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[The best blogs speak to the hearts of many within a community. ShadeOfLight does exactly that with his thoughts on being open and honest about your own interests, hobbies, and even personality. Who here hasn’t felt odd or self-conscious about being a gamer at one point or another in their life? Hopefully Shade will inspire you to shed that veil you put over your nerdy side and be the best you possible. I know he has for me. ~ Wes]
Confidence is hard. Even at the best of times, everyone feels self-conscious at some point or another. Us gamers might have it worse than most in that regard, since what we do isn’t always immediately accepted or understood by everyone we meet. Up until recently, this was an issue that I struggled with immensely.
Fortunately, we can all learn things about ourselves as we go along. We discover, we think, we adapt, we improve. This blog is about what I’ve learned about myself over the past few months regarding confidence and self-acceptance.
This piece was also partially inspired by the blog Chris Bradshaw wrote a few weeks ago. In his blog, Chris mentions that he sees how a lot of people in the gaming community have problems socially. They don’t feel accepted by a society that still thinks video games are childish, and they have difficulties dealing with that. As a result, Chris speculates, they do one of two things:
– They try to prove themselves to be more mature than other gamers by playing the “right” games. “Yeah, I play video games, but at least I don’t play those games.” Or
– They adopt of philosophy of “I don’t care what people think about me”, without looking inward to see if some of the criticism they face is valid. They use it as an excuse to not have to change.
Now, I can’t really speak to how true this is in general, and I hope I’ve understood Chris correctly, but ultimately that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is about what I personally found out about me.
You see, what I found out about me was that I’m actually the opposite. I was having problems socially because I cared too much about what other people think of me, and it was keeping me down. It was keeping me down emotionally and it was keeping me from being my best self socially.
My moment of realization came a few weeks ago when I attended the Dutch Comic Con with my friend. It was the second time I had ever gone and it was just as much fun as the first time. We saw drone races, we attended the Q&A of Widowmaker’s voice actress (I even got to ask her a question!), I came away with a sweet drawing of a robot Bulbasaur, and we saw tons of cosplay. 2B was especially prevalent, but we also saw the Overwatch cast, more superheroes than you’d know what to do with, a great Bloodborne hunter, and many other things.
One piece of cosplay stood out to me though. While my friend was standing in line to try a Vive game I spotted a guy in the crowd cosplaying everybody’s favorite Sunbro; Solaire of Astora. At that point things went lightning quick. I told my friend to watch my bag for me, made my way through the crowd, planted myself in front the guy and without warning, right there and then… I praised the sun.
For about a half-second the guy looked extremely bewildered, like he didn’t know what was happening to him. But then it clicked: he pulled down his helmet and did the pose with me. Before he knew it I was gone again, back to my friend who looked as if I had just jumped in to fight a dragon with my bare hands.
A few hours later I was on the train heading home. A thought popped into my head at that point: “That, right there, was me at my best. That was me being confident, spontaneous, fun, engaging, and a little bit crazy.” It was a really nice thought to have: “Hello world, this is me.”
However, it also led me to another conclusion: if I’m at my best over there at Comic Con then that means that I’m not at my best every other day of the year. I don’t let myself be me for most of the time. I started to examine whether that was true or not, and I had to conclude it’s probably more true that I would’ve liked to admit.
I realized that in real life I never wanted to talk about videogames too much, because I was worried people might find it childish (and find me childish as a result). What made it even more difficult is that my favorite games to play are by far Nintendo ones. Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Pokémon, you name it! If it has a cute aesthetic I’m probably down with it. I didn’t want to mention video games at all if I just met someone for the first time, let alone Nintendo.
Instead I felt like I needed to keep that to myself until I got to know them better. Who knows what “Well, I like video games. Also, I’m currently playing Kirby: Star Allies.” does to your first impression, right? I didn’t even dare to play my 3DS in public with the sound on, regardless of whether anyone was around at all. What if someone I didn’t see coming suddenly overheard me?
This was all so deeply ingrained in my head that I didn’t even realize I was doing it, or it seemed completely normal to me. My brain was essentially normalizing my being embarrassed. It’s certainly a less satisfying mindset to have. Hello world, please don’t look at this part of me.
All of this doesn’t merely apply to video games though. I like a lot of things that aren’t so easily explained to the average observer. More than “like”, I can get legitimately excited over these things:
– I like animation; both Japanese and Western. Totoro and Tangled are amazing, but so are Coraline and Hellsing.
