Anime fans are no strangers to being ridiculed. We tend to be socially inept to varying degrees, and we have a hobby that others don’t really understand (or more specifically, they don’t understand how we could devote so much time and energy and emotion to it). This creates a strong fear inside of us, that someone, whether it’s people at your school, your co-workers, your friends and acquaintances, does not think very highly of you. I’m no exception, and I know that I am neither the first dork nor the last one to experience this fear. I understand that it’s the kind of thing that can paralyze an individual, and make them unable to interact with others and grow, which in turn paralyzes them further.
Perceived ridicule comes from all angles, but the most interesting by far is the ridicule that comes from your “in-group,” in this case other anime fans. It’s one thing to be attacked from the outside, you can retreat, you can defend, but when the attack happens from “within,” it makes you feel that much more vulnerable. Again, you don’t even have to experience an actual slight. All it takes is the fear of one, and then it becomes a matter of overcoming it or ignoring it.
The reason why this fear of ridicule is so strong and present is that none of us can say we have never met a fellow fan who has weirded or creeped us the hell out. In some cases, as we get to know them we realize they’re okay overall, but there are those who are just somehow unapproachable, whether it’s due to their abrasive personalities, tendency to kill any line of conversation, or just someone whose presence in a room makes everything worse. We’ve seen these people, and then we think, “Wait, maybe I’m like that! I’m so busy thinking less of this person, but I bet that guy doesn’t think he’s that guy either, so maybe I was that guy all along!” Then you start to wonder what qualities about yourself might make you the person no one wants to be around, and now, even if you weren’t that guy, you might become him inadvertently, or worse yet, in your efforts to not be him as much as possible, you change yourself into a sad shell of who you were.
How do you move past this point? I’m not sure if any anime nerd will ever be able to completely rid themselves of these feelings, but we can take things one step at a time, and learn more about ourselves and others. If we know what we like and what we do not, and have confidence tempered by humility, then I think we’re on the right path.