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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    LARPing safely

    I’m talking LARPing with emotional safety here.

    This came up because I was explaining some things about LARP to Anna, who has only participated in one roleplaying game (tabletop) in her life and it’s because I made it happen XD. I mentioned something which I’ve had trouble expressing before. The concern I have for my friends following a LARP event when I see posts for days about how hard it is to let go of the character, or how they’re still grieving for a thing that happened during the game, or how they hate the real world and want to go back to the world of the game instead.

    Now, these things are of course totally normal reactions – LARPing is by nature immersive and one of the appealing things about it is that you can experience dramatic, emotional things without it ‘really’ happening to you. You can have the pain of grief or the ecstasy of love, or the difficult conversations that would be awful if it was real life but you’re playing a role so it’s okay.

    But what if we’re not doing those things in a safe way. And I don’t mean physically safe here, I mean emotionally safe. The interesting thing is that when I talked to Anna about this she had a simple question ‘what do you do to get out of character?’ and I tried to think and couldn’t honestly think of anything.

    Because as a teacher, Anna is super mindful of the well being of the kids in her class, and every time they do drama exercises or roleplaying (especially when it’s dramatic stuff, like about bullying) they do an exercise to get themselves consciously out of character at the end. It can be as simple as ‘walk around the chair, and when you’re done you’re yourself again’. This is especially important with children to delineate that the ‘bad’ things they may have been doing in the game shouldn’t continue to be acted on, and that those actions weren’t ‘them’.

    And okay, the LARPers in Wellington/New Zealand aren’t all 8 year old kids, but the fact is that we need to be careful with ourselves and with others and maybe we’re not doing that as much as we could be. The last time I played World That Is I had a traumatic in character experience and found myself crying real, panicked tears for a couple of minutes. I remember thinking to myself ‘wait, this isn’t real. Fraser – your friend – isn’t actually dead’ and I was able to rein myself back in and play the character instead of actually freaking out. I can’t get into the heads of other players, so I don’t know if everyone has these little checks, or maybe they don’t go as far as that all the time.

    What I’m suggesting is an increase in mindfulness and conciousness of the people around you, the effect you’re having on them and the effect they are having with you. I know some of my friends have come up to apologise to me in advance of a game, for what they will be acting like – and those same friends checking in with me afterwards. That is incredibly important, because it’s giving me trust in them. They’re saying ‘look, some shit might be about to happen, but I care about you and I’ll make sure you’re okay’.

    This is tied also to the ability to call time out on something which is genuinely distressing you so that you can have a breather. Players can do this at any time, but to be able to do this without a measure of shame that you’re somehow breaking the scene for other players is not always easy.

    Debriefs are super important, and I don’t think I’ve ever run a LARP where I’ve given them enough thought or care. Usually I’ve used it as a chance to get people to reveal their secrets, share some jokes and that’s it. I remember seeing a suggestion somewhere that you give players five minutes to go and talk to other players and just share something neat that you did, or something emotional that happened. Maybe this could be extended to ensuring you check in on the people you interacted with.

    LARP emotion can be faked but it can also be indistinguishable to emotions you would have in real life. This is why it’s important to be aware of what you’re experiencing and ensuring that you’re not going to have repercussions from it as you go about your ordinary life.

    Maybe it doesn’t have to be a group experience either. I’m sure not everyone is comfortable with too much talk about feelings with others, or spending too long mingling at the end of a game. In which case there’s nothing to stop you doing something inside your head, or on paper. I’ve found it helpful to do free writing in the form or a diary entry or a fic about my character. Or just sitting and reminding myself of what my real life is and letting go of the character. After the drama of the last World That Is game I got on skype and rehashed the whole thing with Anna, which as extremely cathartic for me!

    LARP consists of space and time to experience things deeply and this should be followed by a time of separation: consciously taking yourself out of character, processing what you thought and felt, and letting it go. I know that the LARP community cares about each other, and that means taking care of each other out of the game as well as in it.

    I found this neat article about post game debriefs and I’m sure there’s a lot more writing on similar stuff around. Feel free to link in the comments if you’ve read helpful things. I feel very strongly that this is important thing to think about.

