Feeling Defensive

As lawyers, it is our job to be right. To get the right answer, to find the right solution, to have the right words. In truth, you could say that about any profession, unless you are a meteorologist (no one is ever surprised when they are wrong). No one likes to be wrong.

Many of my clients struggle with being wrong because of what they make that mean about themselves. If they are wrong, it must mean they are not good enough, they aren’t cut out to be lawyers.

I recently had a mini-session with a young attorney who was telling me about her horrible work environment. When I asked her to give me an example of how her horrible boss had berated her, she said that he told her the memo she prepared for him was terrible and that she completely missed one of the most important legal issues. “What were you thinking?!” he had said to her. And. She. Was. Pissed.

How could he speak to me like that? I don’t deserve to be treated like that. He completely embarrassed me in front of all my colleagues.

As we talked about it, I asked her to answer this question: what exactly she was thinking when she turned in the memo? I just wanted it to be over with. I hate working for him. It as a terrible legal issue and I just wanted to be done with it. The more we discussed it, we discovered that the memo was not great, was not well thought out, and she had, in fact, missed an important legal issue. Everything this partner had said to her was true.

When we feel ourselves getting defensive, the most important question you can ask yourself before you explode on the other human is this:

Are they right?

Is it true?

If it is true, what am I making that mean about myself and why?

Whenever we are feeling defensive, it is because you believe that part of whatever criticism you just received is true. If it wasn’t true, at least in part, it wouldn’t bother you.

If someone were to say to me, That article you wrote for the paper last week was pretty terrible, it wouldn’t bother me. I wouldn’t care because I didn’t write an article for any paper. There is no truth in that statement for me. It doesn’t resonate with me at all.

However, if someone were to say to me, You and your partner should have kids, you’re going to regret it, my hair would practically start on fire. That hits a mark because it hits on thoughts and doubts that I have had about my life. It challenges decisions I have made and second-guessed. There is a possibility that, some day, I might regret our decision not to have kids. It hurts because I have grappled with and questioned the truth of that exact statement.

For many of us, when people hurl these types of comments at us, we ignite. We get defensive, we get angry and indignant.

The reason we are defensive is because we see that fleck of truth and we don’t like what that means: it reminds us that they might be right.

For my client, acknowledging the truth of what her partner said meant owning the fact that she didn’t do a good job. When she opened herself up to that possibility, what quickly followed was the conclusion that she was not cut out to be lawyer. She just wasn’t good enough. She was never going to make it. Those thoughts made her feel hopeless and scared.

Instead of working through those ugly thoughts resulting from the truth of the statement, we resist all of it.

We push it back onto the other person. We try to argue that what they said wasn’t true. It is always easier to be angry and defensive than admit our faults.

If we allow the other person to be true, at least, in part, we have to examine what that means for ourselves. What are you making it mean when you do a sub-par job at work? What are you making it mean when you regret a decision you made years ago?

Most of us make those mistakes mean something terrible about ourselves. We allow ourselves to conclude that we are bad people, less than, failures. Defensiveness and anger are a means to avoid those thoughts and feelings. It is a way to cover them up and distract from what you are really feeling and thinking about yourself.

Life is yin and yang, good and bad.

If you can take full ownership of the uncomfortable parts of life, acknowledge and accept when we mess up, how much easier would life be? What if we could mess up and not torture ourselves for it?

So how do you stop this cycle? First, whenever you feel yourself getting defensive, stop and recognize the parts of the criticism that you believe; recognize the critical thoughts you have had before.

Second, recognize that you are making your failures mean something terrible about yourself. You are beating yourself up every time you aren’t perfect. That is the root of your avoidance. It is why you are getting angry and defensive.

If you can allow yourself to fail gracefully and simply own it when you mess up and not make it mean something negative about yourself, there is nothing to avoid. There is no reason to be angry or defensive.

Could you imagine how my client’s relationship with that partner would change if she was able to respond, “You know what, you’re right, I can do better than this. I apologize and I will use this as a learning experience.”

Commit to believing that every failure is simply one more step on your path to figuring things out. Each time you mess up is another opportunity to learn and grow.

It’s what makes you human and being human means you are never going to be perfect.

How many relationships have we contaminated by being defensive when we knew, deep down, we were in the wrong but didn’t want to admit it?

How many times did we allow our mis-steps to be fodder for self-deprecation?

Stop doing that to yourself. You are a human and that means you come equipped with a certain level of imperfection. Instead of resisting your imperfections, own them, accept them as a part of life and love yourself regardless. Do not resist them and cover them up with anger and defensiveness. It’s not serving you and it’s not true.

Need support? Sign up for a free consultation and take the first step to cleaning up your relationship with yourself and those around you.

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Our relationships with the people in our lives are at the root of every challenge in our lives.

Our relationships with others play a significant role in our happiness. How do we improve those relationships and overcome adversity in our relationships?

We simply decide.

When we think about our relationships with others, the “relationship” itself is never really truly defined. What comprises our relationships with others?

