When it comes to large social gatherings, I’m the type of person that hangs out on the fringe. To listen and observe rather than stand out has been my preference. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been uncomfortable drawing attention to myself. More than that, the very idea of speaking up and with authority causes a great deal of anxiety within me. I’m not sure why social gatherings make me so anxious. Maybe I put too many expectations on myself. Maybe I’m afraid of being judged. Whatever it is, most social situations make me anxious and uncomfortable. I tend to freeze up and lose my voice.
With quarantine in full swing, I’ve been playing a lot of Final Fantasy XIV Online. As in playing almost every single night since the beginning of March. As a longtime fan of the franchise, I was excited to jump back into the fantastical world of summoners, chocobos, and moogles. Not only did I reconnect with an old friend in the game, but I also tried new classes that really challenged me. I never realized what an impact this game would later make on me. What started as a way to pass time in quarantine ended up with me gaining more confidence in myself and my abilities as a leader.
When I first started playing Final Fantasy XIV Online, I mostly stuck to the dancer DPS class. I’d shimmy and pirouette my enemies into the ground. While it’s fun to twirl my way to victory, I’ve always been interested in tanking. I just didn’t think I could handle the weighty responsibility of tanking. The idea of leading a group through a dungeon genuinely scared me. What if I go the wrong way? What if I pull too big of a mob and the group wipes? Plagued by anxiety and self-doubt, I put off leveling a tank for quite some time. I didn’t take the plunge until a few months into playing FFXIV.
If you’re unfamiliar with MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV, the “tank” is responsible for absorbing damage. It’s more nuanced than just taking the brunt of enemy fire, though. The tank is in charge of positioning the enemy, dictating the pace of the encounter, and keeping enemies off of other players. They also initiate combat and determine target priority for the rest of the group.
I wanted to emulate characters like Tifa from Final Fantasy VII or Beatrix from Final Fantasy IX, who rely on their brute strength and swordsmanship skills to take down their opponents. When it comes to the Final Fantasy franchise, women tend to be healers or magic users. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with caster classes (my good friend remains a healer in FFXIV and I trust him with my life), I find the overall representation of physically strong women to be lacking. Plus, it’s just plain cool to see a woman who can throw a good punch and take charge. Beatrix and Tifa’s really inspired me to design my own kickass woman in FFXIV.
The first time I tanked, I bombed. The group wiped because I mistakenly pulled an enormous mob of monsters. Seriously, it was like a tsunami wave rushing in. I was definitely feeling those growing pains. Luckily, it was a low level dungeon (more room for mistakes) and I was playing with a group of understanding players. Transitioning from dancer to paladin (a popular tanking class) was jarring, for sure. There’s no escaping the spotlight as a tank, as your actions often directly impact the group. Despite the lackluster performance, I kept trying. As I leveled up and started running more difficult dungeons, my skills vastly improved.
What surprised me most was how tanking helped me gain confidence in real life situations. In work meetings, I’m pretty quiet. I don’t always say what I’m thinking or feeling, as I’m afraid it’ll lead to a nasty confrontation. However, after tanking for a couple of weeks, I started speaking up more at work. I guess you could say I’m afraid of repercussions. From assigning out various projects to asking my superiors for more help and support, I was taking on a more active and authoritative role at work. Communicating effectively and honestly made my professional life a heck of a lot easier, that’s for sure. That said, being assertive doesn’t come naturally to me.
Tanking forced me to take on a more assertive role, which is the polar opposite of my quiet and somewhat withdrawn nature. Instead of shrinking away from the group chat and carrying on like I usually do, I had to frequently check in with my team about pulls and boss mechanics. Communication is key. When it comes to complex mechanics, it’s the tank’s job to correctly position the boss so the other players aren’t in the path of an area of effect spell, which covers a large swath of the battle arena. Despite my initial feelings of uncertainty, the more I tanked the more confidence I gained, especially where my personal life was concerned.
As I gained more confidence in myself, I became more aware of my feelings. Pleasing others and steering clear of confrontation just isn’t sustainable. In constantly trying to keep the peace, I prioritized other people’s happiness over my own. So, I started establishing healthy boundaries with family members and close friends. If I’m feeling too drained for an emotionally taxing conversation, instead of just powering through, I’ll be honest about my ability to listen properly and the amount of energy I’m willing to put into the discussion. I’ve made honoring my feelings a top priority.
I never expected FFXIV to have such a large impact on me. Originally I’d written it off as nothing but a fun game to goof around in. I mean, my flying mount is a magic bed. If that’s not downright silly, I’m not sure what is. What I got instead was a lesson in self-worth. I learned how to speak up, set boundaries, and effectively guide others. Final Fantasy games were always a constant in my life so, in a way, it felt like I was coming home again.