I do not make, sell, or traffic in bootleg/recast dolls or any other product.

I do not provide information on where or how to buy them.

Any recast information on this blog is for information purposes only, for identifying recast products on the second hand market.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

On Popularity, Shame, Perfectionism, and Internet Cruelty

My life motto. (Brene Brown, I don't know who created the photo.)

Today ladies and gentlemen and all others we're going to talk about Shame and Perfectionism and how this relates to popularity in the doll hobby. This will probably be another one of my possibly offensive and controversial posts, so I apologize in advance if I hurt your feelings.

You're probably wondering what perfectionism is doing on a doll blog. I've written about everything from confidence to honesty and economics on this blog, so why not this? With the proliferation of BJD Confession blogs full of snarky confessions about poor face ups and styling or photography to complaints about not being popular (enough), perfectionism is very much a part of our hobby.

I am not a person who is very open about my own struggles. Most of you know my teen brother died last August, and I've been grieving since then. This is on top of an anxiety disorder and cyclical depression and yes--- my perfectionism.

Through the therapy I've been attending for a few years, I've been learning how to deal with my anxieties and with my perfectionism. I've learned that perfectionism is based on something we call Shame. At the end of this piece I'm going to link my favorite Shame and perfectionism books and researchers, and I highly recommend checking these out!

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed mental health professional. Do not take anything I say here as medical advice.

I am merely a humble world wise traveler, an anthropologist who specialized in subcultures and the supernatural in school, a Wiccan teacher, and someone who has been down and out homeless and mostly gotten back up. So take what I say with a grain of salt, and know that I have faith in you. I've overcome self injury, eating disorders, major depression, suicidal tendencies, and low self-esteem. I still struggle like any other person, and I have ups and downs, and that is why I hope I can help someone else.

First things first, lets define some terms.


I define vulnerability to mean putting oneself in the position where there is risk. This can be physical vulnerability (walking alone in a dangerous neighborhood after dark), emotional vulnerability (omfg I just told her I think she's cute omfg what is she going to say?!), and any other situation in which we put some aspect of ourselves on display or for the judgment of others.


Shame is that nasty feeling that creeps up on you anytime you find yourself feeling vulnerable, afraid, or when you feel you've failed or might fail. It might be a physical sensation deep in your gut, a red flush across your cheeks, dizziness, or gut wrenching anxiety and all the symptoms that come with that. Brene Brown adds that shame is an "intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection." (Yes, I quote her a lot, but bear with me. She's one of my heroes.)

In the doll hobby and the quest for attention and popularity, our lack thereof makes us feel shame, as if we are unworthy of belonging to and contributing to the hobby community. We've "failed" to become a super star, the pond's big fish, so we feel shame and unworthy. We feel we don't belong, that we don't deserve our dolls, that we'll never succeed, that we suck at photos or face ups or whatever. Chances are this isn't just the hobby  you're feeling this in. I'd venture it's rearing its head in many other areas of your life, and you've just never had a name for it before.


Guilt isn't always a negative. Guilt is the social construct that helps humans behave in a way their society finds appropriate. primates have a deep need to belong. Being alone usually meant death. Modern society may not automatically have that life or death struggle for the most part, and being the lone weirdo doesn't mean you're going to starve to death when you're kicked out of the cave come winter, but it does create mental anguish, anxiety, and intense feelings of shame and loneliness.

Brown says, "I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort." I agree with this, as an anthropologist. Guilt prevents you from robbing your neighbor because he's got a nicer TV. It makes you feel ashamed when you think about or actually do act on your impulses to seek vengeance for a perceived slight. Guilt keeps us striving to work to fulfill our own expectations of ourselves, but for perfectionists, guilt can get out of hand. It's a juggling act, and a difficult one.

Superiority Complex:

A superiority complex is "an attitude of superiority that conceals actual feelings of inferiority and failure." (thanks Google Definitions). Basically, you act like an elitist ass because you feel the exact opposite of that. Someone with a superiority complex puts down others in an effort to seem more knowledgeable, experienced, or just "better" than others. It's pretty well known that intentionally shaming someone for their looks implies envy, shaming someone for the face up skills means you're better.

This DOES NOT mean you can't vent to your buddies. "Wtf why did this get more likes? My picture is better right?" And it might be. And having someone reinforce that for you can help us not to feel ashamed. This is isn't a superiority complex until it becomes pathological and internalized, and you begin to define your self-worth in terms of doing better than other people.

Using myself as a case example: I know I'm improving as a photographer. My technical skill has gotten worlds better than it was five years ago. However, less skilled photos often get more attention than mine. I don't immediately hate myself and my dolls because I don't have a superiority complex. I whine to my best doll friends about it, and I move on. Someone with a superiority complex will hate their dolls, hate the person, and probably send a bunch of shitty confessions bashing that person anonymously. One is a pretty normal (if kind of embarrassing) response and the other is symptomatic of deeper issues.  In my experience and opinion, the superiority complex has you paranoid and believing everyone is copying you or out to get you.

Inferiority Complex:

This is "an unrealistic feeling of general inadequacy caused by actual or supposed inferiority in one sphere, sometimes marked by aggressive behavior in compensation." Essentially, someone feels like they suck at life, dolls, and everything, so they become hyper critical, hyper aggressive, and downright petty in response. They constantly seek attention and butt pats, trying to find some sense of self-worth from this attention. Your shame makes you think "I'm not popular/I suck because I don't have or do X and only X is popular". Believing you're Inferior leads to copycats who borrow or depend on other people's ideas in an attempt to make themselves feel better.