I believe that our relationships with others is self-created. Our relationship with other people is something that lives only in our minds. We make decisions about other people. We choose what we want to think about them. From that place we characterize the relationship–good, bad, challenging, irreparable, complete. We make those decisions and “create” the relationship within ourselves. Completely independently of the other person.

Think about it. Have you ever had someone in your life whose understanding of your relationship was completely out of line with your understanding? Think about your former boyfriends or girlfriends. When that relationship ended it is unlikely that you were both in complete agreement about its demise. What is more likely is that one of you thought things were going fine and that nothing needed to change and the other thought the relationship had run its course.

How can it be that two people have such divergent understanding about the same relationship?

Because there is no singular relationships that is shared and agreed upon by both parties.

There are two different relationships as understood by each person. Each person made unique decisions about the relationship’s virtues and drawbacks and interpret the relationship from that perspective.

If that is the case, then it follows that we can simply choose whether or not to have a good relationship with each person in our lives.

We can simply decide whether to believe a relationship has run its course or whether we are in it for the long haul. We simply have to decide.

To be clear, that doesn’t mean that you SHOULD maintain all the relationships in your life or that you should always choose to love the people in your life. You can choose to break up with spouses, friends, and family members if that is your choice. But what I am saying is that there is no inherent “good” or “bad” relationship — we make choices to characterize a relationship one way or the other. We simply have to determine our justification for those choices.

If you want to believe that your boss is a terrible human being who is overly critical, insecure, and passive aggressive, that is your choice. From there you can decide that you don’t want to work at that job anymore or ask for a transfer. But the point is recognizing that you are choosing to think of your boss and your relationship with your boss in that way. It is not inherently true. There is room for dispute and disagreement in your characterization of him.

There is no such thing as just having a “bad boss” as if that were the justification for your poor relationship with your boss.

You are simply choosing to focus your energy on criticisms and judgments of your boss and interpret the relationship through that lens. You could similarly choose to focus on the positive aspects of the relationships or see him through a lens of compassion.

The choice is yours. You can choose to have a good relationship with your boss and operate from that space. That choice will likely require you to see him with more compassion and less judgment than you have in the past. That will require you to stop believing that he is inherently bad and you are a victim.

Take ownership of the relationships in your life and choose how you want to think about them.

Choose what you want to believe about your past relationships and challenging relationships.

Your opinions about others and your relationship with them are not factual. They are your opinions and nothing more. Those opinions will color how you show up in the relationship and the aspects of the relationship you focus on.

If you want to believe that you have a horrible boss and therefore have to leave your job, so be it. But imagine how much you could grow and the skills you could develop if you could learn how to see the relationships differently. If you could choose to believe that you have a good relationship with your boss and act from that place instead?

If you want to have a horrible boss, believing that you do is an assured way to get you that experience. If you want to have a boss that challenges you and helps you become a better employee, the first step is believing that you do and acting from that place instead; interpreting your experience through that lens instead.  Give it a try.

What will it get you if I’m right? What will it cost if I’m not?

Most of the time it is our experiences with other humans that brings most of life’s challenges as well as its high points. Don’t let a “bad” relationship go without first experiencing what it has to teach you about yourself.

If you need some (free) support with a challenging relationship, I would love to visit with you. The work we do with other humans is truly life changing.

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Giving Away Our Power

As a basic premise, we as humans have the right to determine how we spend our time, where our energy goes, who we have relationships with. We have complete autonomy over our lives. We know this at our core but when it comes to implementing it and OWNING it every day, we give away all of that power.

With my clients, I most often see this happen when we start envisioning changes they want to make in their life.

Making commitments is easy. Following through on them is what distinguishes successful people from the rest.

Many of my clients have similar items on their wish lists —

I want to make time to workout

I want to spend time playing with my kids

I want to have a date night with my partner

I want to leave work at a reasonable hour every day

When it comes down to implementing and executing on those wish lists there are a mountain of reasons why it never happens–I’m just so tired at the end of the day, I just don’t have enough time, it’s just not a priority, something always comes up.

Any of those sound familiar?

You have the freedom to make your life whatever you want it to be.

If you don’t want to workout everyday, want work late every night, and want to rarely have one-on-one time with your family, that is absolutely your right. But let’s get one thing very clear: you are CHOOSING do to do those things. You are CHOOSING not to play with your kid when you get home, you are CHOOSING not to go to the gym, you are CHOOSING not to make your self-care a priority.

In order to get serious about creating the lives we want, we have to start getting honest with ourselves.

This life is not just happening to you–you are creating it.

You have to take ownership for the choices you are making every day.

Being tired at the end of the day is not a universal justification for not going to they gym. You are choosing not to go to the gym. People do all sorts of things every day when they are tired. YOU are doing all sorts of things every day even though you are tired. You are simply choosing not to make the gym one of those things.

When it comes to work, it is no different. You are choosing to answer that phone call right before you were supposed to head to your kid’s soccer game. You are choosing to work late and honor that last minute deadline.

