Kopi Talk: The Impact of Cosplay On One’s Self Esteem

Man being scolded by his shadow

Internal struggles have become a fairly normal aspect of our everyday lives. It seems as if everyone has their own mental and emotional issues, and the cosplay community is no different whether you’re in Malaysia, America, Japan or anywhere in the world. The difference is how these specific groups of people react to cosplay as a medium and how they are seen by the general public.

As someone who grew out of my self esteem issues with cosplay being one of my main factors in doing so, I can quite confidently say that cosplay has definitely taken its toll on me in both negative and positive ways. I’ve thought about it and figured that, for me, it was a vicious cycle of gaining confidence in my appearance but also constantly comparing myself with others, looks-wise and skill-wise. I started off with little to zero self esteem, which turned into having a good level of confidence and self love, to feeling like I wasn’t good enough when I looked at my own cosplays compared with others.

Of course, everyone’s experience with cosplay in terms of self esteem is different and unique to each individual. There are also many different ways that cosplay can affect one’s mindset and sense of self worth. Let’s talk about that. I’ve asked a few cosplayers within our local community both veteran and new on how their self esteem was affected by our beloved hobby. Let’s start on how it positively affects cosplayers.

Cosplay is undoubtedly a hobby that has many upsides. The positives include an increase in self confidence and a certain sense of pride in having learned and/or mastered a new skill. As we all know, cosplay doesn’t simply include just makeup and looking good. Prop making and sewing are both skills that also come in very handy for cosplay. The learning process is a never ending journey to having a good time and gathering new experiences.

Some cosplayers, including myself, have lost copious amounts of weight in the name of either fitting into costumes that we accidentally bought a size smaller or simply just to be happy with how we look in a costume with our individual ideal weights. In turn, we start to like ourselves more because we managed to hit a certain milestone, appearance-wise, with cosplay being a major motivating factor. Thus, an increase in self love and self confidence occurs.

External factors include a welcoming positive community that is supportive and constructively critical about one’s cosplay, allowing cosplayers to improve and spot their own trouble areas. Improving in something is part and parcel to feeling more confident in one’s own skills and abilities. To feel like you fit in somewhere will infinitely cause you to strive for improvement and try new things. That brings me to my next point…

Better self esteem out of cosplay. People tend to become braver in trying out new fashion styles that fit them and so births a medium to continue their growth outside of cosplay. Some have testified that after cosplaying, they speak better in presentations and public speaking bothers them less. The simple act of speaking to new people in general, which used to be a challenge, slowly begins to fade into nothing the more involved they got with cosplay and its community.

Like everything else, cosplay isn’t perfect. Cosplay can have quite the negative impact and one of the most common has to do with one’s identity as a cosplayer. As human beings, we tend to compare ourselves to others, and let’s face it, it’s pretty discouraging to see that someone who started cosplaying around the same time as you have a bigger following or superior skills. If you aren’t a competitive person or an optimist even, the impact from this will mostly be negative.

Other than that, there is the case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. From what I have observed from the safety of the sidelines, certain communities are quite unkind towards cosplayers who don’t meet certain standards of accuracy or beauty. It completely baffles me but it does happen, and when it does, it really isn’t pretty. Some cosplayers have been told to stop cosplaying altogether just because they don’t meet the standards of the average cosplay content consumer. It leaves a really bad taste in my mouth and probably a traumatising experience for those who have faced it. However, some cosplayers tough through it and actually use it as encouragement to improve. It’s something I’ve learnt to respect a lot.

It’s no secret that cosplayers face sexual harassment openly at events and conventions no matter what the gender, age or situation. It seems that some people just can’t get the importance of consent. It doesn’t matter if one is in cosplay or not, consent before contact is very important. This is one of the main causes of cosplayers feeling degraded and anxious when attending public events in more revealing cosplays. It also affects their self esteem in a negative way. I ask of you the reader, as the author of this article and a casual cosplayer, please keep your hands to yourself until you get full proof consent from the cosplayer(s).

Cosplay is also something that tends to make certain people conscious about their bodies. Whether it’s their skin colour, their body shape, whether they’re double-lidded or not and even the condition of their skin on any visible part of their bodies. Nobody is perfect but that doesn’t stop one’s mind from venturing into negative thoughts and emotions.

Now that we’ve covered some of the most common effects of cosplaying on one’s self esteem, it’s time for you, the reader, to know that cosplaying is a hobby and for some, a profession, but you should not let the negativity get to you. Whether the negativity stems from the community or yourself, just know that there is no light without darkness. Embrace your strengths and your flaws because that’s what makes you unique. There’s always room to pick up a new skill so never think it’s too late for you to start learning how to sew, make props or do makeup. If you can’t find a way, carve it and charge forward. You can do this.

Do you have anything to add onto this piece? Feel free to share your thoughts on self esteem and cosplay in the comments.

If you feel that you need an outlet to discuss certain issues you may have regarding cosplay, whether it’s general or personal, don’t feel shy to submit your thoughts to us on Cosers Confess. Your submission will be kept anonymous for your privacy. Submit your confession here: link

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