Don't Take it Personally and Be Kind to Yourself

At an Al-Anon meeting, I once heard a woman introduce herself as an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. Not only did her introduction make me laugh out loud, but it really resonated with me.

Don’t Take it Personally

While I hope I’m not truly an “egomaniac,” my instinct is to see events through the lens of how they affect me and to believe that I can (and should) take care of everything. And my attorney training has, in many ways, reinforced these tendencies and beliefs.

At work, I am always evaluating situations in terms of how they affect my client’s case, and then taking steps to try to influence the outcome of situations in a way that best serves my client. And while this approach has its benefits, it needs to be balanced with the right perspective. And for me, that perspective is remembering not to take it personally.

What I mean by that is to remember, for example, that when opposing counsel sends me an email that is less than cordial or when I get a discovery request that seems onerous and out of the blue, it’s not about me and I can choose not to take it personally. And by not taking it personally, I am less likely to waste time analyzing why this email or discovery was sent to me. And I’m also less likely to ascribe bad intent to the person who sent me the email or discovery request because I’m not taking it personally and not getting emotionally caught up in the situation. So, I’m just seeing the email as an email that I may or may not need to respond to (but if I do respond to it, I can choose to do so cordially). And I’m just seeing the discovery as discovery that I will answer appropriately and to which I can object, in part or in whole, if warranted.

Be Kind to Yourself

I’m not sure that I really have an inferiority complex, per se, but I definitely have insecurities. And being in a profession that is often a zero-sum game where there’s a “winner” and a “loser” certainly doesn’t help when I happen to not be the “winner” in a particular case. In the past, I used to beat up on myself if I lost a case, or even if I lost a motion or a ruling on an objection. I would immediately think I hadn’t done a good enough job or wasn’t a good enough lawyer. It never dawned on me that maybe I just had bad facts in the case or maybe the judge’s ruling was wrong.

Thankfully, over the years and after working through the Twelve Steps in Al-Anon and practicing mindfulness meditation, I began to see things differently. I started accepting what I couldn’t change and accepting that I’ll never be perfect. But I also started appreciating my strengths and acknowledging all the things I do well to help my clients. And I made an effort to be kind to myself by taking time every day to think about all the things I’m grateful for and all the good things I did that day. What I noticed is that by practicing being kind to myself in this way every day, I started to feel less insecure and I stopped beating up on myself when things didn’t go the way I wanted.

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