You do not have to honor any deadlines.


You do NOT have to honor any deadlines.


You are CHOOSING to do so. Maybe you believe that if you don’t you will get fired or you will lose the client, whatever your justification may be, there is likely a reason you are doing it.  A reason that you believe you HAVE to do it. But the truth is, you are simply making a choice. People blow off clients and deadlines and bosses and phone calls every day. You are choosing not to and that is your right. Own it and stop blaming your choices on everything else. Take ownership of the decisions you make in every moment.

Recognize the reasons for your choices and own them for what they are–choices you are making for whatever justifications you decide are important.

I pay my taxes every year not because I “have to” but because I choose to. I choose not to commit tax fraud. I choose not to violate the law. That’s my choice. Many others in this world do not make that same choice.

Sometimes, I choose to disregard my schedule completely and make something else a priority. Whenever I get a call from my family during business hours, I answer immediately and drop everything else. That is my choice. In that moment, I remind myself “You are choosing to do this, you do not have to do this.” I don’t let myself be a victim to circumstances outside of my control. I choose to blow up my schedule and best laid plans if I want to. Because that is my choice. It’s as simple as that.

When we stop telling ourselves we “have” to do things or when we make excuses for not acting, we are ignoring the simple truth of it all–we are choosing to do or not do those things.

When we take ownership of the choices we are making in every moment of every day, it allows us to hit the reset button. It allows us to ask whether that is a decision we WANT to make. A decision we would make again.

In every moment of ever day, you are making choices. Do you like the choices you are making? Are you blaming someone else for your decisions?

When you look at your life and your days as a series of choices, you take back all of your power.

You reclaim your ability to decide how you want your day and your life to play out. Don’t allow yourself to believe that your life is at the mercy of anyone other than you. Live on purpose and choose consciously how you want to spend your time.

We struggle to make ourselves a priority. We are really good at not choosing to put ourselves first. Make an investment in yourself and your life.

What do you have to lose?

Photo by Robin Glauser on Unsplash

“I Wish…”

I was thinking today about all the phrases we use in our daily lives that bog us down. Those little sentences and thoughts that seem so innocuous but also important:

  • Some day when…
  • I can’t…
  • I don’t know how…
  • I’m not sure…
  • I would like to…
  • I wish…

Whenever we chew on these thoughts, we are investing in their truth. We are allowing ourselves to believe that there will be a day when….or that our abilities are limited…or that there are things we want to do but aren’t doing. Lastly, when we start a thought or a statement with “I wish…” we are arguing with our reality and lamenting our circumstances.

What good is it to think “I wish…”? Has that wish ever come true simply by wishing it?

Dreams don’t come true simply because we release them into the universe. Dreams come true because we choose to stop wishing and relinquishing our control. Dreams come true because we stop wishing and start acting.

And I’m not talking about grand banana dreams here, either. I’m not talking about wishing for world peace. I’m talking about wishing that our day-to-day lives would be different.

I wish my boss would treat me differently.

I wish I enjoyed my job more.

I wish I made more money.

THOSE types of little, every day wishes are toxic.

When we allow ourselves to daydream about how we “wish” our lives were different, we are implicitly giving up all of our power. We are suggesting that the only way our circumstances could be different is if a fairy godmother plucks our wishes out of the ether and makes them happen for us.

“I wish” statements are not powerful. They are weak.

They suggest that there is nothing to be done other than sit around and wait for our wish to be granted by a benevolent god.

It’s like that parable of the lottery ticket.

A man prays to god repeatedly and hopefully, asking god from the bottom of his heart to let him win the lottery. He offers that prayer every day for years and years on end. He never lost hope or faith that it would be answered and every day he humbly submitted his request. Every day, his prayer went unanswered and the man died poor and alone. When he met his god in the afterlife, he asked god why all of his prayers went unanswered and god replied “You never bought a lottery ticket.”

The point is this: we play a role in our dreams coming true.

We cannot simply offer up our wishes to the universe and sit back and wait for them to come true.

We have to act. We have to invest in our dreams.

Wasting your energy wishing that things in your life were different is living the life of the man in the parable. It offers the universe the energy of lack and dissatisfaction with life and that energy will only attract more lack and dissatisfaction.

When you start taking action to make your wishes reality, it requires a shift in perception. All those wishful thoughts become something much more active and invested —

I’m creating the life I want

I can take steps to improve my work life

I can improve my relationship with my boss

I can take action to be happier every day

These thoughts are powerful and take ownership over your life. Those thoughts will propel you to start taking action to convert those wishes to reality. Rather than living in a space of lack and dissatisfaction, your energy transforms into positivity and faith in your ability. This allows so much more positive energy to enter your life. And who knows, your wishes just might come true.

You have to start investing in those wishes yourself before you can expect the universe or god to partner with you to make them come true.

When you find yourself wishing that your life were different, it can be difficult to turn the corner. It’s easy to exist in wishful thinking; it’s hard to take ownership and start taking action. Sometimes all you need is a little support. Don’t be afraid to ask. (Psst, it’s free.)

