I think it's something we all go through from time to time... a certain feeling of inadequacy, or a strong urge to be known, to make an impression, to go out there and DO something and have others witness it.
Now, more than ever, those who wear lolita clothing cross-post outfits here, there, and everywhere. Through tumblr especially, lolita has been spread to a wider audience and as a result, more and more people have discovered the style. In the last year alone there have been numerous "kawaii" related contests in which you must submit your best coordinate photos, and then get people to vote for you to win some sort of prize. So-called "e-famous" lolitas have found themselves overwhelmed with the popularity they've ended up achieving for themselves, and getting an unexpected backlash which forces them to reconsider even wearing the fashion they once loved so much. I can't help but wonder if the shift of the online community from its cosy, humble Livjournal beginnings to the internet at large is to blame for not only the change of atmosphere, but also the change of expectation when participating in the fashion.
There have always been lolitas who are more popular than others: the ones who would get the most comments on daily_lolita, or who ran a blogspot with a lot of followers. The difference then was that there was no real pressure for them to be anything more than a regular person occasionally sharing their outfits, or someone running their amateur blog. Lately, it seems as though people enter this fashion with the very aim of posting the best coordinate photos as a way to increase their online popularity, and with the aim of putting together the most dramatic outfits specifically for photoshoots they can post to tumblr for notes and eventual notoriety. That isn't to say I believe there is anything wrong with wanting attention. I think, at the core, we as human beings are all attention seekers to a degree. If I wanted no interaction with others, this blog would be private. If I didn't ever want opinions on my outfits or my thoughts, it would make more sense for me to have no online presence whatsoever. Of course I want people to see me!
However, I do believe there comes a point where you cross the line between wanting some recognition for pulling off a particularly cute outfit, and getting dressed up for the sole purpose of having content to share with your fans. I think it's a matter of priorities, and how we view ourselves within the lolita community at large. We must not be consumed by the urge to be "the best", the "most popular", the "most easily recognised" or the one with the "most impressive wardrobe." When these things come to epitomise the lolita experience for you, it won't be fun anymore. You become self conscious. You use meetups as photo opportunities rather than a chance to make friends and meet new people. You begin to treat clothing as a competition, and rather than going with the flow and being involved in lolita for the pure joy of it. You begin to compare yourself to others. You begin to come up with unrealistic expectations for yourself, such as the number of likes your photo should get each time, or how many followers you must gain by a certain date. What once was a beautiful method of self expression becomes a toxic, vicious cycle. How do I know all this? I speak from personal experience.
Lolita was the first fashion I ever got into that I felt suited me. It was also the first time I was able to break away from an unsatisfying social life made up of shoddy relationships gained through being in education, and instead surround myself with people I actually had things in common with. I got into the fashion fairly young, at around 16, and during the first few frilly years, I became too obsessed with measuring up to everyone else. Even now, there are older coordinate photos that I can't bear to look at. Not so much because the clothes looked off or ita (which they sometimes did), but because I remember how I felt the day the picture was taken. I remember my low self esteem. I remember every occasion I returned from a meetup only to cry because I hated every single photo of myself from that day. I remember painstakingly taking photo after photo of myself on self timer, and never achieving the perfection I craved. Every derpy face, bad angle, and poorly put together outfit impressed upon me that I would never be good enough. I desperately sought self validation through my mediocre blogging, and underwhelming outfit photos.
Between October 2011 and January 2013, I didn't attend a single lolita meetup or event. I wanted to leave the emotional baggage of lolita behind, but I couldn't bring myself to get rid of the clothes I adored so much. As a compromise, I decided to have no real life interaction with other lolitas. I think that hiatus was good for me. I finished school, was thrown into university life, and was able to come to terms with a lot of things about myself I hadn't been able to previously. The big thing for me was the realisation I wasn't truly this antisocial introvert. I loved meeting people. I loved talking to others. I knew I needed to give it one final shot. But before I could, I knew I needed to stop wanting popularity so badly. I needed to stop measuring my worth against how much of a mark I had made on the lolita world, and the world at large. I do not exist to be seen as successful or useful or important. I exist to exist, and what I choose to do with my existence needn't be spectacular in order for it to be one worth having. With this firmly in mind, I began attending meetups again. I grew the confidence to take photos of myself again. I gradually improved my styling of hair and makeup and filled the glaring holes in my wardrobe essentials. I treated all of these as personal missions, rather than public declarations of my worth.
I feel a lot better about myself these days. I have made wonderful friends, and I love attending lolita events with them. I revel in the excitement of planning new coordinates, of meeting up with friends to chat about lolita and also life in general. Lolita is truly a fun thing for me now, and I didn't need to do anything drastic to make that happen. Maybe one day I'll carry out my own little plans for my local communities. I would love to have a big J-fashion bring and buy sale that everyone could participate in. I would love to organise proper activity-filled meets. I would love to be ambitious, and make attending local lolita meets a super fun thing to take up the time between the large scale lolita events. But if I do choose to go ahead with my plans, it won't be because I want to prove something to the world, but because I think they would be fun things to take part in, and believe others would think so, too. Nothing more, nothing less.
The biggest thing for me is that I stopped comparing myself to others, and now I have a lot more confidence. The fact I'm not adored by endless fans or considered anyone's style inspiration is no longer important to me. Right now, the only mark I feel I need to make in the lolita world is to treat every person I come across with kindness, and continue to make good friends within the community. I am being the best me that I can be, both as a person, and as a lolita, and that in itself is more than enough.