I have always felt, at some times more than others, that the way other people perceive me is not necessarily true.
Countless times people have told me how hard-working and ambitious I am, how I always seem to know what I want and how much I appear to have it all together.
But, the truth is…
Most of the time, I don’t feel like I have it all together.
Getting my training contract has been my biggest success so far, but it has also been a challenge.
So many hours of preparation, of hard work, of planning, to get to this stage and it definitely took its toll on me sometimes, even though other people didn’t always see that side. I swapped nights out and evenings with friends for my part time job, for volunteering, for other things that I wanted to do to help with my future. Some people praised me for it, others criticised me, telling me I was missing out on the true uni experience.
Once I got my TC, people I knew years ago appeared out of the woodwork, having ignored me for years, suddenly interested in knowing me purely because I had a TC and they wanted to know how. How was I good enough? What did I have that they didn’t? Some were even surprised that I had managed it, which hurt.
The stress, and the pressure I felt, from people asking me how I was good enough, made me doubt that I was.
I was left wondering whether I really was good enough to be a trainee lawyer. Whether I even deserved to be a trainee lawyer.
Lawyers have to be confident and at times I can feel so shy. Lawyers are supposed to be calm and collected but at times I do feel stressed. Lawyers are supposed to be smart and fast-paced and natural with people and how could I be sure I had all these qualities? All of these ‘supposed’s running through my head – what I was supposed to do, things I was supposed to be.
And when I heard about ‘imposter syndrome’ it all made so much sense. This fear of feeling not good enough or like you’re a fraud, when actually you’re doing so well.
Imposter syndrome helped me with realising that lots of people struggle with the way I was feeling. And I realised that, actually, I don’t have to have it all together right now. Nobody has it all together! There are so many versions of you living in other people’s heads, and above all you have to put what it important to you and the values by which you think make you the person you want to be first. Focusing on the way you come across and put yourself out there can help morph or merge these versions that other people have, but ultimately, they won’t have a true, full picture of you. Sometimes I’m not even sure I have the true, full picture of myself! I love the idea that we are constantly works in progress, and I love my future law firm because it focuses so much on your potential, not just expecting you to be the finished product already. Being a trainee lawyer is a learning journey, as is life!
Honestly, you can never be an imposter to yourself, because you are constantly being given opportunities to invent yourself, to work on yourself, to strive for who you want to be. Do it with integrity, loyalty, but most of all, do it with self-love. Surround yourself with people who love and support you, not people who take from you. My 20s so far has seemed like a learning experience for finding real friends from the people who just want to take from your success and put you down.
Know that success is not about titles or money or what others think, but about self-fulfilment. Work on the things that make you you, and not the things you think people expect you to have or be. I was often called stubborn and eccentric for always doing things my way, and I never felt like it was a compliment. But now, I do, because the fact that I am stubborn enough to chase my dreams and stand for what I believe in, and eccentric enough to do it in a unique way that is true to who I think I am, is a compliment. These were the qualities that I have that got me where I am now, and I am proud of myself for it.
The people with the most integrity, are those that don’t compromise on who they are, and understand that masterpieces take time; that doesn’t mean you can’t already be a work of art, but that there is constantly colour and blossom being added to you with every step and every journey.