    Whatever it is you need to do, I urge you to do it ! (also this got long. Add comments, I want to know what you think. Have you got any little tricks that you do? Or methods of coping?)

    Long Haul Flights – a guide to making it super awesome.

    I have had a few awesome things happen this week. This is about my decision to take a last minute trip to the States to meet Jess. I am leaving in two weeks(!!!) and that means I get to plan a massive trip, and work out the best way to handle two long haul flights.

    I asked my friends for advice and was pleased to find much of the advice was things I already planning, things I’d worked out on my flights to and from Japan. But it’s always always good to get these things confirmed. The number on tips, for making your time on a plane the best they can be are as follows:

    -> Aisle seat. Obviously useful for getting to the bathroom, and for getting up to wander about. Unfortunately I am a devotee of the window seat. I love to look out the window, and you can kind of lean against the side of the plane when it comes time to doze off. Most likely I’ll be in the window seat and climbing over people when I need to pee, but I’m okay with that.

    -> Enjoy it! Seriously! Get into the mindset that this is a chance for you to chill out, gorge yourself silly on TV shows and movies and silly video games while people wait on you and bring you snacks and drinks! – excellent tip from Jackie. Mindsets make such a different to your experiences, if you go in expecting 15+ hours on the plane to be a Hellish time, well then… chances are it will be a self fulfilling prophecy. But if you frame it like a chance to catch up on movies and tv, take whatever things the flight attendants offer and just plain have fun, the flight’s going to be a lot easier.

    -> Kindle/iPad. Save weight in your case and read as much as you like. I don’t have a tablet, but I do have a kindle, it’s loaded up with books and I went and added in the Harry Potter series and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series as well, because sometimes up in the air you don’t want to challenge yourself too much and something you already read is the way to go.

    -> Warm socks, comfy pants and a blanket or scarf. Keeping warm is always a priority for me, since I have lizard blood and get cold easily. I had a great outfit for my Japan flights, loose track pants, a soft long sleeve t shirt and a t shirt over the top, plus hoodie. I shall be reprising that outfit for my upcoming flights I think.

    -> Identifying your luggage. This is essential, and I’ll be having some fun this weekend with fabric paint and my plain black rolling case.

    -> Take your own headphones. I love my sennheiser noise cancelling phones, but I was trying to work out if they’d be too annoying to travel with or not. The number of people who suggested I take my own solved that dilemma for me, so I’ll be bringing them along and at Frank’s suggestion I bought a converter so I can use ’em on the plane.

    -> Neck support. I know some people are torn on these things but I got a pretty good inflatable one in Japan which made it easier to be comfortable and sleep on the way home.

    -> toothbrush, a little moisturiser to allow yourself to freshen up. I bought some travel wipes from Kathmandu which I’ll also use for cleaning hands and the tray table and things around me, just because why the hell not? I might decant a little moisturiser as well and my toothbrush will be in my carry on as well as some floss. Little things can make a huge difference to how you feel.

    -> Bring your own snacks. I’m going to spend as much of the flights asleep as I can but I think I will still stash some chippies, muesli bars and chocolate to tide me over. I seem to remember one meal on the way to Japan that was far too late being served for my liking.

    ….

    Now my biggest challenge is working out the best bag for my carry on. My laptop now is bigger than the one I could easily slip into my backpack last year so I’m going to try it on a few different things. I may end up attempting to make my own with many small pockets for things like headphones converters and things, but we’ll see! Maybe I have something I can convert in my vast array of bags I already own.

    I may blog about my ultimate carry on kit, when it’s done.

    Other tips from my wonderful friends: Get up and move regularly and keep hydrated. Worth taking your smartphone charger in carry on. Some planes have USB ports at the seats even in economy. Don’t have teeth pulled on day of departure. “Make fists with your toes.” Take the cabin luggage weight restrictions seriously – but know what you’d throw out if you are over the limit. To help sleep phenergan, eyemask & earplugs. Ditch your shoes ASAP!

    Have you got any tips for long haul flight not covered above?

    How to: be grateful

    Optimism isn’t always easy. When you’ve had a day where everything seems to move against you and you have forgotten exactly what it’s like to feel powerful, or together, or cheerful…

    That’s the most important time to work on it.

