Confidence is ultimately more important than resilience, talent, or even intelligence for successful family lawyers. Here is why.
In coaching family lawyers and other professionals on how to achieve success in their careers and personal lives, I have observed that one quality is more important than any other when creating the life we want: confidence.
Not surprisingly, successful lawyers possess confidence while those who feel unsuccessful lack it. Confidence is ultimately more important than resilience, talent, or even intelligence for family law attorneys.
Without confidence, it is almost impossible to complete tasks well, make decisions, define your career, be a leader, and have work-life balance. Lack of confidence (a.k.a. self-doubt) is a soul-sucking demon that is the common denominator of burnout, stress, and anxiety.
Self-Doubt Can be Like a Wrecking Ball to Confidence
Self-doubt causes us to overthink, make bad decisions, lose our focus, and ruin our health. Self-doubt lives in the past and is the bastard child of perceived mistakes and failures. Even when we do well, overwhelming self-doubt will rob us of satisfaction.
I have found that most people who hire coaches or therapists are focused on acquiring a goal (e.g., a promotion), power, and money. We are focused on concrete external achievements rather than the inner qualities required to create them. Instead of external “work”, we need to be focused on the inner work: building confidence.
Strategies for Building Self-Confidence
If you are riddled with self-doubt and spiraling towards burnout, what can you do to turn that train around? Fortunately, there are a few easy strategies that can get us back on the road to a rewarding life.
A Higher Perspective on Learning (and Relearning) is Key
We learn through experience – and it is commonly accepted that we can learn more from experiences that are challenging and disappointing than those where we get exactly what we want the first time. This is the concept of “mistakes versus learning lessons.”
Just because we don’t get what we want or expect doesn’t mean we made a mistake or did something wrong. If we did our best, but don’t get the desired result, we need to focus on what we can do differently and not focus on not being perfect. Self-doubt breeds in the space between not getting what we want and the next step. Buddha recognized this when he taught that all suffering comes from desire.
Self-Compassion Clears the Way for Confidence
We need to focus on the Big Picture. When most family law attorneys start out, their Big Picture – or motivation for choosing this career and niche – is to help people. When we forget or lose sight of the Big Picture and focus on our income or status, or compare ourselves to others, doubt will almost always take over.
Your Big Picture must also contain healthy amounts of self-compassion.
Are you your own best friend or your biggest critic? Do you have conversations with yourself? The negative aspects of your psyche are the ego, the inner child, and the inner critic. Self-compassion does not allow these negative aspects to hijack your confidence. These are the half-remembered critics, teachers, family members, and peers who were unkind and manipulative to control you. Self-compassion responds to inner criticism with love and kindness. We recognize that we didn’t get what we want but we learn and do better.
It is our choice whether we obsess on negative inner criticism or remember that the legal profession is hard and complex and very few people get to be lawyers. One of my favorite sayings is “Chin up and march on.” Another is “Next!” Find a saying that cheers you up and helps you remember that you are good. If you focus on those, positive results will certainly follow.
Imposter Syndrome: Another Enemy of Confidence
A common cause of self-doubt is a personality defect known as “Imposter Syndrome”. This is the belief that we are flawed and incompetent and one day someone will discover that we are frauds. It is just a matter of time. We spend more time building castles in the air to fool everyone than simply being transparent and honest.
We make promises to ourselves and others that are doomed to fail. We wear different masks like disguises that are intended to convince others that we are someone more perfect than we are. We are setting ourselves up for failure and burnout.
We have forgotten the Big Picture and have focused on external gain. Instead of focusing on how we can help, we are focused on gain. Confidence is the result of positive virtues, and it is always as important as achievement – if not more.
The last jury trial I was involved in is a perfect example. Twenty years ago, I represented plaintiffs who claimed that the large corporate defendant had financially damaged them. I was the sole attorney for my clients against a room full of corporate defense lawyers. After a two-week trial, the jury awarded almost a million dollars to my clients. Most attorneys would have been overjoyed. I could only hear my ego, inner child, and inner critic and I was so burnt out that I quit practicing law shortly thereafter. I wish that I had known then what I know now.
Confidence is an Inside Job
Confidence requires compassion, forgiveness, and love. Focus on the Big Picture and ignore negative self-talk. You are only as good as you believe you are. Let that belief be the firm foundation of your success as a family lawyer.