NBH 032: The Truth About Imposter Syndrome

This month, every blog post is going to be related to the topic of Authentic Branding. With authenticity, we need to know who we are; and a big problem among lawyers is imposter syndrome. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is feeling like we are an imposter, feeling like we don't belong, feeling like we don't know enough, that we don't have enough experience, that somehow we got the success we have through mistakes or through luck. We didn't earn it; we're not supposed to be here. A lot of lawyers feel this and I've been talking to more and more lawyers who are experiencing this phenomenon.

Often the remedy is mindset work and convincing ourselves, “Oh no, we are enough; we're good enough; we're supposed to be here.” And that's fine. I have a different perspective for you, as usual, about imposter syndrome. Through our journey to become lawyers, we have this idea of what a lawyer should be, based on established precedent, what's happened before us, the system that was built on a different value system than we have today. The people did the best they could. There is this image, this idea, of what a lawyer is, and we have done our best to conform to that. When we've gone through school and law school and in our jobs, we have worked on conforming to be that idea of what a lawyer is.

When we feel like we're straying from that idea, we feel like imposters, because we are. We are trying to be this idea of what a lawyer is, when we are not that, or we cannot be that. It's not possible. The idea is that, for example, lawyers need to know the answers right away. Lawyers can't say, “I don't know.” Lawyers can't go and research something. These ideas can be very harmful because they are not true. That is not what lawyers do. Lawyers don't just have knowledge and don't just have access to all of the knowledge from our brains. It takes time to learn things.

Especially when you're a newer lawyer and you're learning things, you may not know things. And so you're going to feel like an imposter. But it doesn't work that way. We know this deep down, but somehow we still have convinced ourselves that it's not the system, it's not our unrealistic expectations. We think this is because we are in the wrong place – aka an imposter. And especially if you look different than most of the lawyers, if you have different values, if you have different ways of approaching problems than the options that are being presented to you, you're going to feel like an imposter.

For this week, I would like you to think about when you feel like an imposter, are you trying to be something you're not? Are you actually an imposter? Why are you doing it this way? Is this something that you thought you were supposed to be doing? Is this something that other people were doing around you? And when you do feel like an imposter, maybe it's a signal that you are. It's good news because you don't have to be.

In the blog posts that follow for this month, we're going to talk a little more about authenticity and your brand, which is about you finding yourself. The first thing is, are you an imposter? Do you think you're an imposter? Or actually are you an imposter because you are comparing yourself to some idea that is not you and not appropriate for you?

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