Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Law Career Fitness Challenge #6-To Thine Ownself Be True

law career fitness challengeYou might think being yourself is the easiest thing in the world. Actually it’s one of the hardest – especially for lawyers.

That’s because on any given day a lawyer may be called upon to wear different hats: advocate, counselor, partner, associate, businessperson, bill collector, orator, cajoler, teammate, gofer, researcher, marketer, good cop, bad cop, etc.

Not to mention the off-duty hats: parent, spouse, friend, neighbor, PTA volunteer.

The hat you wear affects what you say and do. How you act in the courtroom is different than when you’re at home or out jogging with your pals.

Then there are the twin terrors of competition and expectation. Lawyers are supposed to win. They are expected to have answers. They are not rewarded for losing, admitting weakness or making mistakes.

Over the course of a career, these pressures can cause you to lose sight of the person you were before Torts 101.

“I defined my self-worth by comparing myself with others,” writes this divorce lawyer/life coach. “I tried to be perceived as perfect, so I created unattainable standards that left me disconnected. During my mid twenties I became exhausted of worrying about being inconsistent and acting differently around different people. I became disconnected to others and wasn’t able to cultivate meaningful relationships.”

Don’t Confuse Your Self with Your Business Card

Our society values authenticity. We want the real deal, not some cheap substitute. We distrust phony people. We are drawn to the true, the unchanging, the authentic.

Our society values authenticity. We want the real deal, not some cheap substitute.

And yet to succeed in this crazy world, we have to assume different roles. But here’s the thing: as long you understand you are playing a role, no problem. The trouble starts when you confuse your essential self with the words on your letterhead or business card.

This is the wisdom behind the spiritual admonition to “be in the world, but not of it.” Play the game – and play to win – but don’t lose yourself in the process.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” E.E. Cummings

Five Training Tips

  1. Seek harmony inside and out. Psychologists identify two types of authenticity. “First, there is our outer authenticity – how well what we say and do matches what is really going on inside us. Second, there is our inner authenticity – how well we actually know ourselves and are aware of our inner states.”
  2. Practice letting things go. You lose a case. You snap at a co-worker. You are passed over for a promotion. Don’t let momentary and fleeting setbacks shake your sense of self. Learn from your mistakes. Then drop it and move on.
  3. Accept your limitations. You don’t need to have the solution to every problem. It’s okay to admit you don’t know. “The emphasis is always and continually on self-knowledge, knowing oneself and honestly accepting – owning – one’s imperfections,” says The Spirituality of Imperfection. “For honesty is first and foremost honesty with self, and true honesty concerns acknowledging and accepting our own imperfection.”
  4. Keep plugging away. Authenticity requires intention and commitment. Check in with yourself periodically each day to find out what you’re doing, saying, thinking and feeling. Be honest with what you discover.
  5. Read Shakespeare. “This above all – to thine own self be true,” says Polonius to Hamlet.

Here is how Steve Jobs put it: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

You can check out last week's challenge here.



About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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