Lawyer Life - Imposter Syndrome
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome is defined as:
“The persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills”
In 2019, The Junior Lawyers Division reported that over 80% of junior lawyers have experiences imposter syndrome at some point. Therefore the first thing to take away is that you are not alone!
At the beginning of my legal career I remember sitting in rooms with fellow students and colleagues and feeling like everyone else was better than me and would be a better lawyer than I would be.
This continued with the disbelief that I had been offered a training contract. I could not believe that they thought I had what they were looking for out of all the candidates.
It turns out that this is pretty normal and most people in the legal profession experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. It is therefore really important that we open up conversations about imposter syndrome and how we manage that within the profession.
The most pivotal moment in my journey happened during a catch up with the CEO of my firm who actually helped me identify that what I was feeling was imposter syndrome and she shared her own experiences with me. After this, I felt a sense of empowerment and a feeling that I would not stand in my own way of my career I had worked so hard for.
It is not always that simple and I often have to take moments of reflection and find myself in situations where I feel that I can’t believe I have got this far. When I feel like this I always recall advice I read in an article shortly after qualifying which highlighted that you may not always be the smartest lawyer in the room, and that is ok, because you can always be the kindest.
As with most topics I intend to cover through these articles, the main aim is to generate open and honest conversations within the legal community and to provide a network where we feel comfortable to be honest about how we are feeling.
How do we overcome this?
From an outsider’s perspective, you have achieved your goals, obtained your qualifications and most likely come across as calm and collected. So why then do we often feel like a fraud?
Talking to colleagues and peers helps address any unwanted feelings as you will see that most people will have stories of their own experiences of the same feelings. The best thing we can do is learn from each other and the DJLD provides an environment for us to talk about these difficult topics.
One thing I found helpful was not being afraid to ask for specific and constructive feedback and engineering any feedback I was given into an action plan to improve. Do not fear constructive criticism – instead, make sure you mould any criticism or feedback into a way forward and own that process. This helps you turn a potential weakness into a strength as you have identified it and have addressed how to improve.
Another piece of advice, and probably one of the most difficult, is to step out of your comfort zone. The more you put yourself in positions you do not feel comfortable with, such as networking or leading an initiative in the office, you give yourself the opportunity to embrace learning from your peers and working on skills you feel are weaker than others. The opportunities may even help you realise where your strengths are and reassure you that you have a lot to bring to the table.
In order to do this, my advice is to empower yourself. Whenever I was nervous to attend an event, my mum would always say to me ‘you are not a tree, you can get up and leave if you do not like it’. This empowered me as I regained control of myself with this. I have never left an event midway through because when I get there I realise that I enjoy the event and the people I meet, but giving myself the power to know that I can has helped my confidence at the events as I allow myself to be me and establish connections with fellow professionals.
If you feel that you would like to talk to someone about managing imposter syndrome, please get in touch or attend one of our events to meet with like-minded professionals.