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  • Writer's pictureAlmeera Eman

From Imposter Syndrome to Empowerment: 100 Episodes of Reflection and Growth

Welcome to the 100th episode of the Gap Year Podcast!! Today, Michelle celebrates this incredible milestone while reflecting on the journey of creating this podcast. She also shares personal anecdotes and her valuable insight on imposter syndrome, persistence, and collaboration, drawing parallels to the gapper journey and a message for gappers on how to overcome self-doubt, take risks, and build a supportive network during your gap year!

Come join us in celebration of this exciting milestone 🎉

Topics Discussed

  • Discover how to conquer imposter syndrome and unleash your potential on a gap year journey.

  • Learn the power of persistence and the value of collaboration

  • Get a glimpse of exciting future plans for the Gap Year Podcast, including AI integration!

  • Gain inspiration from Michelle's journey, and how she's empowered thousands to embark on fulfilling gap years.

  • Join the celebration and be part of the supportive community that's grown with the Gap Year Podcast.

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

  • Leave us some love on our Google and Facebook Reviews:

  • Get support to light up your gap year! Book a free 30-min call:


Michelle Dittmer - 00:00

Pop the champagne, this is our 100th episode. We are looking back at 100 episodes and pulling out those learnings about what we have experienced over the last 100 episodes and of course applying it to what it means to be on a gap year.

So take a listen and celebrate along with us.

Michelle Dittmer - 01:09 Hey there and welcome to the Gap Year Podcast. My name is Michelle Dittmer and I am your host and Gap Year expert. Today, oh my goodness, it is episode 100! 100! Woohoo! So we're hosting a little bit of a celebration in our little podcast world here. Let me tell you, it is no small feat to launch a podcast and then sustain it for 100 episodes. I am and the team is so very proud of this accomplishment and to be able to create a resource that so many of you are tapping into. It is humbling and a point of pride and everything in between. If you're here, thank you so much for listening. We are so grateful for the time that you are taking to listen and to learn from us and our guests and every episode that we put out there. We are so grateful for all of your downloads, all of your streaming, all of your listening. It really means the world to us. Now milestones like this are often a time for celebration but they're also a time for reflection and making changes or improvements. So don't worry, that's not foreshadowing us closing down this podcast or making any major changes.

Michelle Dittmer - 02:44

But what I want to touch on in this episode is that reflection piece just a little bit more rather than the changes. But what is that reflection piece really all about? Now, I know I've told this story before, but I feel it's really relevant here and maybe you missed it in the other episodes.

But please bear with me if you have heard it. But I'm going to dive into a very, very personal story about the power of reflection. Now, when I started my master's program at the ripe old age of 29 years old, my very, very first assignment was a reflection paper on my leadership style.

Oh my goodness, what a joke, I thought. I was used to writing lab reports and dissertations on the impact of genetic recombination in modern day nutrition or something equally nerdy to that. So a reflection paper piece of cake. Or so I thought. So as a STEM educated woman I had really been trained to remove judgement and interpretation and really lean hard on the facts.

So in creating this reflection paper I put together a very convincing argument stating my leadership positions, my accomplishments, quoting feedback I'd received from colleagues or those that I was leading, and quite frankly it met all of the criteria on the rubric. So I was sure that this was an A, maybe A plus paper. Really checked all the boxes And I was very, very happy with what I had produced. But boy was I wrong. I actually failed the assignment. The professor sent it back and said, nope, you've got to redo this. But in my head, that was impossible. I am an A student. Surely this must be a mistake. I met all the criteria. It was within the word limit. I had put together those arguments. But in talking with the professors, it was not a mistake at all. I had submitted a technically perfect paper, but I had missed the essence of the assignment altogether. I had not reflected, I had simply stated the facts. And I can honestly say that this is probably one of the five most important events in my life that has truly shaped who I am. Obviously I've had kids and a partner and a marriage and all those things, but truly about who I am and how I approach things, one of the five most important things. And it wasn't because I failed the assignment for one of the first times in my life, but at this point a huge light bulb went off for me.

I didn't know how to listen to myself. I didn't know how to look inwards and to reflect. I was fully capable of thinking, making arguments, evaluating information, forming opinions. I was a smart kid. But reflecting on my thoughts, my feelings, my needs, my wants, my hopes and dreams, that was not a strength that I had. And boy was that realisation powerful.

