“If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, it’s fitting in.”
My background is full of various work and talents - theater, singing, dancing, costuming, baking/cake decorating, social work, music, art, counseling...but not business. When I started moving up the ranks at Map Dynamics I started getting very uncomfortable. If imposter syndrome is the fear of others finding out you’re a fraud, then what I had was worse. I knew I was a fraud, and I didn’t even really want to be a “business person.” Suits and stuffy meetings and using business terms and sleazy sales people and all that stuff? Yuck, no thanks. So when I started being asked to go to luncheons and trade shows and things I was less than thrilled. I thought I would have to put on boring clothes that I hated and then pretend to be someone I wasn’t for a few hours to a few days, depending on the event.
What I found is that I was completely wrong. I’m certain there are plenty of industries that are stuffy and boring and completely un-fun, but that is not what I found with associations. Last week Map Dynamics hosted its first event - a focus group meeting where we sought feedback about our product and marketing. Our facilitator, Lowell Aplebaum, asked everyone to share a memorable moment they had at a conference. Every single person in the room spoke about belonging. Everyone talked about feeling that sense of relief when they realized that they didn’t have to fit in because they truly belonged.
That’s what I love about association events, and why we love supporting them. They aren’t just a one-time event that’s fun but ends when you leave. Instead, they’re just one aspect of a community that is always growing and changing. I love getting to be a part of that and getting to support the creation of those events for others. I always leave association events feeling a true sense of belonging, and that I can be my authentic self and be not only accepted but genuinely liked by the other people there. I am so glad I was wrong about the association world. Rather than being a bunch of sleazy sales people in suits, it is full of genuine and interesting people, many of whom I now call friends.