Law School,  Legal Practice

Why Can’t I Shake This? Beating Imposter Syndrome Once and For All

Hi, my name is Nubia and it’s been 0 days since I last felt insecure about my professional capacity.

Ok, maybe it’s been more than 0 days, but the reality is that experiencing imposter syndrome is a frequent occurrence and beating it means really working to recognize when it’s happening and then working hard to dismiss it when it occurs.

Imposter syndrome is a feeling that you are not capable of doing what you’ve been tasked to do and that at any moment people will discover that you are a fraud. Often we attribute our successes to luck rather than skills and diminish our accomplishments lest others point out just how unaccomplished we really are.

Imposter syndrome is influenced by internal and external factors–internally, we are navigating a system without much experience and understanding  so when stumbles happen we take them even harder because we compare how others seem to glide where we struggle. But it’s not just our own beliefs, we are constantly aware of other people and their perception of us–and frankly many people aren’t used to seeing people that look like us, with our surnames, and dialects, etc succeed in positions of power (nor for our lack of trying but because the systems we’re working under purposefully prevent the advancement of our communities). But their lack of belief in us also impacts how we see ourself. So, it’s no wonder then that you may question your abilities!

But it does no one any good when you–intelligent, gritty, successful, determine you–hold yourself back because you feel like your abilities aren’t real. But how do you address it?

One. Audit yourself. Think about your strengths and weaknesses–be honest in what you are good at and where you need work. Understanding this will allow you to work on these points strategically. You’ll be able to seek out opportunities that put your strengths in the spotlight while finding ways to increase your weaknesses so that they get stronger. Maybe you’re really great at researching but need more litigation experience. Work on getting your research abilities in front of sponsors and mentors at your firm and then look for CLEs and other training opportunities to beef up your litigation skills.

Two. Be prepared to out work everyone. It is not fair, I know to always be doubted but because that is the case, we have to be doubly prepared. The more you get used over-delivering, over-preparing, the easier it will get. But frankly, you should always want to be the most prepared in the work you do because you should never be out-lawyered by anyone. The trade-off is that you will know your shit, increasing your confidence and ability to push for newer, more challenging cases/work.

Three. Be aware of what’s happening. Imposter syndrome doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are countless of microaggressions and biases that make you question your own ability. Be aware of how people treat you–listen to your instinct when you feel like others are questioning you and figure out ways to work around it those barriers. And just as important, be aware of when you’re at place that needs you to “prove it again” When you get a few years into your career and people that are supposed to be championing you still treat your work like a fluke, recognize that it’s time to move on.

More than anything, don’t let their lack of confidence make you question yourself even more because when you know yourself, your abilities, and even your weaknesses then you know when you’re able to deliver and you will deliver the right results with or without anyone else’s support.

One Comment

  • Ana

    I definitely feel this, more than I would like to admit. Im the first in my family to graduate college, and I’m pursuing my BA as a prelaw student. Sometimes I do feel out of place, it’s nice to know im not alone in this.