Mediations are for settling cases, but there is often a lot of downtime for small talk. In this space, I often encounter talented lawyers who feel “behind” or inferior to their peers because of some measure of success that they can’t quite define. However, as I’ve probed more on these issues, there are two common themes that I find.
The first is something I call the superhero myth. The myth is that you can be a top-producing attorney; be a plugged-in, supportive spouse; raise well-adjusted, kind and successful children; have an impact in your community; maintain a fit and fabulous physique; and still have time for the hobbies you love.
While this ideal has always been around, in our ever-increasing digital world, we are inundated with social media that spreads the superhero myth like wildfire. Beautifully curated posts depict perfect families, perfect spouses and perfect careers. The filters used on social media make people’s bodies look slim and erase all wrinkles. No wonder successful lawyers are feeling inadequate … they are comparing themselves to an illusion.
It is impossible to excel in every area of life. I am married, have three girls (ages 15, 12 and 6), run a business and work full-time (as does my husband). I am doing my best, but I am no superhero. My house is messy because I don’t have time to pick it up between school and work events. I can forget to answer texts because I am so focused on getting the kids to all their activities on time. I rarely serve my community right now be-cause my business and family have me stretched to the max.
There are only 24 hours each day; we must get comfortable with “good enough” if we are to find peace of mind. Nobody can have it all.
YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS
The second matter that I commonly find that is mentally defeating attorneys is measuring themselves against someone else’s definition of success. For example, the unwritten rule at many firms, is that unless you become a partner, you haven’t “made it.” Other firms and attorneys measure success by how many clients you bring in. Benchmarks of success such as these are not wrong. But, they can be wrong for you. Realizing this can be especially challenging if you work in a fi rm where your aspirations aren’t mainstream.
I worked for years with people who measured success by trying cases and becoming board certified trial attorneys. I assumed they were right and pushed toward that goal. Over the years, I tried enough cases to ap-ply for board certification. Ironically, that’s when I realized that becoming a board-certified trial attorney was not what I desired, and I became a mediator instead. I found a measure of success that felt more authentic to me.
WHAT DO YOU DO
So how can we take back the control over feelings of inadequacy? Recognize that excelling in every area of your life is impossible. Take a serious inventory of yourself. Decide what areas of life are most important to you then create goals for your life around those desires. Realize there is no right or wrong way to measure success. You don’t have to be mainstream and that doesn’t mean inferior.