Perfectionism in Cosplay

My head is swimming with thoughts as deadlines approach so, have some thoughts.

As I type this I’m in the middle of working on Aika for European Cosplay Gathering. I qualified for ECG as the Solo Act last September after 3 years of trying and chickening out, and now it’s finally here it’s given me a lot to think about.

I’ve competed in cosplay competitions since 2010 on and off. I won my first place in 2013 with World Cosplay Summit with my friend Yuka and since then it’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, changing my perspective on cosplay a lot. It’s gone from being the hobby I’d spend time and money on for a single weekend each summer into something much bigger and much more ambitious.

I’m not sure exactly why it happened, but since WCS I’ve had a “goal” every single year – a deadline date, an aim. Whether that’s for competing in finals, going for a qualifier, or even simpler things like getting cards printed before an event.. there’s always been something hanging over me that is due to happen, or that I am aiming to do.

At this stage, I’m almost at the end of my journey and happy to call it quits. It’s not a rash decision, it’s actually one I’ve considered before I entered WCS – despite entering competitions I’m not a very competitive person – I enter competitions for myself, not to prove anything to others. And I always have done.

I entered WCS with Yuka because I loved the idea of getting to cosplay in Japan. I entered CCCC with PopcornKuma because I wanted to visit AnimeCon, and it was a chance to have some fun when competing. Now I’m approaching ECG in July, I feel a lot more pressure – for the first time I’m alone, and this competition is arguably the most “esteemed” in the competitive circuit, so I’m very aware people will be watching what I do. And that’s terrifying. Normally I’d have someone by my side to talk to and confide in and share the pressure with – not this time!

I don’t usually compete alone – I’ve done it before, but I’ve always felt insecure trying. Part of why I entered ECG solo was to try and overcome that insecurity, but the closer the competition gets, the more I realise it’s not going to go away. The pressure I feel isn’t from anyone else, it’s from myself. I’ve had a lot of support from people with ECG and very little negativity. It’s a big part of me that has always been in me and I don’t think that will ever change, no matter how many competitions I try or compliments I receive.

This all stems from one little root I can’t shake, and that root is perfectionism.

No matter what I do, I never feel like it’s enough. It’s not good enough, exciting enough, clean enough. No amount of reassurance changes my mind. I make and remake pieces repeatedly, go over plans endlessly and still tweak them afterwards. I’m by no means the best at what I do but I always aim to be the best I can be but getting to that point in the first place is difficult.

This is why I’ve remade costumes 3 times; why I make different pieces of costumes 8 times before giving in; why I buy 6 wigs for the same character.. I won’t settle for less than what I come to and am “happy with”. And even then, “happy” is sometimes the point I reach where I can’t stand to try any more. The more I compete the higher my expectation becomes. At this stage I wonder if I can even achieve what I aim for when deep down it feels like the issues I have are because I am not good enough to achieve what I want.

I don’t expect sympathy or re-assurance for any of this, because it won’t change my mind even if I get it. More than anything it’s nice to finally understand why I feel this way and be able to see this from a new perspective. It’s always been there and it’s been something I’ve fought against instead of understanding it. It affects every aspect of my life, not just in my hobbies but it’s easiest to explain in this context.

After ECG I’m excited to finally take time for myself and relax a little. No matter what the outcome of ECG might be, I’m sure I’ll be happier for it once it’s done to celebrate and think to myself, “it’s over”.

I might give in and come back to compete again one day – but it won’t be anytime soon. I’m happy enough with the cool opportunities I’ve had to call it now and just enjoy what I do from now.

Don’t get me wrong though – I still want to attend events. I love meeting people, wearing costumes, being part of this community. But competing? Nah. I think I’ll be much happier in myself to do what I do without putting needless pressure on myself. For the first time this year I feel content in what I’ve done. I think considering cosplay is my hobby and I’ve never strived to “be the best” I’ve achieved a lot more than I ever expected to.

I should really get back to working on Aika now. Fingers crossed progress for ECG all goes smoothly!

Posted on May 8, 2017 in Competitions, European Cosplay Gathering, Musings

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