    As I just said to Karen, if you’re sinking into despair, try writing a list of things you’re grateful for.

    Start small. What’s your favourite thing to have for breakfast? The feeling of sliding into fresh sheets and going to sleep, the movie which will always make you smile? The smell of your moisturiser or your favourite shower gel?

    Think about the people around you, the people you can laugh with, the people who understand you, who share your interests and who know and accept you.

    Make a list, not just in your head but somewhere you can refer back to. In a notebook or somewhere online, where you can start adding up these little things and these precious people and then hopefully the list will start to grow.

    As you think of things you love and enjoy, hopefully more things will spring to mind: the smell of fresh laundry, sun kissed and aired, the lyrics of a song that makes you feel stronger, projects you can finish or do with a friend, buying fish and chips for dinner instead of cooking. Watching cute cats or music videos or something from a comedy channel on youtube, singing out loud and finding a recipe that you love.

    Breathe deeply and look over your list, read it again.

    Keep doing it until you feel calmer, and then do it again tomorrow. The next day too. It gets easier and easier, I promise you.

    2012-06-27 16.36.01

    (photo by me, sunset from up on Boomrock)

    Hormones approaching 30

    Please do not be offended by the stream of crazy you are about to read.

    I didn’t think that I’d be fazed by turning 30, in fact, I’m still not. I’m a few months off yet, but everyone makes such a big deal of it when you say 30. Like it’s the end of your life or something. I have always determined to not worry about after some sage advice from Susan when I was still an impressionable teenager.

    The problem is that my body doesn’t feel the same way.

    I was very pleased to find my first ever grey hair last week, it’s very shiny and silver. This evening I noticed that it has a friend, just hanging out nearby. I’m hoping they recruit more of their near friends so that I can have a Rogue-esque silver lock of hair at the front. I have totally wanted one of those since I read the Belgariad by David Eddings.

    My body clock is what is really driving me crazy though. I’ve never been a baby person, I’ve never really wanted one of my own. I’m much better with kids aged about 4 and up, you know, the ones that are toilet trained and capable of forming whole sentences. They’re like little people. I’ve never understood the desire to have something that screams and poops and you have to be the one that deals with the poop and all their vomit. That grosses me out. My body clock has a different frame of mind. It will see some innocent person walking down the street with a baby in a pram and my whole hormonal uterus will suddenly ache and scream in my ear Babybabybabybabybaby!

    When I think of my friends who are pregnant, I think about how lucky they are, and how they must feel like they are so totally blessed. Then I feel sad that I am not pregnant. Then my brain actually kicks in and says ‘what? WHAT?’ And I wonder what that was all about, because I love my life how it is now. With long sleep ins when I want them, uninterrupted nights, no nappies to change and no one’s vomit to clean up but my own. And I know how to aim into the toilet so it all just flushes away.

    Besides all that, Lee and I have two mortgages right now and it’s a recession and we can’t afford to bring new life into the world. And besides that, it’s kind of a two person decision and while Lee isn’t completely against the idea, he can think of many downsides. As can I. But try telling my body clock? Not even. That clock doesn’t listen to a word of reason.

    Combine this with the all consuming terror I have of being pregnant and giving birth and you have one very confused Jenni. One moment I’ll be going babybabybabybabyifonlyihadababymylifewouldbeperfect and then the next I’ll be imagining with every working faculty of my Worst Case Scenario brain just how awful being pregnant would make me feel, and how I wouldn’t recognise my own changed body and how there’s this whole bit at the end where a LIVE HUMAN comes out of you, and I think that there’s no way in the world I am ever doing that. This is within a two minute time frame. And then I’ll cry because I don’t know what I want.

    There’s also this whole weird thing where a lot of other people want you to have babies as well. I told my mother that another one of my school friends is pregnant and her eyes got all shiny and I just know she was thinking ‘you’ll be next’, and she already has three grandkids. I guess it’s not that weird, but it can be pressure-tastic for me. Like, I know you want to meet my future baby but don’t you understand the terror? The horrible, consuming terror?

