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Imposter syndrome

Putt5353

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Nov 20, 2021
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Hi everyone, just wanted to have some thoughts on imposter syndrome - if this is something that anyone else is struggling with at the moment and how you deal with it.

A bit of background about me, I’m female and in my mid 20s. I completed the MA Law conversion in 2019 and then went into a paralegal role. I’ve recently started my training contract with the same firm and they’re sponsoring me through the LPC part time which I’m incredibly grateful for. Although I’ve performed well academically, I went to a state school and I’m 1st generation to attend uni in my family. I’ve always struggled with imposter syndrome but recently it seems to have been getting worse.

I think it stems from 2 places:
1. Feeling like I’m not good enough/don’t belong.
2. Feeling guilty/like I don’t deserve the opportunities that are being given to me (especially when I see friends who are still unable to get TCs).

I know imposter syndrome is quite common (especially for women), but it would be good to hear of other people’s experiences/tips on how to overcome these feelings of self-doubt/guilt.

Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance
 

LlamaLaw

Active Member
Future Trainee
Sep 17, 2021
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It's entirely natural even though it can be very debilitating.

I've certainly felt it often, and I think there are a couple of ways to make it more manageable.

The first is that it's surprisingly common, particularly in professional environments where there are often a lot of high achievers (which includes you!). That doesn't necessarily make it go away, but it helps put it into context.

The second is that it's the result of your hard work and success. Some people will always be brimming with confidence, but for most people that confidence doesn't come naturally or constantly. Ultimately though you are where you are because you earned it, not because of luck or something else. The imposter syndrome is because you're successful and you want to continue to succeed. When it's feeling acute, it's an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the longer term perspective of your efforts and not the short term feeling of doubt.
 

Dheepa

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  • Jan 20, 2019
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    I still struggle with this but here are ways that I've tried to deal with it in the past year:

    1. Reminding myself that I am worthy/enough regardless of my achievements/successes/failures. Ultimately this is an exercise of finding your self-worth outside of materialistic things (job offers, money, academics etc.). Try listing things about yourself that you like that are completely separate from the outcome. For example, you could be an immensely hardworking person, or maybe you're very reliable etc (I'm choosing traits here that are tied to workplace environments since that's the context of what we're talking about but include whatever you want!) Come back to the list often - especially on days when you won't believe it.

    2. Being enough isn't about being the best or being better than other people. Especially at work, being a high performer or good at your role has absolutely nothing to do with either of those things (imo). Not even the people we view as being more "worthy" than ourselves are necessarily the best. So when you make a mistake or you get critical feedback or your supervisor isn't happy with something - view it as an isolated learning opportunity and not a reflection of whether you're good enough for the job or the task etc. TLDR: you're still enough no matter the mistakes you make. Personally making this shift in mindset has allowed me to take on more things that I knew nothing about - because I stopped worrying about whether I was good enough for it/had the skills to do it and just focused on learning it/enjoying it as I go along. Don't fake it until you make it, just learn and get better (the confidence will come with the knowledge you've learnt) until you make it.

    3. Celebrate your success and don't down play it. Imposter syndrome can manifest itself in having you so focused on what's next (how to fit in, how to keep proving your worth) that you can forget to appreciate that you are doing exactly what the you from 2 or 3 years ago wanted so badly. Acknowledge how hard you worked, how it was all you. Tell everyone about it and don't hold back. Only you know what it took to get to where you are - and every once in a while it's okay to stop, look back and just be proud.

    According to the books I've read on this, more often than not feelings of not being good enough are rooted in experiences we had growing up. May also be worth delving into where that feeling really comes from (if applicable) for you.

    As the user above said, you're definitely not alone in how you feel. 😬
     

    AvniD

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    Oct 25, 2021
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    I'm a first-generation lawyer and an international applicant, so I completely relate with feeling like you don't belong. It was only till I moved to London and started interacting with other future trainees about their journeys into law that I started to realise that I have worked really, really hard and deserve my place in this industry as much as they do, even though our paths, timelines and goals are different. This also made me realise that no matter what effort one puts into dodging the imposter syndrome, sometimes the circumstances we find ourselves in need to change for our perspective to change as well. Maybe that holds true for you too in some way?

    I also completely agree with the insight that @Dheepa has provided- reminding yourself that you belong and not letting slip-ups dictate your mindset requires active, conscious effort and Dheepa could not have outlined this better.

    Lastly, I have to say that you've done so, so well for yourself and your courage to post here is absolutely admirable 👏👏👏
     

    Putt5353

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    Nov 20, 2021
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    @LlamaLaw, @Dheepa, @AvniD thank you so much for your insightful replies. It really helps to hear from others that have been through this, especially others in the legal profession. I think that one of the difficulties with working in law is that it’s so competitive that it forces everyone to talk up themselves and their experiences/achievements all the time, so everyone seems to be walking around with this aura of self-confidence - it just makes it feel like there’s no space for anyone who feels even slightly ‘less than’.
    I used to look for different goals in the future that I thought would make me feel ‘worthy’ e.g. ‘when I’ve got my masters degree I’ll feel like I belong’, and then that became ‘when I’ve got my first legal role’ and then ‘when I start my TC’. Then lately that changed to ‘maybe when I’ve qualified’, but I’ve realised that the goal posts just keep moving and I don’t feel any different about myself.
    Your replies have helped to see that I need to start looking at myself, and the things I’ve already achieved, rather than always aiming for then next thing that I hope will make me see myself differently.
     

    Jessica Booker

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    Aug 1, 2019
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    I think you’d be surprised how many lawyers feel like you do across firms. I suspect (well actually know, from some conversations) that even some of those who present a very confident persona have these feelings from time to time.

    I don’t think it’s just the competitiveness aspect that contributes to this. You an entering a profession with a lot of uncertainty - whether deals will happen/whether you will win a case/whether your advice is the best it can actually be, and there is a lot at risk, whether you are dealing with individuals or businesses. Having worked in other professional services and finance sectors, i have seen this feeling in graduates elsewhere.

    But it clearly is an issue in the legal sector as the Law Society talk about it regularly! You’ll find some interesting articles here from them:


    Even Baroness Hale has had these feelings! https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/features/impostor-syndrome-how-to-conquer-your-fears/5101651.article
     

    Dheepa

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  • Jan 20, 2019
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    Reviving this thread just to say I came across this really great quote in something I was reading today and just thought I’d share:

    The most important realisation in life is that you are already enough. This realisation won’t make you lose your ambition, it will help you pursue the right things for the right reasons.
     

    George Maxwell

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    Oct 25, 2021
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    Reviving this thread just to say I came across this really great quote in something I was reading today and just thought I’d share:

    The most important realisation in life is that you are already enough. This realisation won’t make you lose your ambition, it will help you pursue the right things for the right reasons.
    I love this quote @Dheepa thank you for sharing!
     
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