Photo by Fineas Gavre on Unsplash

How to Know When It’s Time for a Change

No matter what profession you are in, there will be times in your career where you will wonder if it’s time for a change. One of the most common phrases I hear in coaching is:

How do you know….

When it’s time to quit your job

When it’s time to find a new firm

When it’s time to ask for a divorce

When it’s time to change professions

When faced with these questions from clients, we work through a three step process:

myths, justifications, and so whats

The myth: there is no predestined “right time” that must be known before we can make big decisions.

What is the benefit of that line of thinking?

It’s like handing your life over to some unknown scheduler, hoping that they will let you know when you can move on. It assumes that there will be a time when the change you are questioning will be easy. It also assumes there will be a time when you can act without any fear or reservation.

Instead, this wait and see approach simply keeps you stuck. It keeps you in the safe familiar. It justifies your unwillingness to do the scary thing and gives you an excuse for not taking control over your life: “It just doesn’t feel like the right time.”

In my experience, those of us that wait to find some certainty that the time is finally “right” to make that big decision only end up getting beat over the head with their own truth.

The truth that they have known all along but that they kept ignoring, waiting for a “sign” that it was the perfect time to act. When we ignore those inklings that we need to make a change and we tell ourselves that we need to wait for the “right time,” life typically just turns up the volume and makes that truth harder to ignore.

You knew the right decision already but you allowed fear to convince yourself that you needed to wait for the right time.

There is no “right time.” If you feel driven or called to do something or make a change, pay attention to those urges. They will not go away. They will just get louder and the messaging typically becomes more painful (so that you cannot ignore it).

The one person that we should innately trust, who always has our back, is ourselves. Why do we ignore her so often and listen to others whose intentions are not always so benevolent? In order to build the life of your dreams, you have to start trusting yourself.

The only person who will join you for every step of the journey is yourself.

So, you might as well start giving her a seat at the table.

The justifications. When we are trying to weigh important decisions, the most important question to ask yourself is “why” do I want to do this. Next, we ask ourselves if we like our reasoning.

It’s that simple.

If your reason for wanting to leave your job is because “It’s too hard…I don’t think I’m cut out for it…I’m not happy here” you have to as yourself if you like that reasoning. Do you feel good about that explanation?

For many of us, these types of justifications are at the root of a lot of decisions. Things get hard. Life will challenge you to grow. These justifications are all based in some sort of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of not being good enough. Fear that you made a mistake.

Furthermore, these types of justifications give away all your power–you imply that your job should give you some sort of happiness. (In case you missed it, happiness is no one’s job but yours.)

You are free to allow yourself to make decisions based upon these justifications, that is wholly your right. But my question is: Do you like your reasons? Do you feel good about your justification?

Be honest with yourself about why you are wanting to do (or not do) something and carefully examine your justification.

So long as you like your reason, you have everything you need to act. From there you simply make a decision and execute. No drama. Just action from a place of authenticity. Simple.

The so whats.

This is the part of the process where we tackle the fear that is keeping us stuck. When we eliminate the drama and get clear about our justifications for acting, the only thing that will keep us from executing is fear. In order to act, we have to take a look at that fear.

If you act and you make the “wrong” decision, so what?

Answering that question will ultimately bring you face to face with your worst case scenario. When we ask “so what?” over and over and over again, we eventually get to the root of the fear:

I don’t want people to think I’m a failure…because then I will believe I have failed.

I don’t want to be embarrassed…because it will mean I have messed up.

I don’t want to admit I was wrong…because it will mean I’m less than.

Facing our worst case scenarios and developing a strategy where we not only survive but THRIVE through those events will dispel the fear that is keeping us from acting.

If we know that we can make a decision, fail, and handle the consequences, there is no longer anything to be  afraid of. There is no longer any reason NOT to act.

Don’t let your brain tell you that you can’t handle your worst case scenario. Believing that will keep you stuck indefinitely.

Don’t make your life a merry-go-round of boring and fear-driven decisions. What would your future self tell you to do?

Interested in some free support in making your next big decision? I got you. Sign up today before this week’s spots are gone.

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Negative Feelings

There will be bad days.

One of the drawbacks of living in a society where everyone is so interconnected and everyone’s lives are constantly on display, is that it blurs the lines of reality.

If a Martian were to observe our society solely through the lens of Instagram or Facebook, they would believe that all humans are incredibly beautiful, happy, and blessed. They would believe that on our planet, we have wide variety of products that we can buy to solve all of our problems: products that will make our bodies beautiful and thin, our bank accounts fat, and our love life abundant.

Not only do these outlets influence our beliefs about ourselves but they perpetuate the belief that we should be happy all the time. If we are not happy all the time, we are out of the norm. Think about it — anytime we see someone who is visibly sad, our question to them is invariably:

What’s WRONG?

As if being unhappy in any moment means that something is wrong with you. Something must be fixed. In fact, you can probably throw some money at that unhappiness and “fix” it.

