Regular readers know that I find it difficult to embrace winter. As a card-carrying member of No Shoes Nation, the season does little for my “wellness.”
Indeed, my favorite winter was 2016. It’s the year I ran the Surf City Marathon, collected this swag
then spent a few days with this view.
Last weekend, however, I decided to give winter a try. So, on a fantastically sunny Saturday, I ventured to Trapp Family Lodge for my first attempt at cross-country skiing in nearly 30 years.
Let’s leave it at this: it’ll be quite a while until I’m mistaken for a competent skier.
Which gets me to the point of today’s post.
On the trails, I’m an impostor. In the law, you are not.
Attorney Gabe MacConnaill took his own life in October. He was married to Joanna Litt. A few weeks ago, I blogged about Joanna’s heartbreaking letter in response Gabe’s suicide. Joanna’s letter mentioned that her husband:
- “felt like a phony who had everyone fooled about his abilities as a lawyer and thought after this case was over, he was going to be fired—despite having won honors for his work.”
There’s a name for what Gabe was feeling: impostor syndrome.
Last week, the ABA Journal posted Neha’s Sampat’s response to Joanna’s letter. In it, Attorney Sampat challenged lawyers, firms and the profession to address the syndrome, referring to it as a “hidden source of attorney distress.” Give it a read.
Some of the saddest cases I prosecuted as disciplinary counsel involved lawyers whose practices had cratered. More often than not, those lawyers seemed, in a sense, relieved. The gig was finally up. They no longer had to pretend to be someone who, in their minds, they were not.
We need to discourage that mindset.
Summary judgment motions get denied. Hearings don’t go exactly as planned. People – a group that includes the subset known as “lawyers” – make mistakes.
These are not signs that you don’t belong.
I’m no expert on how to address impostor syndrome. Some resources”
- Attorney Sampat’s post for the ABA Journal;
- Above The Law’s Are You An Impostor? by Attorney Megan Grandinetti; or,
- Chris Bergland’s Self-Compassion, Growth Mindset, and the Benefits of Failure
To me, it comes down to this: be kind to yourself. Nobody is perfect. And not only that, we don’t expect you to be.
Keep on keeping on. Sometimes the trail to this view includes stumbles along the way.