– I like the old nostalgic shows I used to watch. Beast Wars, Power Rangers, X-men, Teen Titans. There are tons of shows out there that still hold up great. You might even say that I like cartoons in general.
– I like board games, even if I don’t get to play them that often.
– I like Fantasy, and I can recite most of Lord of the Rings along with the movies. I’m less into science fiction, but I do think space is cool.
– I like animals; birds especially. I could literally watch a sparrow in the park doing its thing for hours. Penguins are the raddest motherfuckers.
– I like Destructoid! I enjoy reading up on the gaming news, writing about it occasionally, and keeping the website clean of spam and bullshit. Most of all, I enjoy spending time with the people. Even Gajknight sometimes!
These are all things I tended to keep down unless I was by myself or among close friends. I wouldn’t necessarily hide the fact that I like these things as such, but how much I like these things, for sure. I can talk about every one of these topics for hours, but I would rarely give them more than a mention. Perhaps I was afraid of letting people in on how much time I spend not doing sports, music, art, or something else to that effect. Or perhaps I was just worried that people who don’t understand might judge me for it. Regardless, you can see how stifling it must’ve been to restrain all of that stuff.
For example, if someone observed that I can identify a whole bunch of dinosaurs from memory I’d go: “Hey, I’ve been a little boy once; I’ve had my dinosaur phase.” Obviously, that’s only partially true. Yeah, I’ve legitimately had a dinosaur phase when I was a kid. But let’s be real here; dinosaurs kick ass. They kicked ass when I was 10 and they still kick ass now.
– Okay, so maybe not all dinosaurs kick ass.
On the one hand it’s disheartening to find out that you’ve hidden away a part of yourself for so long. On the other hand, if I look back now to my little moment at Comic Con there is an important lesson to be learned there. When I did something a little bit wild and out of the ordinary… nothing happened. I didn’t die from embarrassment. Nobody laughed at me. There wasn’t a sniper out on a rooftop somewhere poised to take the shot when I showed my first sign of exuberance.
This stuff is allowed.
It sounds simple, but this was a big deal to me. It was something I desperately needed to learn. It was something that no one could have credibly told me; it was something that I needed to experience first-hand. The relative safety of Comic Con, where all the other crazy people go, was the best place to learn that I could’ve asked for.
I’m allowed to be me. Some people are going to understand and some aren’t, but I can be okay with that. I can allow myself to be me, even if that does get me judged. I deserve to do that, because it’s me.
I am a gamer, and being a gamer is not just okay if you play Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Far Cry, or something else that’s mature. Nor is it just okay if you play Fortnite, Pokémon Go, Rocket League, Call of Duty, or something else that’s popular. I am a gamer, and that’s always okay. I can be confident and accepting of myself even if that means telling people that I spent my whole weekend playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Because that’s me.
I am also not childish so much as childlike. I can find a childlike wonder in many different things; from listening to David Attenborough explain the mating rituals of caribou to hitting 100% Breath of the Wild. From the latest Disney movie to the music of Kirby, and from the greatest Lord of the Rings lines to persevering against the hardest Dark Souls boss. That’s all a good thing, because that’s me.
When Chris says in his blog that some gamers don’t care about what other people think of them, I wonder if that’s really true. Maybe, like me, they secretly do care what people think about them and that’s what keeping them from opening up as much as sports fans might. If you don’t want to admit to other people what makes you tick then they could easily conclude that there is something secretive or childish about it. Whereas if you’re fully confident in what you do, it takes some of the (self-imposed) stigma off. If you are deeply confident in your life and accept yourself to the fullest extent, gaming included, then you can put yourself out there much more and social situations become that much easier.
So that’s my challenge from here on out. I have to look at all the things that I do and all the things that make me me, and I have to internalize into my deepest core that it’s all okay. Not just okay, but worthy of sharing with the people around me. To broadcast it to the world. To accept it, live it, love it, and be it. To let my freak-flag fly.
There is a reason I say that it’s my “challenge” though. Despite all of the things I’ve learned and everything I’ve shared in this blog, I have to admit that I’m still not quite there yet. I can tell you all of these things, but it’s going to be a while before I can live it from the very core of my being. After all, I’ve spent years teaching myself that I shouldn’t let myself be me. That’s not going to go away overnight.
However, just being aware of these issues is already helpful. After looking back it really struck me how mean I had been being to myself, like my own prison warden. I realize now that I never deserved that. Ultimately, writing this blog is also partially therapeutic. Now that I’ve put this out there I can hold myself to it. I can try to live up to it.
I can roar.