The first time I came across the phrase “impostor syndrome”, I was sat with my friend ‘D’ at university a couple of months ago. We were talking about how to get into the games industry, when he suddenly became pale and put in his earphones. Knowing he has an anxiety disorder, I left him to it – but after about five minutes of him meditating beside me, D came out of his episode and explained to me that he had suddenly had a strong feeling that he didn’t belong here – that he wasn’t good enough, that he was not meant to be a game designer. D called it “impostor syndrome”.
I had never heard the phrase before, but it is a real thing. It means just what it says – you feel that you are in a situation, usually a positive one, that you don’t feel worth of being in. In my friend’s case, at university studying to be a game artist. I have to say, I never felt that way about university – I recently failed, which is of course a huge waste of £10k student loans on top of the £30k I’m still paying back, but I never wanted to be a game designer. I wanted to be a developer. I really should have quit the course while I could have saved some money, but what kept me on was this idea that I SHOULD be able to complete the course.
I’ve been struggling for a little while with the fact that I am now rubbing shoulders with some big YouTubers. But this weekend at PlayExpo London, I experienced impostor syndrome properly for the first time.
Today, perched on the end of a long table in front of a big audience, I looked across to see myself seated with Guru Larry, Nostalgia Nerd, Daz of Did You Know Gaming, Kim Justice, Dan of Slopes Games Room, Stuart Ashen; and had a huge crippling realisation that I did not belong there.
Most of these people are now my dear friends, which is why it surprised me so much that I had such a crippling feeling of disconnection. I had only just met Daz the day before, and he’s bloody lovely, and of course the rest of them are close enough friends that they came to my small birthday gathering. But sitting there under those lights with the filming cameras on us, I suddenly became very aware of how tiny my channel is compared to theirs, and felt a little dizzy. That spinning feeling in the forefront of your brain you get when you stand at the base of a tall building and look up.
Because we were all sharing microphones, I had to pretty much sit in Stuart’s lap every time I had to answer a question – which I suppose didn’t help. I remember years and years ago I used to watch his videos during a really bad depression spell. Having to rest my arm, scarred with the self harm from around the time I discovered his videos, on his leg seemed incredibly surreal.
I had to leave right after the talk – my heart was bursting out of my chest. I know I need to learn how to deal with this if I want to continue in the YouTube world, but for the moment it’s all a bit much. I missed my anti anxiety medication yesterday which clearly hasn’t helped; but I’m going to have to really take a step back and learn how to punch this impostor syndrome right in its stupid face.