With the awareness around mental health being talked about now more frequently than ever, I think its vital that we continue the conversation and discuss how it applies to cosplay. Now of course, I can only speak on behalf of myself on these matters as everyone’s experience differs, but my main objective here is to be transparent about the factors and offer resolutions that I’ve found effective in combating the self-deprecating mental virus of body image.
Cosplay is not merely an extension of Halloween. Its the immersion of a fictional world that exists to enhance an otherwise mundane reality. Its the sincerest form of gratitude to the character and the people that created it. Cosplay lives through many people as a creative outlet and it’s massive community encourages everyone to participate.
So how does this evolve into a body-image issue? Comparison.
What we all tend to overlook is that these characters we adore so much are idealized. The foundation of their existence is usually a portrayal of something considered “perfect”. Put simply: This shit is not natural. Its not meant to be. Its intention is to sell.
But even with this knowledge, we strive to represent the character as closely as possible- including how our bodies look. Its not enough to have the fundamental elements of the costume complete. The obsession to accurately render something fictitious has now festered and distorted how we see ourselves in the real world; and it has consequences. We’ve set the bar so high for ourselves that we’re not even having fun anymore. Harmful criticism is no longer coming from our own thoughts, but also from people we’ve never met who don’t consider the time, effort and money it took to get to this point. I know I’m not the only one who has suffered from feeling inadequate.
To be frank with you, it is not uncommon for me to intentionally stop eating to prepare for a convention or photoshoot to look a certain way. It is not uncommon for me to overexert myself to the point of exhaustion at the gym because I long for a better physique. It is not uncommon for me to look in the mirror and be disgusted at my reflection because I do not compare to my own unrealistic body standards.
What I want you to takeaway from this is that there is a major distinction between motivation to better yourself for personal growth and motivation to destroy yourself for the sake of appearance. When we get caught up in it, sometimes its hard to tell the difference. Not only that, but it has become a trend to normalize these negative types of behaviour by treating it like its a standard for cosplay. The truth is: there is no standard for cosplay.
Though there may be a lack of body diversity in the types of cosplay that are showcased, this does not mean you have to meet the same criteria in order to become that character. Your body size does not determine what you should wear, no matter what the unsolicited comment section says. I know the toxicity of social media and the pressure it exudes, but you have to remember that what you see is not entirely true. That photo has been through several processes of editing to achieve its final form and even then, it will be criticized by someone. Even though our community is massive and change is not going to happen overnight, we must still recognize the parts that can be remedied and take small steps in the right direction.
Here are some things I’m going to start implementing in my own life:
- Instead of dwelling on things you would change, shift it to finding parts that you can love.
- Practice being kind to yourself by interrupting your negative thoughts with endearment.
- Nourish your body instead of neglecting what it needs.
- Do not compare yourself to any other cosplayer or character.
Let perfection stay within the realm of fantasy and come to terms with the fact that it simply isn’t worth the pursuit. You are so much more than how you look in a costume and to value appearance over health is a dangerous cycle that will only lead to destruction. Celebrate your differences and stay true to who you are; you’re all you’ve got in the end.