Time and time again I hear something along the lines of “Oh, I really want to cosplay X, but Cosplayer Y already did it and I could never come close to Y,” or “My cosplay of A will never be as good as the one that Cosplayer B did.” I’ve heard it from acquaintances, I’ve heard it from friends, and more than once I’ve heard those statements come out of my own mouth. Even now, as I spend hours of the week working on a costume for a convention half a year away, I find myself occasionally struck with these errant thoughts trying to dissuade me from my goal. I see people online posting their own interpretations of a character and doing it so well that it makes me wonder—should I even bother? Why I am wasting all of this time, effort, and money on something that would not be as liked or popular as the product of this other person’s efforts?
But then I realize: I am not doing this costume for that person. I am not doing this for other people at all. This is me, this is my own effort, my own creation, and my own goal. I’m doing this because I want it.
In my decade of cosplaying, this realization that there is no greater feeling than successfully completing a costume for any event, convention or otherwise, that you want it for is of paramount importance. On the contrary, there is no worse feeling than when you get to that event empty handed because you gave up. I’ve been there multiple times myself, spending an entire convention weekend in absolute misery and self-loathing because of my own indecisiveness or quickness to give in to defeat. I had nobody but myself to blame. In the end, I ended up my own worst enemy the entire weekend.
Cosplay is meant to be fun whether it is your first time or your one hundred and first time. Heck, the word is a portmanteau of costume and play, and when you compare yourself to others and start doubting yourself or your abilities, it quickly loses that fun. It no longer remains a hobby. Instead, it becomes a competition, and usually one that you will lose—not because of your abilities to craft the costume of your desires, but because you will give up. You will start to see flaws in everything you do, while simultaneously seeing nothing but perfection in whomever you are comparing yourself to.
“That person’s choice in fabric is better.”
“That person is closer to the characters physiology.”
“That person is getting so many notes on Tumblr.”
The moment you start saying things like this to yourself, you have already lost the imaginary battle in your head.
Recently, I had the honor and privilege of attending a convention in Milwaukee and being on the panel of judges for its costume contest. I also had the responsibility of handling the sign-ups for said contest, and in doing so I had the opportunity to speak with and answer questions of people interested. While most cosplayers readily jumped at the opportunity to present themselves to a crowd of people to show off their costumes efforts, whether painstakingly handcrafted or pre-made (but with creative magic), there were still a handful who saw others signing up and backed out or even said, “My costume is not good enough for that.” It was a little disappointing to see people that easily throw away a chance to show off what they were capable of, especially since it was very likely some could have won with their costumes.
Through all of my rambling and storytelling, the point I’m trying to make is this: Don’t focus on what everyone else is doing or what others will think of your costume. Do it for you and nobody else, whether you plan on wearing it just for fun or entering in a contest. At the end of the day, it is up to you and you alone whether you succeed or fail.