Brene Brown, a personal hero of mine, defines perfectionism this way: “Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

Perfectionists seek to minimize feelings of inadequacy and failure, the negative feelings of shame that increase anxiety, depression, and lack of satisfaction. We don't like to be wrong; we like to be respected because to be disrespected is to fail or be imperfect. We have deeply held standards of ourselves, created through our lifetime experiences and expectations others had of us.

I think all artists to some degree are perfectionists. We never view our work as perfect, and it is this need which drives us ever forward toward improvement. If the artist ever viewed their work as complete, they'd not have the need to explore and challenge themselves and their audience. They'd fail to try new things, to see room for improvement, and they'd thus fail to create. However, too much of this results in the opposite: a complete lack of creativity and a feeling of fear and stagnation preventing us from actually acting on our deep need to create.

Doll collectors are artists. We style our dolls. We paint them. We photograph them. We pose them. Play is an art, my friends, take it from any toddler. There is an art to play, and through art we play even as adults.

I'd venture a good majority of doll collectors, at least those most active in the social aspects of the doll hobby, are riddled with those struggles I've talked about above. We want to popular, to be noticed, to be seen as knowledgeable, expert, to be respected. We forever feel the sting of shame when we say, "I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH".

I dare you to throw that aside and to say, "Today, I AM GOOD ENOUGH." There is no shame in not being noticed. There is no shame in lacking popularity.

There is no magic formula to it.

I'd venture that I am not a popular person in the hobby. Many people know me. I was once a proverbial Big Fish in the small recast pond, and I stood out there once upon a time before the pond grew and I eventually left for the ocean that is the rest of the BJD community. Yet, I have fewer than 50 instagram followers (and most of those are my relatives, which both amuses and pains me at the same time), and occasionally (though it's begun to occur more frequently than I EVER expected) earn more than 25 notes on tumblr. 

I've searched for the formula. I've owned the rarest of the rares, a Juri 08 and a Vampire Chloe. I've owned the most popular of populars, Minifee and Feeple 60 Chloes. I've owned the strange- DC Alberta and several hybrids there of. I've owned cute, I've owned creepy, human, anthro, elf, witch, hipster, artist, big eyed stylized, realistic. The doll you own is NOT the key to popularity. There's no Solomon's Key that'll magically unlock some ancient secret to BJD stardome. And if that's your sole reason for being in this hobby? Well, er, keep reading….

I've taken terrible photos. I'm sad to say my most favorited photo on flickr is this one.
Feeple 60 Moe Shoes

That's right. A shoe picture. Oh, my poor ego.

The worst reception I ever received on a photo on Facebook was this one, with a whopping 25 likes.

If I were to give into my feelings of shame and guilt, I'd rage quit the hobby. I felt ashamed, a little guilt,  a little sadness, my ego was bruised, but I picked myself up and moved forward, thinking of new ideas.
I don't say these things to seek asspats. I say them to show you the wide variance of reception. It is an unpredictable human element. We can shoot for the right time, the right group, the right day to share a photo, but that human element is an unpredictable one. When you figure out how to predict that human element with 100% accuracy, come join me in the anthropology department. We need you.

If you are in the hobby solely for outside approval, then this speaks to your shame. It speaks to more than just dolls, but to your personal bitter struggle with shame and perfectionism. It will take time, and you can learn to overcome these impulses. You can become stronger overtime, and the need to be fulfilled from external sources can be conquered and you can become a whole-hearted* person.

If you are unfulfilled and unsatisfied in your hobby, take a damn good look at why. What shame issues do you have surrounding this that you've yet to address? What can you work through to help find enjoyment again? You will never find happiness, fulfillment, or contentment if you only find it in others and not from within yourself.

I am always striving to improve. I love my dolls, even when a photo bombs. I think about quitting when I fail, but I am not a person who is able to quit. I pick myself up, I dust myself off, I mope to my dearest friends, and I always try again.

No more asshole comments on confession blogs, no more crude unasked for criticism. Treat all who share as you yourself would want to be treated when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to hurt. Those that most actively try to hurt, shame, or make others feel inferior are feeling that way about themselves. Sharing your doll takes vulnerability and openness, and even if we gossip and laugh in private with our friends, it is an entirely different thing to do it in a cruel, anonymous atmosphere, on Facebook, or in person. If criticism is asked for, learn to do it with gentleness.

I'm not an expert. I fail. I give in to feelings of shame and inadequacy and jealousy and envy as much as the next person. But I believe having a name for this beast and the tools to challenge it does worlds for own mental health and my outlook on life. Whether I'm squatting out reps of 186lbs or painting eyelashes on a pretty little doll, failure kicks my ass and then I get back up. I believe you have the strength to do this too.

So! If you take nothing else away from this, simply remember to always try again. The only true failure is to stop trying. Dare to be vulnerable, and be kind always.

*See Brene Brown's definition of the whole-hearted way of living.

Reading List:

Brene Brown works: "The Gifts of Imperfection" and "I Thought it Was Just Me But It Wasn't" and "Daring Greatly" (All her works are worth reading.)

She has TED talks available on youtube, and you can see her site here:

Sue Patton Thoele, "The Courage to Be Yourself"

Ann Smith, "Overcoming Perfectionism: Finding the Key to Balance and Self"

June Price Tangay, "Shame and Guilt"

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