When we buy into the notion that we are supposed to be happy all the time, we freak out anytime we are not happy. We don’t know what to do with those emotions so we avoid them, we resist them, or we react to them. We get into a mad scramble to get rid of them ASAP.

For some people, negative emotions means that someone has done something to them. Someone else is to blame. They lash out with anger and defensiveness which seem much more productive and valid than feeling guilt or shame. Instead of recognizing their role in anything and feeling shame, they reject that emotion. They reject the idea that they are faulty and lash out at those around them. They react to the negative emotions in a way that creates more negative ripples in their life.

They REACT to and RESIST negative emotion and in turn just amplify their problems.

Others spend most of their time avoiding the negative emotions. They reach for anything they can to self soothe and dull the emotion. Bad day at work? Feeling like a failure? Go for that extra glass of wine and a piece of chocolate cake. You deserve it. You’ve had a bad day.

They AVOID negative emotions and bury them in substances or actions that generate dopamine. This eventually creates more problems (excess weight, overdrinking, overspending etc.)

We’ve all been guilty of an impulse splurge.

But what is really at work is our desire to NOT feel those negative emotions of shame, self-doubt, or fear.

Instead of experiencing them, we bury them in dopamine hits from sugar, alcohol, shopping, sex, whatever. Or we throw the negative back at those around us — they are the problem, not us.

This approach only works for brief periods of time. Like a boomerang or a beachball held under water, eventually both will gain force and resurface even stronger.

Once we are done with our little excursion of avoidance, those emotions are right there waiting for us.

Only now they are stronger because we have over-consumed, gained weight, feel hungover, made poor decisions, etc. and we have to face those consequences ON TOP of the negative emotions we were trying to avoid.

Around and around we go ultimately only increasing our negative experience through out acts of avoidance, resistance and reaction.

I recently had a free mini-session with a client who believed she was “fine”. No problems, no negative emotions to deal with. Every time we identified a negative thought and tried to discuss the associated emotion, she would immediately shift and offer the other pretty thoughts she was thinking instead. She immediately shifted to positivity any time a negative emotion came up:

I’m not always thinking I’m a horrible person and a failure, it just pops into my mind sometimes. I really think I’m a pretty good person.

Then, two weeks after our first session she had a complete burnt out meltdown. She fell into a black hole and eventually had to take time off work to regroup.

She had spent so much of her energy ignoring all her nagging, self-judging thoughts and suppressing the associated emotions, that eventually it blew up in her face.

It is not sustainable to paint over the ugly parts of our feelings and just pretend like they are not there. 

Now my work with her focuses on examining those negative emotions and thoughts and truly processing them rather than resisting them.

The point is that our lives are supposed to be an equal balance of positive and negative. Good emotions and bad emotions.

We know we are happy because we have experienced the emotion of sad. We know we are excited because we understand how it feels to dread something.

If we don’t open ourselves up to experiencing the negative, we can’t ever truly understand and appreciate the positive.

When we convince ourselves that we are supposed to be happy 100% of the time, we set ourselves up for failure. We set ourselves up to avoid, react to, or resist our negative emotions to “fix” them. In the end, all of those approaches only serve to make us more miserable! None of them resolve anything. They simply magnify the misery in the long run.

What I offer as a solution is to simply co-exist with negative emotions and understand that they are a part of the human experience.

Be open to experiencing all that is available to us in this life — the good and the bad.

If we can stop freaking out every time we have a negative emotion and we can simply experience it, it will diminish in power and eventually will pass. We can adjust our thinking to stop spinning in toxic thoughts.

Fully experiencing the bad days is so much more productive and easier than patching up the relationships we destroy when we react with blame and anger or losing the 15 pounds we gain when we avoid emotions through food or other outlets.

Recognize how you are handing your negative emotions and ask yourself: What is the worst that could happen if I just experienced this disappointment right now?

After all, it’s just a vibration in your body.

Whenever you catch yourself reaching for the chocolate cake or buying needlessly on Amazon, examine your predominant thought and emotion. Are you trying to make yourself “feel better”? How is that working out for your waistline and your bank account? What is you just experienced the emotion and journal about it instead of eating or shopping?

I spend a significant amount of my time supporting my clients to process their negative emotions and examine the impact their choices to resist/react/avoid are having on their lives and I challenge you to do the same.

The process isn’t hard, it’s what you discover once you start doing the work that might surprise you.

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Feeling Unfulfilled

“Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.”

Tony Robbins

I rarely encounter a client that isn’t struggling in some manner to connect with her purpose. After so many years of working toward this goal of becoming a lawyer, that life isn’t often everything that we thought it would be. We are left looking for something more.

So how do we find our purpose?

We have to start by looking at where you are now and asking how we got here. What did you think might be your purpose? Did you achieve that thing only to find that it didn’t fulfill you?  What was it that you were seeking to achieve that did not fulfill your purpose? And, most importantly, why did you want to achieve that one thing?

