Find Confidence in Self-Acceptance (Pro Tip: It's Cooler Than Being "Cool")
When I was growing up, I always felt terminally uncool. It was still in vogue to make fun of people for liking so-called “geeky” things like comic books, Star Trek, fantasy media, even books in general. Sometimes it felt like you would be made fun of for liking anything that engaged your brain. Anything, well, smart.
That’s not to say people didn’t like these things. But, it became pretty obvious if you did like any of these things, or anything else outside of the mainstream, you would do best to keep it quiet. Otherwise, you risked incessant mockery and ostracization.
I cared a lot about being perceived as cool. Too much. I earned good grades, won spelling bees, and was one of a handful of kids who were accepted into my school’s gifted and talented program. I may as well have put a giant target on my forehead. My peers mocked me at every opportunity. It broke my heart and made me incredibly self-conscious. But, over time, I began to care a lot less about what people thought of me. I was going to be made fun of no matter what I did, so why would I pretend to be anything I wasn’t?
"These characters helped me learn what it meant to be a strong woman in a male-dominated world. How could liking them, looking up to them, be uncool?"
I had kept so many of my favorite things secret, pretending instead to like a lot of the mainstream media wares that my peers had dubbed acceptable. My mother loved many things that were considered geeky and passed this reverence on to me. Few people knew how much I looked forward to Saturday mornings in order to watch X-Men: The Animated Series. Or, that in my love for science fiction, normally a boys’ club, I had found some of the best role models I’ve had even to this day: Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens, Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully in The X-Files, even Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. These characters helped me learn what it meant to be a strong woman in a male-dominated world. How could liking them, looking up to them, be uncool? These women were beyond cool. But still, I was hesitant to outwardly confess my love for them. That all changed with the premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer marked a great turning point. Here was a show about vampires, monsters, and demons, yet it starred socially acceptable, attractive people and took place in high school. It wasn’t geared toward adults. Buffy quickly became a cult hit, and while its creator would turn out to be devastatingly problematic, I can’t deny the impact the show had on me as a person and throughout my life. Plus, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s portrayal of Buffy Summers is iconic and can’t be praised enough. I loved Buffy so much I couldn’t keep my obsession a secret and I quickly turned several of my friends onto the WB sensation. The boys in my grade thought the women were hot, so they weren’t going to make fun of me for watching it. Because hey, they were watching it, too.
Shows like The X-Files and Buffy were bringing niche, geek-friendly genres to mainstream viewers. It was characters like Buffy, Ripley, Scully, and Dr. Crusher that helped give me strength to accept myself as I was. They didn’t care what people thought of them. They were unapologetically themselves. Who cares if they were fictional? They were real to me.
I began to realize that I was always going to like what I liked. No matter what other people said or however they tried to influence me, it wasn’t going to matter. It wasn’t going to change what spoke to me. What could change, however, was how I handled myself. How I reacted to other peoples’ reactions to me. I could simply choose to not take it on.
"It gives me a good amount of smug satisfaction to see things I was made fun of years ago become cool as I’ve aged. The geeks have inherited the earth."
It’s easier said than done, but this new mindset worked. I stopped caring so much if people thought I was cool for my preferences. I didn’t always think their preferences were all that amazing to begin with, but why should that matter? Whatever it was that they liked made them happy. So, why stand in the way of someone who is trying to bring some joy to their life?
Today, geek culture is thoroughly mainstream. Marvel movies have topped the box office for more than a decade, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are some of the most successful shows on television. And don’t even get me started on the success of Harry Potter (though I do find The Boy Who Lived’s creator to be thoroughly problematic as well). Geek culture is so mainstream I have to imagine there were more of us geeks all along that were living in secret. It gives me a good amount of smug satisfaction to see things I was made fun of years ago become cool as I’ve aged. The geeks have inherited the earth.
I encourage you to celebrate your geekiness every day. Fads will always come and go, and what’s uncool may someday be cool. So, instead of trying to keep up with the times, instead of caring what other people want you to care about, why not save your energy? Especially when that energy could be better spent binging on Stranger Things or Black Mirror. Like what you like, and in turn, let others do the same. The confidence you’ll find in self-acceptance is way cooler.