    I suspect no one is ever truly ready to get pregnant and have a baby, but I feel like I will never even be close. I wonder what life would be like if we never reproduced and I can see Lee and I happily doing what we’re doing into our forties and at the same time it scares me (is this all there is? What if I get bored?) and it also seems very easy and comforting. We *know* how to do this bit after all, we function fine without kids. That is when I’m not an emotional hormone wreckage puddling on the floor.

    *le sigh*
    Being a grown up is hard. Anyone want to go back to high school with me? I’d be awesome at those 1000 word essays now.

    And you can blame Dooce for this unusual outburst of crazy from me, I’ve been reading her book as well as having a hormonal breakdown.

    Sleep easy

    I haven’t been sleeping well lately, I’ve been waking up at odd hours, some times able to get back to sleep and sometimes not so much. Then I get hella sleepy during the day, want to crash out on my desk at 2pm at work.

    Following conversations with a few workmates who were having similar problems I began to suspect this was all of a sudden a common problem. I suspect it’s an alien invasion plan. The aliens are here, right, and they’re going to interrupt our sleep and make us all really cranky. Once we’re all cranky enough they hope that we’ll attack each other. Then they can take over the world.

    I wasn’t too sure how to defend against this, but then my workmate said that he’d tried a herbal sleep aid Healtheries easy sleep and that it had worked for him. We were talking about it a day later and another workmate mentioned she’d taken it and had the best sleep in ages. I tootled along to the supermarket and bought myself a bottle of them. The checkout operator asked me if it worked, because she hasn’t been sleeping well lately either. Alien invasion theory isn’t sounding so crazy now is it?

    So on Friday night I tried it for the first time, just one pill. The effect I noticed once I had given it an hour to kick in was that it made my head really heavy. You know that stage of sleep where you feel like you’re sinking into the pillow? It recreated that for me. This makes it really easy to fall asleep.

    Then I woke up after an hour or so to pee, because I’d drunk a lot of water to swallow the pill, because it is a big pill. Walking was a bit difficult, I wove around a bit. I had a good night’s sleep but I did keep waking up at random hours, like I have been lately. On Saturday morning I managed to sleep in past my alarm time and get out of bed feeling relatively onto it.

    On Saturday night I had a lot of champagne at Morgue and Cal’s civil union, and when we got home around 11.30 I took two sleep pills to see if I could stop waking at random hours. Well, I can tell you that these pills definitely have an effect, two pills was way too much for me. I still woke up at random times, but I managed a very long sleep in. Basically it was very difficult to wake up. I managed to stumble into the lounge and onto the couch where Lee and I watched some Season Three Supernatural. I was very sleepy. I wanted to close my eyes all morning and go back to sleep.

    After midday we opened up the curtains and decided to enjoy the sunshine. The Lovely Sokky managed to meet up with us in Waitangi Park and some good lounging and catching up was had. On Lee and my return home I tried to do some copyediting and fell asleep for about an hour.

    I woke up from that nap feeling awesome, and made it through The Winding City rehearsal with nary a yawn. Last night I went back to a single pill and I think that’s the way to go for me.

    Once awesome side effect of these herbs is vivid and memorable dreams. On Friday I dreamed that my hair had grown out enough that I could make braids. Giffy was very pleased for me. Last night I dreamed about my new Buffy game character and some intriguing drama I could work in regarding his parents. Good times.

    Point of Fashion: Kapcon 18
    Current Obsession: New Buffy game! Woop woop!

    Head cold check list

    I don’t know about you, but when I get sick I forget things. Even things that I should really remember like, how to get well again. So, for my own reference and maybe yours as well, here’s my Getting a Cold checklist.

    • For a sore throat: hot lemon honey drinks, or Barker’s lemon barley cordial with hot or cold water.
    • Vicks Vaporub for easy breathing at night
    • A hot bath warms the body and eases the sinuses
    • Codral to sleep well
    • Keep warm, keep hydrated
    • Eat citrus fruits, kiwifruit, bananas for the vitamins
    • Comfort food: thick soup, irish stew, fresh vegetables
    • Watching DVDs or TV while wrapped in a duvet with a hottie or a wheat bag speeds healthfulness
    • Berocca, mega doses of vitamins help you feel better soon

    If anyone has anything more to add, please comment and let me know!

    PoF: not warm enough
    CO: stoopid cold