Because I work with female attorneys, most of my clients posit that they wanted to go to law school, graduate, and get a good job at a prestigious firm. Why? Because they wanted to make good money, they wanted to be respected, they wanted a life better than their parents had, they wanted to be seen as successful, they wanted their parents to be proud, they wanted to prove themselves to those who had doubted them, they didn’t want to be a failure, etc.

When we look even one layer deeper and explore why all the above reasons are so persuasive, we are left with the core of the issue: I want to feel important, I want to feel valued, I want to be proud of myself, I want to feel like a success.

Therein lies the problem.

All of these motivations are rooted in a belief that we are not yet enough — we are not important, we are not valued, we are not someone to be proud of, we are not successful. What’s more, we are looking for something outside of ourselves to make us important, valued, proud, successful. This is a recipe for a never-ending cycle of letdowns.

You cannot achieve the life of your dreams from a place of lack and self-judgment. That energy is never going to serve you and those negative beliefs about yourself are only going to generate more self doubt.

Why are you believing that without more you aren’t good enough and that you must find that missing piece to become whole and worthy?

I believe that all humans are worthy and whole, just as they are. You, dear reader, are worthy and valued just as you are. You are something to be proud of; nothing more is needed.

I know, most of us don’t believe that, I get it.

But what if it were true?

What if you didn’t need to do anything to become whole and complete? What if you already were all of those things? Then what would you do with your life?

Stated another way, if you were already important, valued, proud and successful, what would motivate you? What would you want to do with your life?

You can learn to believe and trust that you are good enough and worthy just as you are. Most of us aren’t there yet and that is okay. We aren’t taught this kind of self love but it can be learned.

Why is this so important? Because if you can truly take ownership of your worthiness, what you choose to do with your life becomes so much less important. There isn’t some monumental purpose to be found. There is just you, perfect and whole, and the things that bring you joy.

When you remove all that pressure from the things you do, you are free to choose whatever you want to be your purpose. You can simply decide what you want to be your purpose today. It’s not a monumental decision because it doesn’t add any intrinsic value to who you already are.

You can simply choose the type of contribution you want to make to the world. Tomorrow, next week, next year, you can choose something different. It doesn’t mean anything about you — you are simply a complete and lovable human, making decisions about how you want to spend your time and what’s important to you in that moment. Nothing more.

Many of us go on a journey seeking our purpose believing that our purpose resides outside of ourselves.

That we must accomplish something or that we must actively be seeking our purpose — it’s waiting out there for us and we just have to find it and everything will click. That breeds such a tremendous amount of pressure — if you find your purpose, you are  a successful contributor to the human race and if you don’t…well, you are just wasting your time here.

When we choose to believe that we are whole and complete and that nothing outside of ourselves can make us more complete, we can decide to make our purpose whatever we want it to be.

Take a look at the things that bring you joy; the things you are good at. What is the underlying theme? How could you tie them all together?

Here are a few examples from my clients of their purposes in life:

I choose to be an example of what’s possible.

I choose to use my writing to inspire women.

I choose to be an effective and inspirational leader.

I choose to help women reconnect with their value and their worth.

Fulfilling any of the above purposes could take a myriad of different forms. Living in accordance with these purposes does not require you to change your job or career plan. It simply asks you to show up in the certain way and dedicate your energy toward that purpose.

Stop pressuring yourself to find some ever elusive purpose. Start looking inward to see why your pursuit of a purpose has failed you in the past — What were you seeking outside of yourself? Why did you want that? What did you discover when you got there?

Make a commitment to believe that you are already enough. You are complete, perfect, loveable, whole. If you could believe that and embody that, what would you do with your life? That, my friends, is the first step in fulfilling your purpose. It’s right there within your complete power and control.

Start living a purposeful life today.

If you are struggling to find more fulfillment in your life, take advantage of a free session to regroup and start taking meaningful action.

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The Mistake Spiral

The most common thing I see among associate attorneys is the fear of making mistakes.

As attorneys, we can become so paranoid about making a mistake that we put a tremendous about of pressure on ourselves. Our minds are filled with nonstop nasty chatter:

Don’t make another mistake

You have to get this right

This has to be perfect this time

You can’t miss anything this time

They all think you are an idiot

Maybe you shouldn’t have become a lawyer

You don’t have what it takes

Not only are you frustrated over the last mistake but now all that noise makes it even more difficult to focus and do a good job.

As a partner, I always knew when an associate was spinning in this fear. They were taking longer to do everything. They were agonizing over the smallest details. The result of all their mental berating was that they usually ended up missing the big picture and billing a ton of time in the process. What’s more, those associates rarely reached out for help before they got too deep. It was incredibility frustrating.

When you spin in self-doubt, self-judgment and pressure to do everything perfectly, you are demonstrating to those around you that you have some doubts about your ability to do it right. When you allow one mistake to send you into a tailspin, it makes it difficult for those around you to have confidence that you believe in your abilities; that you can handle feedback or that you can operate under pressure.

