Sunday, October 20, 2013

Moving Past Shyness and Awkwardness

I am a pretty quiet shy person and a bit awkward at times like most cosplayers and geeks.

People that know me from the cosplayer world seem to find this surprising considering my social nature in the cosplay community but this was not an overnight occurrence and it’s not constant.

I am pretty outgoing at conventions with cosplayers. I see people who are shy and I want to reel them in. I want to talk with them and I want to get to know them. These are my peers. I want to know you even if on just a small level. Above all I want to be seen as approachable and friendly. This is the same in trapeze.

Outside of my hobbies, I am quite different. I tend to try to keep my hobbies out of my work life and family life turning me into somewhat of a clam when people ask what I did over the weekend. Oh nothing. This is because from a professional stance dressing up like a superhero on the weekend could make me appear immature by social standards in professional society (not saying it’s right), but I also like keeping my life out of my work place. However, I do have work friends and often my attempts at secrecy fail so I have become known for costuming (by few) and flying trapeze (by many). I have come to have a reputation for having interesting, creative and fun hobbies. Who knew?

Very recently, I opened up to family but not completely because I am just scared of rejection and backlash which has not happened. In fact, just yesterday I was hanging out with family members who are completely thrilled that I cosplay and admittedly told me they thought it was odd at first but enjoy it now. How cool is that? Spreading the love.

The most backlash I received has been at work because the few people (and I am sure it’s more than the few I think) that know about my costuming are fellow geeks but a few are not and don’t understand it, but they have grown to find it interesting in the creative aspect. I am trying to be a bit more open and not keep all these borders because why should I? It’s scary for me to allow everything to flow together. It’s scary for me to let people I like know what I do, but if I don’t then they don’t really know me and I would be cheating myself by possibly keeping around false friends or pulling a fa├žade and cheating them as well.

So that’s frightening for me but it’s been working out so far. People seem to find me interesting and that’s not a bad thing but it is overwhelming for me to handle and it provokes my shy side.

Anyway, that’s not the purpose of this post but it does play into the topic. In cosplay, I have learned over time to be outgoing. I still have my shy moments. For the most part, I have forced myself to be outgoing and gotten used to it, but sometimes even I know it’s over kill but at least I am trying.

When I first started attending conventions it was brought to my attention that my shy/awkwardness was perceived as being rude. I was too shy to ask for an autograph so I would just hand the item to the person. It took an industry friend telling me how it came across for me to realize and from that I started evolving a bit because that’s not who I want to be.

I actually had a rather bad experience with an artist I enjoy (no names). I was a big fan of their work and because of their awkwardness I was extremely put off. After the fact, I was told by the artist this had to do with constantly feeling overshadowed and underappreciated by fans. However, I was a fan and excited to meet this person and was clearly appreciating them. I have tried to chat at conventions since and even over do the compliments but I still get a cold and awkward response. This person is HUGE in the industry now and very much not underappreciated but still unfriendly by all accounts. It’s unfortunate that the person has subsequently ruined my favorite artist for me as well as they now pair up on all of their projects.

So here is my secret to being perceived as friendly and outgoing: SMILING AT PEOPLE. I say perception because often I think many geeks in general are friendly but we all have an awkwardness that can be apparent and can be perceived as being rude, mean, nasty, etc. Smiling is an amazing tool. I know it’s so simplistic that it might sound like nonsense but it works for me in cosplay and pretty much anywhere else in life. One of the reasons I get along and know a lot of people at my job is because when I walk down a hallway I smile and say hello or wave hello at everyone (including people I might not care for, it’s good manners). I do this so often that it’s natural for me. At conventions I do the same thing and it works. I am telling you it works. Smile at other cosplayers and if you’re feeling extra outgoing wave hello. It only seeks to benefit you and everyone else.

In addition, if a cosplayer smiles and waves at you SMILE BACK. Over the summer I pretty much fought a smile out of a cosplayer by my overt friendliness. Not that I went overboard but my approach caused an awkward confusion and THEN I got a smile back. Boom! I won! Yes! Goal met!

Smiling at people works everywhere. It’s a basic tool I think people forget about and it’s so Patch Adams I love it. I find myself doing this in stores, walking down streets, etc and people almost always smile back and I see them brighten up for a bit and often it brightens me up as well.