Becoming a lawyer is a huge accomplishment in itself. As female attorneys, we join the ranks of all those women who fought so hard to become a valued part of this profession — after all, we have only been doing this since 1923 when women were finally allowed to be admitted to the bar.
We’ve come a long way, baby, so why is it that we often struggle recognizing our own value?
It’s easy to overlook your value in the legal world – it’s like being in junior high and everyone seems to be smarter, prettier, wealthier, and just generally BETTER than you.
So many of your colleagues will be well-traveled, highly educated at the best schools and private universities, they’re wealthy, well-dressed, well-spoken and have loads more experience than you do. When you spend your day thinking about your colleagues that way and admiring their accomplishments, eventually those “observations” of others turn inward to self-judgment.
When we find ourselves feeling less than and comparing ourselves to those around us we must stop and recalibrate lest we run ourselves into a nervous breakdown.
Re-calibrating means, sorting our the facts from our nasty little thoughts. Are they really better educated than you? All law schools have those at the top and those at the bottom. Just because someone went to a “better” law school than you, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are smarter or better than you.
Those are just stories you are telling yourself in your head.
Being a great attorney is so much more than the fancy degree. We all know lawyers from the greatest law schools in the nation who were terrible with people, get lost in the details, or were terrible public speakers. We all have our assets — don’t overvalue the degree and ignore the rest.
Of course they will have more experience than you!
Aside from your cohort group, nearly everyone else at the firm will have more experience than you. The secretaries and paralegals will know more about practicing law than you. Do not turn this simple fact into something negative. Do not go down the spiral of shoulds — I should have gotten a better internship last summer, I should have taken the corporate tax class, I should have done moot court, blah, blah, blah, get over it.
These are all ways to deflect what is really going on — you are thinking that they are better than you and you are jealous of their experiences. That’s it. Nothing magical here.
Very human nature-y of you.
Recognize those thoughts and emotions and instead consider how fortunate you are to be surrounded by their experience and knowledge so that you can learn from the best. You are on the same team. Do not forget that.
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And then my favorite little cherry on top,
So FREAKING what?
So what?! So what if they are better dressed and look the part more than you do in your discount store suit and knockoff purse? Who cares? Why do you care?
Force yourself to ask why these little differences matter. What are you making it mean?
Then force yourself to really look at the positive aspects of your life. If you are going to beat yourself up, at least give equal air time to an examination of your positive attributes.
You did graduate law school, after all. Did you even stop to consider how that might be someone else’s dream? And you are living it.
Don’t take someone else’s dream for granted.
As I’ve said, there is no right way to “do” life; neither one of you are doing it wrong.
The problem is simply that you are focusing on what you perceive to be the negative aspects of where you are and how you are experiencing life and you aren’t giving yourself space to examine why your approach to life is perfect for you.
Give yourself room to acknowledge and recognize that you are doing it right FOR YOURSELF. No one else. And they are doing it right for themselves. Period.
Everything else is just useless noise.
The reason it is so essential to ask yourself “so what” about all these nasty little comparisons you have crafted is because it forces you to really examine why you are subscribing to those thoughts. It forces you to ask — are those criticisms or observations serving you?
Sure, you might believe they are true and some of them might be based in facts (her purse IS a designer purse and yours is from Target) but how is that observation serving you? What are you gaining from carrying around that thought. What type of other lovely thoughts emerge from that one? My guess is those self-criticisms are simply spawning more loveliness in your head.
Why would you ever choose to start that chain reaction?
If it is not serving you, let it go. Even if it’s factual, who cares? Why bother dwelling on it? It’s making you feel terrible and it’s not getting you anywhere.
Release it and move on.
There is so much to learn from your legal practice and so many ways to grow. Do not sidestep that growth by treating yourself as “different” from your colleagues. Embrace your unique value, take an inventory of your accomplishments, and do not get caught up in the comparison game.