A few months ago, I was watching a video on LARPing. The individuals were staying at a castle and engaging in the role-play almost 24/7. It fascinated me, especially when one girl looked at the camera and said that LARPING had given her more confidence (even outside of the role-play world) than she ever had before.
LARPing, or live-action role-playing, is a little like a prolonged Halloween night or Renaissance Fair. Everyone dresses up as their character and acts out newly-created personalities. Like a real-life World of Warcraft or Dungeons and Dragons.
Sound silly? I disagree. In a world where “real-world” thinking has gained an imbalance, I think it’s important to bring imagination back in.
The thing that fascinated me most about the documentary, however, was the girl who stated she was shy in real life but bold while in character. How interesting! She was the same person, with the same mind, heart, and abilities, but depending on how she viewed herself and what personality she selected, her entire demeanor changed.
And haven’t we all done that? When I put on my work uniform, anxiety becomes a thing of the past. When I take on the role of leader, I find I am strong and confident and able to do things that would normally leave me a in a sobbing mess.
It’s all in how I view myself and my current role.
And maybe there’s a huge insight in this. Maybe we can choose who to be and what to feel and how we react. Maybe role-playing can help us in other areas of life, even far removed from medieval castles or overgrown woods.
What would happen if we switched our characters in real life? Consider if you were LARPing. Suppose you were shy, but you were playing a bold character? Maybe you would put on some makeup and change clothes, to help you get into this new personality. Perhaps you would feel more empowered and less vulnerable, with no connection to your history. You have just stepped into another world, one where you are a powerful noble, peeking down your nose at those unworthy of your presence.
Could you do it? Sure! Actors do it all the time. So do people who participate in Christmas plays or work or are self-employed. People who parent likewise step into new roles. And didn’t all of us as kids play various characters from day to day? I was once a dinosaur, and another time, a fox. I was a cat and a villain running from the sheriff’s posse and a carnival master teaching visitors how to win prizes.
Why can’t we do that now? Or is role-playing a silly notion better left in the toy-box? Puff! I think not. We role-play all the time as adults, but usually we don a weaker role. We play the quiet one, the shy one, the silent one, the acquiescent friend, the worried adult, the frightened employee, the basher of our own dreams and other’s. We play all these roles trying to escape pain, so what if we use role-play to help find our true selves once more?
The girl in the LARPing video stated that through role-playing, she had learned how to be bolder in her outside life. Playing a character gave her skills she didn’t have before and brought her closer to her true self. Maybe it’s time we drop the notion that make-believe is for children, don our own cloaks and jewelry and weapons, and step into the realm of our true identities.