Sunday, 8 July 2012

Being a confident Goth (part 1, probably)

Lately I've been thinking that one of the most important lessons I've learned from my time in the Goth scene is how to be confident.

I have a peer group who seem to feel the need to strive endlessly towards generally unattainable perfection, fed to us by the media - you know the drill. The curves of Christina Hendricks or the size zero proportions of supermodels, and anything beyond or in between is somehow 'wrong'. Self-hating is the norm; compliments are viewed as some kind of trickery; every perceived flaw is magnified tenfold.

Goths are by no means immune to this. But in my opinion, actively choosing to present an appearance that varies from conservative norms takes confidence in itself, especially when every passer-by, relative and friend gets an urge to comment or criticise. Taking the leap to do this is quite often the hardest step, but you may find - as I found - that maintaining an alternative appearance over several years helps to build up quite a thick skin, which has helped me no end.

Being confident doesn't mean being arrogant, loud or extroverted (I am a confirmed introvert, and proud of it). Introverts have their own brand of quiet confidence; I'm not saying that we should all be dancing on tables or going first on karaoke night. It also doesn't mean being happy or cheerful all the time. Much like Goth, it isn't an emotional template.

[Tangent: just as being Goth doesn't mean being sad or depressed all the time, you also don't have to present yourself as perky or cheery all the time, whether to combat the stereotype or because a handful of well-known black-clad types present themselves this way. Goth isn't an emotion. Just be you!]

Confidence is, I feel, an important if little-mentioned facet of dark culture. I have read several emails, blog posts and forum comments from Goths who feel that the strength, for want of a more suitable term, that they can derive from being able to express themselves through dark fashion has helped them with difficulties such as eating disorders. I don't mean to trivialise such problems and certainly I don't think that being a Goth can 'cure' mental health concerns, but whether it's the multitude of images showing different body types, the tendency of Goth women to embrace feminist body attitudes or just the general tolerance associated with the scene, for some people it seems to help them accept themselves a little more.

If I was ever to pen a BatFit challenge, it would be something like this: Today, darklings, I challenge you to begin loving yourself. Heaven knows, it's not always easy! I have fat days, I have off days, bad hair days, you name it days. But I figure that choosing to dress and present myself the way that I do has given me a bit of 'starter confidence', if you will, and I'm doing my best to build on that. If I can do it, you can too.

I'm sure that many of you reading this won't need this pep talk - you already know that there is more to a person's worth than their looks or body size, and that no matter your 'flaws' you are already beautiful because you are unique. Your body is wonderful because it's yours, it's the only one you've got, and wouldn't you rather take steps towards accepting that and celebrating it, rather than sniping and sneering at yourself whenever you look in the mirror?

Feeling good about yourself isn't always a picnic, but it's a choice that you can make. (Please, click here to read a little bit about body positivity.)

Here are a few simple changes that I made, that you can make too. It might sound trivial, and you've probably heard some of these before, but it helps.
  • Accept compliments. This can be a real learning curve, but stop brushing off compliments - or arguing with them! - and just say thank you.
  • Do what makes you feel good. Don't exercise or diet to try to make yourself an 'acceptable' body size, do it because you enjoy it, because it makes you feel good, because you want to. Weight loss does not necessarily equal health, and a healthy outlook does not come second to a healthy body.
  • Make a collage on the inside of your wardrobe door of happy, confident (Goth, if you like) women (or men, of course) in all shapes and sizes, quotes that inspire you, and other things that make you feel positive, so that you see it when you come to get dressed every day.
  • Operation Beautiful
  • Take the time to look after yourself. Little things, like painting your nails a different colour each week or giving yourself a foot rub, remind you that you're worth taking care of and can put a little more pep in your step.
We have a culture of self-hate, and even many acceptance movements are off-message, with statements such as 'real women have curves'. (You've heard this before, probably, but ALL women are 'real women'.) Back in the day, Goths supposedly often strove to be waifish, like extras from a Poppy Z. Brite novel. Recently, we had the rise of burlesque culture and pin-up fashion within the scene, and women started to embrace their curves. Nowadays, being comfortable with yourself and your appearance at any size actually seems to be one of the most subversive things a woman can do.


Le Professeur Gothique said...

Very nice post darling ... and why don't you pen a Bat Fit challenge? *hint* *hint*

MissGreenEyes said...

This is a great post Amy, I completely agree with everything you've said - there are too many websites set up to critique and tear people down, I hate that so much and I hate that it only seems to be spreading. We need as much positive messages online as we can get! Great job x

D.F. Melancholine said...

I totally agree with all you said. Great tips.
I am a metalhead but my clothing is a mix of Metal and Goth.But I have a problem...Although I do feel confident about my physical looks in general...I am just afraid. I am terrified of wearing what I truly like because I want to avoid people's reactions,the bad ones to be more accurate.For example I always get ready to go out and end up going out with my outfit toned down a notch because of that reason. I am almost 21 and have been battling with this since I was 16 and I haven't got over my fear of peoples negative reactions.I don't want to reach 30 and regret that I never wore what I really wanted when I was younger.I need to get over this now but I don't know what to do.All I want is to be who I really want to be without giving a damn about people on the street who I will never see again.It seems easy, but how is it accomplished?
I buy all those nice clothes, I have loads of platform boots and they end up gathering dust in my room cause of my inability to wear them.

Much love


Mack-Attack said...

Thank you

Cherry Divine said...

Hi Amy. I always have to upload your images of Goths, because your blog may not always be here. And I fear for that in a lot of many ways. You and your blog are so important to me and others. This is the only real good place I can search for images of Goths. I do not use them for profit, or other decietful ways. That is because I respect your blog. Please don't ever vannish away. We all need your blog in lots of many ways.

Daniel_8964 said...

You've stated good points about problems that women face themselves and how to overcome them in order to gain their confidence.

Myself I know I'm a introvert too and I tend to be aloof, socially awkward whenever it happens and we all have bad days, we are all human and breathe air in the same planet and have our own issues.

Tenebris In Lux said...

I find that a Bruce Lee quote (insert groans and eye-rolls from the others) is always applicable, too:

"I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine."

Lori said...

So true! Confidence is key to everything and you really made some great observations. Just discovered your blog and will definitely favorite it.

Larissa said...

Great post! Love the Marilyn quote (and also your own words at the very end - self-acceptance as subversive - brilliant!) Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Amy, how do you feel about otherkin? In general how does the goth community act towards them? I know goths tend to be accepting, but does that extend to otherkin?

the fashionate traveller said...

Fantastic advice! (I drop in from time to time but don't always comment). I think that confidence or lack of it is largely formed when we are very young...but once we are grown up we can make conscious decisions to improve our outlook, stop the inner critic & see ourselves more as we really are :)

Dani DeathBiscuit said...

Yes yes! Make another! :)

I included this in my latest post.

Charlie Whitmore said...

Great post! I think that having the guts to look how you want and possibly stand out is a brave thing to do, but it's great when you realise it's fine to be yourself and it doesn't matter if the odd person makes a negative comment. Deciding on your own standards for how you want to look as opposed to being subject to how other people think you should look.. that's a good thing. :) Occasionally I do feel a little awkward with how I look even though I dress fairly casual and not overly goth. :/ I'd love to see a follow up post to this.

Should also say that I've just recently found your blog and I think it's great! I find your opinions and advice interesting and you have a really cool style, although as a not-particularly-feminine guy, a lot of it doesn't directly apply to me, haha!

Melissa Fosler said...

Thanks! This is a wonderful Post!! I needed this today!

xxxx little darkling xxxx said...

I used to be like that, scared that people would make harsh comments. Recently I wore a skirt out in public. I have not worn a skirt out for years. I started off one day, wearing a black and white striped, fairly 'normal' skirt. A few weeks passed, and I wore a black lacy poofy lolita-esque skirt. I was paranoid for the first fifteen minuts of being out, but then calmed down, enjoying expressing myself how I wanted, not caring what others thought. You should go for it, or you'll spent your entire life regretting.

xxxx little darkling xxxx said...

By skirt, I mean non-school skirt. :-)

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