What’s more, that self-doubt spiral convinces you that you can’t reach out and ask questions for fear that it will affirm to others that you DON’T know what you are doing. You end up going down rabbit holes and over-analyzing the wrong details. Ultimately, everyone’s time is wasted and the project drags on.

How’s that working out for your work relationships or your confidence?

It is a never-ending death spiral of self-fulfilling prophecies.

What’s so interesting to me is that below the surface of all these thoughts and pressure is the belief that this path was easier for everyone else. That others didn’t struggle as much as you are.

Why are you choosing to believe that your struggles are special?

Why are you allowing your growth and development to be a sign that you are broken?

Consider the possibility that those around you similarly struggled. You don’t know that they didn’t yet you are CHOOSING to believe that is the case.

At this point in your career, I think we can ALL agree that law school doesn’t teach you how to be a lawyer. Your legal education was no different than anyone else’s. All attorneys wander the morass and confusion fog for YEARS before it clicks. You are not special in this regard!

The root of all those self-doubts and mistake spirals is the ultimate fear of failure. Below each overworked project and overly analyzed email is the fear of what it means when you make a mistake. And further, what it means if you keep making mistakes:

You can’t hack it.

You weren’t meant to be an attorney.

You made a mistake.

You shouldn’t be here.

That sneaky little worry is bubbling below the surface of all of those self conscious acts. You are afraid that those mistakes, when taken in total, are an indication that you can’t do this. From there, you build up these crazy expectations of perfection and try to think clearly and rationally from a place of frenzied panic and tremendous pressure.

It’s no wonder you keep making mistakes! How the hell are you supposed to do a good job when all you are thinking about is how you aren’t doing a good job? It’s madness!

Perfectionism is for scared people.

Repeat that phrase. Live it. Breathe it. Believe it.

When you try to mold yourself into some perfect “out-of-the-box” ready to perform, legal wizard you are setting yourself up for failure.

Law school does not prepare you to practice law. Welcome to the first phase of your life where there are no clear guidelines, metrics are fuzzy, and you have to just start trusting that you are doing it right.

Stop beating yourself up for signing up for the “on site” education that is the practice of law. That is how it works. Allow yourself to experience the process of learning on the job just like every associate attorney on the planet.

One small mistake does not mean that you are not cut out to be a lawyer. Do not let that mistake stoke the fires of fear and propel you into a frenzy.

You are a human. You will mess up.

Welcome to the party.

You want to do a good job and you want to improve and that is commendable. But first, you must do a good job for yourself. Honor the process of on-the-job development. Recognize that you don’t know it all and THAT IS OKAY. No one does.

Second, ditch your ridiculous expectations for yourself and get to work learning how to trust yourself and your judgment despite some bumps in the road.

Besides, what’s the alternative?

Where is all this worrying and fear getting you? What does it hurt to loosen up a bit and just keep rolling with the punches and using each mistake as a learning opportunity? An opportunity to honor yourself, have your own back, and learn.

The only thing you are learning when you continually run the cycle of negative self-talk is how to treat yourself terribly.

There isn’t room for much more and there certainly isn’t room left for growth. Recognize where your current patterns are leading you and decide if that is what you want. The choice is yours.

I help my clients get more confidence, roll with the punches, and have some compassion for themselves. Sound like something your practice is missing? Get some free support now and see what we can do together.

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Sunday Mourning Blues

We’ve all been there….You enjoy a blissful, care-free Saturday. Your email was silent (or ignored). No surprise projects, no random client demand. You relaxed and enjoyed a mental break from work.

Then it’s Sunday morning and the dread sets in. It’s like Monday is a looming gauntlet, like a watery grave for a stubborn cat–don’t you dare make me get in there, GDI!

Many of my clients lose the majority of their Sundays to that Monday morning dread. “Sunday mourning.”

They spin in negative thoughts and mental sparring matches with their co-workers and clients. They imagine the worst case scenarios–

I swear to god if Associate Suck-Up stops into my office to brag about how he billed 20 hours this weekend, I am going to explode.

When Monday does come around, they are mentally exhausted and wound tightly, just waiting for an opportunity to prove their fears true and blow up on some unassuming victim.

Practicing law is no walk in the park, admittedly, but this Sunday torture is not helping the situation.

Is it useful to imagine the worst case scenario?

Is it helpful to anticipate a dumpster fire?

How is that benefiting you?

What impact is that having on your happiness, never mind your weekend?

What it’s like to sacrifice half of every weekend to your own mental torture?

It is nearly impossible to rationally examine any situation when you are overcome with negative emotions. Instead of thoughtfully examining our choices, we act with knee-jerk reactions from fear, overwhelm, or anger.

Our Sunday mourning feels so justified. We have all sorts of reasons why we feel anxious and depressed. The problem is that we can’t make a real assessment of any situation when we are frayed at both ends.

It’s certainly possible that your Sunday mourning routine is indicative of a need for a career change. BUT what is more likely is that you could change your career and find yourself swimming in the same Sunday Mourning pond.

When we find our brains overrun with negative thoughts about our careers, those thoughts are rarely isolated to that one circumstance.