Michelle Dittmer - 06:38

And now through lots of coaching and a lot of tears and probably a few other iterations of that paper that started this process, I have really started to hone my powers of reflection and it completely changed my life. Now I understand my core values, I understand what drives me, I understand how to quiet the voices around me and listen to my inner voice. My intuition and my rational and very trustworthy brain and heart, these are things that I can now tap into that I wasn't able to before.

So combining that ability to reflect with the objective data around me, now I truly feel that I'm a true powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with. But I also want part of this realisation To be paid forward and the work that I do in part is helping young people harness this superpower earlier than 29. Because we're all capable of learning and implementing this skill but we need the awareness and opportunities to practice it. And with this push towards STEM. With this new culture of checking boxes and making the grade and stepping away from the humanities and people moving away from faith practices where we a lot of us have lost that ability to be reflective and This is a huge part of why I do the work that I do with the Canadian Gap Year Association is I want to help others to learn the skill of reflection earlier so that they can live more fulfilling lives and learn to not only hear but trust that inner voice as they move from adolescence into adulthood. It really truly has made me Live a more authentic life and to be more aware of how to live in accordance with my values and has improved my quality of life. So I really want to share that with the world and a gap year is 100% a way to do that. A way to learn how to step away from the rat race, step away from the checking boxes and get into the driver's seat and start to take control over your life but really thinking and not having anybody tell you but thinking about what is in your best interest. What is going to help you set up a life that is worth living. Set up a life that you are excited every single day to wake up and take part in. Whether that is from your personal life and the relationships that you have or your professional life and the education and career that you want to pursue, a gap year is a great time to re-evaluate and take stock of what you need to do to lead that life rather than just rushing through it and doing things for the sake of doing things and ending up out the other end with a couple pieces of paper and still no idea of truly who you are and who you want to be in this world.

So that story and all of that to say I am going to walk the talk and I'm going to share my reflections on 100 episodes of the Gap Year Podcast. Because I think it's important that I can share how it is impacting the production of this podcast and how it relates to those who are on a gap year as well. So I want to share some of my learnings with you.

Michelle Dittmer - 11:05

So the first topic or the first idea is this idea of imposter syndrome. So you might have heard of this term in the past or in passing but it's basically the notion that you are not worthy of being an authority on something, an expert on something because there are others that theoretically know more, have more credibility, have more power, have more wealth, whatever that metric might be. And imposter syndrome is Very, very real that many entrepreneurs have this or aspiring entrepreneurs have this. Many women specifically in the workforce feel this. It's this notion of not being the right person to put something out into the universe.

Whether it's an idea, a comment, a new initiative, that idea that somebody else is better suited for it, for whatever reason, that's that idea of being an imposter, that nobody is going to really benefit from what I have to say. Now, I admit that I definitely had this feeling when starting this podcast. Why would anyone want to listen to me? What do I have to add to this conversation? And even as the gap year expert in Canada, like the person that does this full time, I was fearful and hesitant to claim this title, this responsibility, this honor, and to take up space in the podcast ecosystem. What was I gonna say? Who would listen? Would people even like what I have to say or find value from it? There was so much self-doubt that it almost prevented this podcast from existing. But I am so glad that I pushed through this. Now there are thousands of you out there who are listening, emailing me or booking calls and sharing how much this podcast means to you and how much you take those tips and tricks into your gap years and into your family life. And I am truly humbled and honored by all of those comments and all of those downloads and listens because it makes a huge difference and I feel that I am truly able to contribute to your lives and that is just such a wonderful feeling for me and really Validates that I'm not an imposter and that this does have importance in people's lives and I think on a personal note that's great and on a professional note it's wonderful to know that we are in fact making a difference in this space for families who are considering a gap year or have a young person on that gap year.

Michelle Dittmer - 14:14

Now a quick side note on this idea, please, please subscribe, leave us a five star rating or a review on your platform that you're listening to this podcast on, whether that's YouTube, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, please, please leave a review. I'm sure you hear this all of the time from the content creators that you follow. But it truly makes a huge difference for us. Not only does it give us feedback in what we need to be doing, but it gives us the motivation to keep producing content, knowing that it is being valued and listened to by you, the end user who we are creating it for, It's very difficult to produce content and not receive feedback because we question if we are giving value to you. The other bonus of you leaving a review and comments is that it makes it way easier for others like you to find this content in a sea of lots of noisy podcasts out there. And if you have ever had that feeling like, oh this really benefited me or thank goodness I found this, Please pay it forward and pass on that gift to somebody else by leaving a review, perhaps as a gift for our 100th episode. So please consider that.

I want to relate imposter syndrome back to a student on a gap year. This is the gap year podcast after all. So the young people that I work with feel this imposter syndrome at almost every step of the things that they're doing on their gap year and in life. Why would someone want to hire me as a cashier? I don't have any experience. Why would that school let me in? There are way smarter people out there. I'm not qualified enough to win that scholarship. I just won't even put in an application. These are the thought patterns that are out there and imposter syndrome is really truly a self-limiting belief. You are getting in your own way.

And I think a lot of this imposter syndrome stems from our ability to access these quote-unquote experts and pros and winners so easily on social media where they are able to feature only their top thoughts, their best ideas, their experiences that we then interpret that these amazing things are happening all the time for them. We don't hear of their failures or their dud ideas or all of those things that they are thinking in between coming up with those gems.

And I would say all of those duds probably make up 99% of their experiences and ideas. But when we listen to ourselves, we are focused on that 99% of garbage that we are coming up with And we are comparing that 99% to their 1% best. So no wonder we feel adequate and unqualified. We are not comparing apples to apples here.

Now, my advice from experience is that you need to take risks. You need to take up space. You need to take a chance and put yourself out there and see what happens. Don't get in your own way, don't censor your brilliance or even your medium or lowly good ideas. Just get out in the world, take that chance because really what's the worst that can happen? Okay, so that's what I want to say about imposter syndrome.

Michelle Dittmer - 18:05

The second learning or lesson is this idea of a slow burn. We have been conditioned to expect things immediately and I call it the Amazon Prime effect. If I can't have it on my doorstep by tomorrow is it even worth it? And I think when we're looking at the growth of this podcast it was not popular overnight.

The first couple of months my episodes would get 15 maybe listens and 14 of them were my family and friends. It was really hard, it was devastating, I knew there was value in it but it wasn't getting the traction I had hoped and I was questioning whether it was worth my time and energy to keep going. Really if my parents wanted to hear me talk they could just call me on the phone. But by putting those episodes out there, I realized that I did have something to say. I did have value to contribute. I realized that there were amazing guests and voices and stories that needed to be told and all of these people needed a platform for their stories to be shared. And that was something that I could do. And all of this work can help us to reframe how we think about the gap year pathway. I had to overcome imposter syndrome and I had and I had and I and I realized that I had value to share. I just needed the audience who wanted to listen. So in those first few months, there were many times when I wasn't sure if I should keep going, just like gappers who are applying for jobs and not getting any offers. I was thinking, will anyone listen? And they're thinking, will anyone hire me? Now what I really truly learned was that persistence pays off. By consistently producing content, I was slowly growing my audience. The same way that persistence and following up with employers will eventually get you a job. I learned that you need to work hard to grow something. Now often influencers make it look easy with what they are publishing. You don't see the behind the scenes hustle that happens, the hours of editing, scripting, finding collabs, marketing to grow their audience. That stuff is not featured. But it is blood, sweat and tears. Let me tell you all of that work that goes into it. It is hard, hard work to make your dreams come true. So really, persistence does pay off in a lot of cases. Now, persistence alone is not helpful if you're doing it in a vacuum. It's not going to grow. It's not going to come to fruition. You need your network. And this is another analogous lesson for gappers.

You need to let people know what you are up to so they can help you. We grew a podcast by leveraging our email list and our social media platforms, word of mouth, making it easy to share with others and bringing in some really amazing guests who shared it with their networks. It was not something we did alone, it was something we did with the support of our networks. Now on a gap year, in the same way, you are not going to grow and learn to your maximum capacity if you're doing it on your own. You need to get out there and share what you're looking for and what type of support you need. And that's going to sound different for each person. Somebody might say, hey, I want to volunteer with animals. Do you have any idea how I can do that? Or someone else say, I don't know if I want to go into chemical or mechanical engineering. And by putting these things out there and not into the universe, shout it out to the mountains, but other people that you know, you will be surprised how many people want to help you. And the more ways that you share what you're looking for, the more of your network you reach, the more you will find the support and help that you need and sometimes in the most unexpected place. So don't be ashamed of speaking up about how you want to grow as a person. You are not expected to be perfect. You are human and we are all growing and evolving throughout life. It doesn't matter how old you are. And even in your adolescent years, there's an expectation that you're learning. So make good use of that. Michelle Dittmer - 22:58

The last piece of wisdom that I've gained from the podcast that I'm going to share with you today, there's been lots of others, is the importance of collaboration. Now, while I am the host of this podcast, it really truly is a team effort. We have such amazing guests that join us. We have an incredible team that helps with the brainstorming of content, editing and promoting the podcast. Big shout out to Jazz and Almeera for supporting me and taking on those amazing and essential tasks. Let me tell you, doing this alone would be lonely. It would be boring for you, the listener, and for me. It would be time consuming and not the best use of my skills.

The one thing it would be is it would be cheaper because I wouldn't have to pay my teammates for that. But that's about it. And I think that note on, we're going to come back to that note on things being cheaper when you do it by yourself. But so hold on to that. That's not the focus here. The focus is that we really need a team of people who have different strengths, life experiences, bring different perspectives, have different stories to tell.

Let me tell you, producing this podcast is more fun. It is more interesting to you as listeners and it is something that the team can bond over. The central point of pride and success for us that brings us together. Now linking it back to the gap year and this idea of collaboration, doing your gap year in isolation is possible. Might even save you money. This is the link back that I was talking about. But It is going to be lonely and boring and time-consuming and it will get in the way of you growing as much as you possibly could. But how can you collaborate and build community on this gap year? I'm sure that's something like, Michelle make this connection for me, I'm having trouble seeing it.

Consider Joining a club or a team sport or taking lessons from someone. Joining an organization for some sort of trip. Work with your buddies to plan a road trip. Go to work with your parents or your family and job shadow them to learn a little bit more about what they are all about. There's lots of ways to bring others on this journey with you.

That is going to make it much more fulfilling, much more worthwhile and make better memories and better growth for you as somebody on a gap year.

Michelle Dittmer - 25:51

So there you have it. Those are my kind of top reflections looking back after 100 episodes of the gap year podcast.

But where do we go from here? At the beginning, I talked about celebrations and milestones being a time to celebrate but also reflect and change. So I want to share some thoughts on that as well. There is great potential for us to leverage AI to make this process easier. Now, I promise this podcast will not turn into a robot version of me, nor will it be scripted by AI. Mostly because I have too much to say and I don't want a robot to take that away from me, but we will be using AI to support with the write-ups and the social postings that will take our unique content and put it into formats that are easily consumed by everyone out there on the internet. I'm also committing to more consistency.

The pandemic and post-pandemic times have made things challenging. Lots of shifting priorities, shifting energy levels, and trying to figure out what tools you, the users of CanGap content, really want and need. So now we're in a good place to continue to provide you with good content on a bi-weekly basis moving forward, so make sure you are subscribed to get the notification when a new episode drops.

We don't want you to miss out on any of this amazing content. The last thing I'm hoping for in the future is to be able to get more reviews from our listeners. Like I mentioned previously in this episode, I am always focused on serving our listeners and I have not been a good entrepreneur. I have not been good at asking for your support for this podcast. Now while I haven't done my part in asking for it, this might be a space where you traditionally have not been leaving reviews for folks.

Now I can tell you as a small non-profit that those reviews, ratings, comments can make a huge difference to us. And since becoming an entrepreneur in this space, I have really realized how valuable it is and now I leave Google reviews, Facebook reviews and podcast reviews for those that I benefit from and from those that I want to support. So I would encourage you to do the same not only for us but for all those other small businesses out there. These small actions are truly the currency for consuming free content. Please consider supporting us by leaving us a review on this episode or on the podcast as a whole. It is not time consuming, it is free and we would really truly appreciate it. So you can find the rating and review for the podcast on your podcast platform of choice. We're also going to link our Google review and Facebook review links in the show notes, so if you have benefited from any of CanGAP's services, resources, please jump on there and leave the review. You can even copy and paste the exact same message in each of them. It would make the world of difference to us!

Michelle Dittmer - 29:15

Now I want to leave you with a sincere message of gratitude. I am so thankful that you have found us on our small corner of the internet and I am blown away by the positive feedback that we hear. Knowing that we are making a positive impact on your lives lets us know that we are doing the work that we set out to do. So thank you from the bottom of our hearts at the CanGap team. Thank you for being here for the last 100 episodes and we hope you stick around for the next 100. So my friends, until next time, keep on adventuring.

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