Sunday, 26 August 2012

Being a confident Goth: what others think of you and why it doesn't matter

MaximumRide commented on my post Scared to 'Go Goth' with the following: "I am just starting in a new high school as a freshman and I have wanted to be Goth for a while but I'm really insecure about wearing like my black ruffled skirt and combat boots because of what people will think of me. Anyone have any advice for me??"

As well as the above-mentioned post, I'd recommend that any other anxious readers also take a squint at Being a Confident Goth, Part One and D.F. Melancholine's dilemma in this post. As you can see from the amount of links, self-doubt and worry regarding the reactions of others are a big concern for dozens of darklings. I think all of us have days when we feel like we can't tolerate any more staring or one more snarky comment, and thinking back to ye olde days it's even harder to deal with when you're just beginning to dabble in dark style, because you won't have yet built up resistance and every sideways look still makes you want to run and hide in a corner.

Of course, there are also good days, when people looking at you funny makes you go, "Yeah? Yeah! I'm a freak and I'm PROUD, you can stare ALL YOU WANT because I look DAMN AWESOME," so I would like to reassure the young Gothlings gnawing their black-painted nails that not every day of burgeoning Gothdom will be filled with terror and worry.

For the days that ARE filled with terror and worry, I've compiled a few tips. Hope this helps!
  • You can have dress-down days, y'know. If you want to express your spooky side but are having an off-day and don't want to be poked or gawped at, opt for a simple band tee, skirt and boots or band tee, jeans and flats. (I say band tee because you're then still showing your subcultural allegiances without wafting about in tutu and corset, but obviously it's up to you!)
  • Build up tolerance in situations where you feel safe, e.g. shopping with friends or out for a meal with family. "I swear, the more times you step out of your house dressed in a poofy skirt and a wig, or in a pair of platform heels with spikes sticking out them, the more confident you become. Eventually you forget you stand out at all." - from 10 Reasons to Dress Alternative at Anti Charm School.
  • Apply logic. When you stop and stare at someone in the street (although I would hope that you try to be a bit more discreet than some of the painfully obvious gawping we get faced with), what are you looking at? Chances are you're admiring them, or looking for outfit inspiration. Remember that people are probably doing the same to you - admiring your outfit or wishing they had your guts.
  • Dress with confidence. If you feel that you look one hundred per cent amazing, it will help other, more boring people's comments slide off you like water off a duck's back. Smile at yourself in the mirror, make sure you look awesome from every angle, and proceed to completely ignore every stupid remark or wide-eyed stare that comes your way (or treat them to a smirk and a little finger-wave).
  • Read Juliet's Lace's post How to Have the Courage to Dress Goth.
  • Not all attention is bad. For some reason, people seem to forget compliments and focus on negative remarks, but you can flip this around. If you keep a tally of the compliments you receive when dressed alternative (or even keep a note of what's said), you'll see that there are just as many people that appreciate your style as there are ignorant people who haven't been taught when it's appropriate to keep an opinion to themselves (I strongly feel that trying to put down strangers on the street is the height of rudeness).
  • I can guarantee you that many of those who feel they need to offer a critique on your personal style are hardly going to be reaching new heights of sartorial elegance themselves. If you are confronted with negativity from someone wearing a tracksuit or a backwards baseball cap, Crocs with socks, or other assorted style faux pas, ignore it completely, because this person is not a fashion expert or style guru, they are an idiot with an overinflated ego. He without sin cast the first stone...
What others think of you and why it doesn't matter
Most importantly, one of the biggest lessons I have learned (and in some ways am still in the process of learning) is that what others think is not at all relevant. Of course, there are times when personal safety or simply not being an asshat means one must adjust their behaviour or dress for the occasion (e.g. funerals, weddings, walking alone after dark), but on the whole the reactions and opinions of other people rarely need to be taken into account.

I often remind myself that, when I'm in my dotage and looking back on my life, I don't want to feel disappointed that I was held back by my own perception of how people might respond to me. Especially when, for every negative reaction, you could have inspired someone, delighted someone or simply surprised them.

People who choose to dress differently bring excitement and wonder to everyday situations - a cyborg girl in MacDonalds; a Victorian lady in Primark or a be-goggled steampunk gentleman getting his shopping in Tesco might look strange and raise a few eyebrows but for every person who frowns or mutters there's someone staring wide-eyed and texting their friends about the amazing outfit they just saw. In fact, part of what has always appealed to me about Goth is how simply choosing to dress in a different way can make a walk down the street look like a scene from a fairy tale (or cyberpunk novella).

If your personal style so far only extends to Doc Martens and jeans or some badges on your school blazer, well done. You're still saluting a collection of music genres that have something to say other than 'OMG SEX IS COOL', a worldview that embraces both the whimsical and the macabre, and an allegiance to a community that celebrates (rather than suppresses) creativity, imagination and finding an interest in the unusual. Many of us act like our preferred dark style is something to be ashamed of; we walk with our heads down and all too often worry about how to 'tone it down' instead of how to show it off. But really, isn't it something to be proud of...?

You do, eventually, learn not to pay attention to other people as you go about your daily business dressed however you please. But first you have to be bold enough to start trying new things and experimenting with what you wear. Maybe you have to start small at first and work up to having the pink mohawk and killer boots you dream of... but the first step is to swallow the fear, work up some courage, and start. Put funky laces in your boots or wear some coloured mascara and start from there if you have to. But go for it! It gets easier every day and you'll look back and be proud of yourself for having the balls to be yourself. :-)


Julietslace said...

Beaut post Amy and thanks for linking to me. Xo

Bridget said...

Great post!

Nightroad said...

This one made me smile :)

Cherish said...

Amazing post, and really helpful!

I'll definitely be using some of the tips here. :)

Kaigero2479 said...

I'm not a goth but I have always been fascinated by them and I do love wearing the color black.
I will say that I admire all goths, due to their courage and strength to go out dressed in clothes which I think are really cool, but would probably be too fearful to even try out.
It inspires me to make changes in myself, and to embrace what I'm meant to be without being scared.

You all are an inspiration to me! :)

Great Post, keep it up! :D

Shannon Rutherford said...

This really is an amazing post. I've been dressing alternative for years now, but I still find useful most of your advice :)
Aside from the content, this is very well written :)

Ashley said...

I really appreciate this post. Lately I've decided to dress the way I've wanted to for a while now since it's my last year in high school and I wanted to have a few good memories, but I guess a corset wasn't the best way to start. Still, I'll definitely go back to wearing it now and just ignore people because the friends that I thought would support me, asked me why I was acting so weird, and the people who I barely talk to were the ones to compliment me. It really shocked me and left me wearing just my combats. Thanks.

Nebel Finsternis Violet said...

Great post. very well written, made me happy and helped to gain extra confidence. Thank you for your words Amy!

ZombieGirlNightmares said...

I didn't start dressing in my beloved gothic garb until i was a sophomore (10th grade) in high school. Freshman year i wore more black jeans and t-shirt, keeping it simple. During my freshman year though, I gave myself a chance to think about my style, and if i really wanted to go all out at school. Let me tell you, did i feel walking into school with my pleted skirt, corset, and combat boots. Its a huge self confidence boost, and I'm glad I gave myself a year to put together my style. BTW love your post! Total fan!

ZombieGirlNightmares said...

I waited till i was a sophomore in high school before i went all out in my gothic garb. I feel like it was a good idea for me to give myself a year to get used to school, but also to organize my style. I can't tell you how good it felt to walk into school with a corset, skirt, and boots. Its an amazing confidence boost. For any young gothling entering High school, I'd suggest laying low for a year, black jeans and your favorite t-shirts should do well. Slowly ease yourself into wearing a little more later in the year and see what the reactions are and how you feel about it. It's so great once you have the confidence :)

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