They are often part of a larger belief system that will follow you no matter where you go or what you do.

I want to enjoy what I do for a living.

I just want to be happy in my job.

It shouldn’t be this hard.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

Thoughts like those will creep into other aspects of your life later on. The belief that your job and your life “should” be a certain way. You should be happy. Your career should be easier. The fact that you “don’t want” to do your job anymore matters. (It doesn’t!) Not wanting to do something is simply a thought. That thought will sidetrack anything you do. It is not helpful. Not wanting to do something does not mean there is a glitch in the matrix.

It likely means you are doing something hard.

Something that forces you to grow.

When you give credence to that thought “I don’t want to do this” you are allowing yourself to use the easy button. To avoid the growth. You are allowing your brain to become really skilled at NOT doing hard things.

None of these thoughts are good reasons to quit a job. They are thoughts you are choosing to believe. They are thoughts that open an escape hatch–an easy out. Cleaning up those thoughts will allow you to truly experience your job, unclouded by these judgments and burdensome beliefs. Then you can decide whether you want to do something else with your life.

Before you make any monumental decisions while in the despair of Sunday mourning, I challenge you to examine the thoughts and beliefs creating your misery. Those thoughts will go with you no matter what you are doing for a living.

“Where ever you go, there you are.”

You are really good at thinking those thoughts and you will keep thinking them even if you change the scenery.

What is it costing you? Have you allowed those thoughts to sabotage you over and over again?

This is the meat of my work with most of my clients. Many of them carry toxic thoughts and beliefs about how their lives “should” be. Thoughts that cause them tremendous pain and cost them their happiness. Working through those thoughts provides them with the peace and space to truly move on and transform their lives.

Want a reprieve? Try it out for free today.

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas from Pexels

What Other People Think About You

How do you describe your practice to others? When you are at a mixer and someone asks what you do, is there a momentary hesitation about promoting your skills? Why is that?

I recently worked with a client who was hesitant to promote her new practice group. She had a marketing plan but wasn’t executing. She had marketing materials but she wasn’t distributing them. Why?

During our session, we discovered that she was afraid that people who received her marketing materials would judge her. That they wouldn’t like her. That they would think she wasn’t qualified.

We’ve all been there. That junior high fear of not being liked. We never seem to shake it!

The opposite side of that coin is the closely held belief that it’s important for other people to like you. It’s important not to be judged by others.

That belief keeps so many of us like my client paralyzed.

It is not possible to go through this life and have every human you encounter like you. Test this theory. Think of someone you think is unimpeachable. Run some Google searches to seek out their critics. You will be amazed. (I conducted this experiment with Mother Teresa. Yep, she had her haters too.)

You will always have people in your life who are going to judge you.

Get over it.

Move on.

When you cling to the belief that it’s important for other people to enjoy your lovely persona and appreciate everything you have to offer, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Every single person in your life is going to have a different notion of how you are supposed to act, what you are supposed to say,  and how you are supposed to spend your time. Those expectations will conflict. There is no way to meet everyone’s expectations of you.

Pleasing everyone is an impossibility; yet we secretly hope that everyone will like us.

The real question is my favorite: SO WHAT? So what if people don’t like you?

The “so what” in this story is really what is at the heart of this matter. When you ask yourself these questions, what you will likely discover is that it’s related to some thought about your worthiness.

We believe that if people don’t like you or if people judge you, it must be because something is wrong with you. It’s confirmation that you are doing it wrong.

There is part of you that wants to agree with them — they are right in their judgment and you are a failure.

When you place your worthiness in the hands of other people and the whims of their likes and dislikes, you are signing up for a course in misery. Why would you give those people all the power? I’m sure there are people in your life that you don’t really like and you don’t really trust but you are allowing their sentiment about you to dictate whether you believe there is something wrong with you.

Do you really want to give them all that power?

Or anyone for that matter?!

Besides, what does it even mean that “there’s something wrong” with you?

Who decides?

How do we know?

Who decides what is “right” about you?

You are subscribing to some undefinable standard and allowing other humans to decide whether you are worthy.

Those thoughts are not serving you. They keep you playing small.

When you transition your perspective to a belief that the only person who decides your worthiness is you, it becomes so much easier to start taking action.

Rip the worthiness metric out of the hands of your haters.

You are enough. Just as you are. How someone else perceives you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

You can’t control the humans; you have to stop living your life in a manner where you are trying to manipulate their thoughts about you.

You will not be everyone’s cup of tea. And. That. Is. Okay. That is how it works. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you.

In this life, people will judge you and criticize you. You always have a choice as to what you make that mean about yourself and your values. Stop making their words mean something negative about your abilities or value. That approach is never going to serve you or your career.

Your beliefs about yourself will either help you build the career of your dreams or they will help you crash and burn.

The choice is yours.

As part of my 6-week programs, I dedicate time specifically to the beliefs we carry about ourselves and how they impact our actions. Curious? Sign up for a free 45-minute session now before they are gone.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash