Impostor Syndrome

The ironic thing about this post is that I’ve tried to write it a few times and then cancelled out, thinking I’d do it later. I had it sitting in my drafts for ages, unsure how to proceed… then in a fit of self doubt (I don’t know what I’m talking about, what’s even the point of talking about impostor syndrome, etc etc) I deleted the post altogether.

It just took Steve saying he’d like to read it to motivate me to try again, so this blog post is a different format and hopefully better than the original was.

Impostor syndrome. I don’t have it for everything… but I have it for some things that really matter to me.

  • Game Designer
  • Writer
  • Tester
  • Here’s how Imposter syndrome manifests for me.

    Someone: You wrote this game? That’s great!
    Me: Aw, well, it’s only a couple of pages long.
    Secret in brain meaning: it’s not very big, it barely counts as a game! My accomplishment is minimal, don’t you agree? In fact, it’s hardly even a *game*

    Someone: You put it up for sale? Maybe you’ll make some cash.
    Me: No, well I put it up for pay what you want, so people can get it for free
    Secret in brain meaning: I don’t deserve to make money off this because it’s a small game and it’s silly and probably nobody will even want it anyway so there’s really no point in making it a proper price because no one will buy it.

    Someone: You’re a game publisher right?
    Me: well, I only have a couple of games up for sale, nothing compared to my brother or my friend Hamish, you should really check their stuff out!
    Secret in brain meaning: my accomplishments mean nothing in comparison to people who are way more successful/have run kickstarters. Please pay attention to them and not me because I am more comfortable talking about other people’s success than mine.

    Someone: Have you ever written anything?
    Me: never been published…… oh wait, yes, I put some stuff up for sale. And… I’ve been published a few times, in magazines and a short story compilation. Huh did I forget that?
    Secret brain meaning: I forgot I have done super cool things what is up with that seriously???

    What does this all boil down to?

    I find it really to believe that I am successful… or rather, that I am allowed to be successful enough to call myself a game designer/writer. What makes a writer? What makes a game designer? At what point am I allowed to define myself that way?

    And more to the point, why do I have so little faith in my own skills? I mean, there’s a heap of reasons but none of them make much sense. With anyone else in my position I’d go ‘yeah, you made it, look at those games you published’ but I just can’t quite see it for myself.

    I would really like to conclude this blog post with handy answers that explain everything and some kind of handy hint you can take away to prevent this kind of belief in your own life but sadly, it’s not that easy.

    I do know some things though:
    – I can look at the sales reports of my games as often as I want and see that actually yeah, some people do want to buy my games and feel good about that
    – I can run my games for people and see that they enjoy them and feel good about that
    – People can say things like ‘your game is good’ or ‘can’t wait to play it’ or ‘what will your next one be?’ and feel really really good
    – I can look at the positive feedback on my work performance review and feel fantastic
    – People can come to me for advice because they trust that I have the skills and knowledge and I feel fantastic about that too

    Reassurance is huge, and I think people can underestimate how good reassurance is from your own self. You can say out loud or inside your head ‘I did this. I achieved this, look at the evidence’. In fact, I’d say thinking or repeating that stuff to yourself is a huge step in beating the imposter-y feels.

    Reassurance from other people is also super great, but it has to be tempered to be believe. If all someone says to you is ‘You’re great! I love your stuff!’ then it becomes a bit harder to believe it, the paranoid impostor brain starts to say ‘oh hey, they’re just saying this to be nice, they don’t really mean it’, which can feed into the bad thought patterns.

    My number one piece of advice is to just push through. If you know the steps, you can do the thing and once you’ve done it then you are someone who did the thing.

    If anyone has any ideas or thoughts about impostor syndrome, I’d love to hear them, please comment below!

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