Imposter syndrome is a topic that comes up frequently during women in games events. “I worry I’m not good enough”, “I don’t think I’m ready to apply for the job/promotion”, and so on. And according to the International Journal of Behavioural Science, 70 per cent of people will suffer from it during their career. They might just not know that it has a name.
As the condition suggests, imposter syndrome is an affliction where the person doubts their achievements – and fears being exposed as a ‘fraud’. It can affect the most (seemingly) confident individuals, and can hinder their career progression as they question their abilities, even in the face of success.
It’s important for managers and business owners to recognise and address the issue, too. If their staff are suffering from imposter syndrome, it can have a detrimental effect on the workplace and business in general. As a starting point, it’s worth recognising the symptoms.
Dr Valerie Young, an expert on imposter syndrome and author of the award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, claims that there are five ways that people with impostor syndrome measure their own competence – all bars no mere mortal could consistently hit:
- . The Perfectionist: they focus on ‘how’ something is done, and how it turns out. And if just one thing is wrong, it means failure for them.
- . The Expert: the knowledge version of the Perfectionist, according to Young. This person will focus on ‘what’ and ‘how much’ she knows or can do. Even a minor lack of knowledge denotes failure and shame.
- . The Soloist: cares mostly about ‘who’ completes the task, ie it has to be them managing the entire project. Needing help is a sign of failure.
- . The Natural Genius: also cares about ‘how’ and ‘when’ accomplishments happen. But this person will fret about how quickly the job can be done, and how much effort they need to put in.
- . The Superwoman/Superman: this will resonate with many women as it’s about how many roles they can juggle – employee, parent, partner, friend – and if they can’t manage it all easily and without fuss, they feel shame.
Recognising the condition – and allowing yourself and your staff to discuss their insecurities – will go a long way to combating imposter syndrome. We asked two women, at different stages of their careers in games, for their experiences and tips…
Studio operations manager, Big Pixel Studios
My experiences with imposter syndrome have always stemmed from the question: ‘Am I good enough?’ And I’ve found no amount of reassurance or praise can dampen my doubts. Obviously such thoughts can really damage your confidence in the workplace so when I was going through a particularly difficult time I sought guidance from a peer, a fellow woman in the studio. While the initial reaching out was tough, it was a relief to finally talk to someone about it. And surprising to hear that she had experienced the same feelings in her career journey too!
I have three nuggets of advice: first, find your ally. In or out of work, this industry is full of amazingly thoughtful and emotionally intelligent people. You don’t have to do it alone. Second, look after yourself. Find time for the things you like doing and the activities that help you switch off. Third, remember you’re here because your company recognised your achievements and saw your potential, they chose you.
Head of business development games, Testronic
In my early years and sometimes even now I ask: ‘Am I smart enough? Am I good enough?’ Particularly when faced with a new challenge.
I had an amazing mentor who showed me that self-doubt can make you stronger by advising that I was always prepared for anything that presented itself. 30 years later I’m still loving the games industry.
Today if those thoughts surface I go back to basics, ensuring I know as much as I can before a meeting, actively listening to ensure I really understand what the end result needs to be, then working through the steps that need to be taken to achieve that end result.
I mentor a couple of young women within Testronic. Our conversations are about how they feel, how to grow in confidence and how to step outside of their comfort zone. They are also mentors in turn, offering the same support and advice. We see this as a great way to keep building a confident and tight knit team.