In fandom, we have a concept called “hiding your powerlevel,” which involves deliberately downplaying your interest and passion for anime, videogames, etc. in an effort to fit in better with normal people. It could be passing up a videogame tournament at your school that you could easily win, just because you don’t want people to think you just play videogames all the time; or it could be feigning ignorance when someone asks you about a show or game you’re passionate about.
On the surface, it seems like a sound thing to do, but the underlying mindset behind it is insidious and actively harmful to fandoms and the people in them.
The concept of “hiding your powerlevel” is built on an undercurrent of shame. It comes from a fear of being shamed by normal people for your interests, and it comes from an underlying belief that you should be shamed for the things you’re into and how into them you are. It comes from a self-defeating mindset that so many geeks and nerds have nonetheless internalized.
What we all need to realize is that it’s all arbitrary. People value-judge some hobbies over others for absolutely no reason. Embrace how dumb the stuff you do is. I used to lead a club about building plastic models, mostly of robots from cartoons. We would sit around, build models, and make fun of each other for putting pieces in wrong or dropping parts. I’d get really mad and rant about the Methuss and its stupid design. That’s all really dumb.
When you break it down, everything everyone does for a hobby is really dumb. There are people out there who live and die by the Denver Broncos, a team they are not part of and whose association with them is basically imaginary. Some of them don’t even live in Colorado. That’s really dumb, but I can’t hate on it, because I’m guilty of spending $100 on a Sega Saturn controller that’s only used for one game.
The point is to own your hobby. Instead of shrinking and downplaying your hobbies, become so passionate about them that the way you talk about them makes them sound interesting.
The thing is, people respect people who stick to their guns. People don’t respect people who compromise elements of themselves to try and be everything to everybody. People who try to be everything to everybody come off as deceitful to people. People don’t know if they’re being real with them. They might tolerate people like that for as long as it’s convenient to them, but there’s no genuine respect in that relationship.
It stands out to us that some people get weirded-out by what we’re into, but the truth is, most people don’t care, and most of the people who do care will respect you more if you’re passionate about your interests. And you have the power to reject those who are petty enough to give you a hard time about it.
If you’re passionate about something, there’s no reason to downplay that. Be who you are. Anyone who hates on that isn’t worth your time, and certainly isn’t worth hiding your passions over.
I’m not saying to go out every day in full cosplay, with your Shimakaze dakimakura in tow, but what I am saying is, why be “normal?” Why hide elements of yourself in an effort to appear average? “Normal” is synonymous with mediocrity. Why aspire to that?