broadcast your interests, it’s no surprise that the people who are in charge are just like you.
If You Can’t Change Your Confidence, Change Your Context
I first attended Dragon Con in 2011. If you’ve never been to a PC fan convention, it can be a frustrating experience when you first see Iron Man hanging out with a World of Warcraft guy in the hotel lobby next to Jane’s giant hat . Maybe all of these people would have the confidence to walk around in everyday life in an Adidas stormtrooper suit or a real hotel carpet . Of course, at least some. For most cosplayers, however, this is an escape. It’s not a weird context in which you showcase your skills by recreating what you love among people who love what you love.
Years ago, when I was just dropping out of college , I tried a lot of stupid ways to meet people. I hung out in random bars, awkwardly forcing myself to talk about topics I didn’t care about, such as football, office politics, and reality TV. All along, I thought that the reason I didn’t feel confident or didn’t fit with other people was because I didn’t fit well enough. Instead of finding people who shared my interests in films and doing weird things, I tried to change my interests to match the people I found. For me it was completely the opposite.
When you’re cheating, especially if you’re dressed as one of your favorite characters, the people who come up and talk to you are probably interested in the same things as you. That was pretty obvious when I went to the Fallout New Years Eve party last year in a Nick Valentine outfit . Everyone in this room was there because they loved Fallout. I immediately became friends with everyone in the room.
The context was everything. However, by becoming Nick and chatting with like-minded people, I can do it in this bar. I was in my element. I had common interests with other people in the room and had the perfect conversation starter. The effect was similar to opening the tap of a keg of trust. I didn’t need vendor trust in a context I didn’t like. I just needed to be with people who shared my interests.
It’s tempting to look at a truly confident person and assume that they are just as natural in any scenario. We treat confidence as a quality that people simply have, and that says it all. However, this person may just feel comfortable with other things than you. If you prefer to spend time in the library over the bar, start with it. If you find it more convenient to dress up as a synthesizer than going to a football game, do it. Meet people who share your interests instead of forcing yourself to become someone else. You can put on a costume that makes you look like any character imaginable, but you can’t just put on a different personality and hope no one notices.