I consider myself to be confident in my abilities as an attorney. But sometimes when I sit down to write a brief or prepare to go to court, I get these waves of anxiety. Then, my inner voice comes out of nowhere saying things like, “You are terrible at what you do,” or “You are a fraud and everyone is going to find out.” When I first started practicing law, this voice would terrify me and I would genuinely question my abilities. After practicing for a few years, I have developed some techniques to deal with those moments when self doubt attacks
1. Affirm that You Are Successful Now
Stop telling yourself that you will be successful when you write your first appellate brief, argue your first motion, win your first trial, etc. It doesn’t matter if you are a lawyer, business person or in any other profession. We as humans in the workforce continuously put road blocks or check points to our success in front of ourselves and by doing so keep ourselves small. If you continue to tell yourself that you will not be a success until [insert event that will happen some undetermined time in the future], what you are telling the Universe is “I am not a success right now.” This will create all types of “I am not a success” situations in your work life. These events will make tasks as simple as writing a quick memo or making a simple court appearance seem like another opportunity for you to fail. Self doubt thrives under these conditions.
Instead of telling yourself that you need to achieve a specific goal in order to be a success, take a moment to acknowledge that you are successful right now. Yes, those future goals are still very important, but they will only add to the success that you already enjoy now instead of merely creating it.
2. Write it Down
I keep a pack of note cards at my desk and often use them to jot down notes throughout the day on various cases. When I am hitting a wall due to self-doubt, it often helps for me to take out one of those note cards and write down all my fears that are coming up that are preventing me from getting my work done. After filling up the front and back of the note card, I momentarily will sit with the emotions that writing my fears have evoked. Then, I will rip up the note card and throw it away. This generallty is enough to release the fear and self doubt.
3. Accept that the Voice Never Really Goes Away
As long as we are human, the little self-doubt voice will always be in your head. However, the more you focus on the fact that you are successful and acknowledge your fears instead of fighting them, the less that voice will pop up.