Overcoming Lawyer Burnout//

Are You A Perfectionist?

2 Part Series: Mindset Traits of Lawyers That Can Lead to Burnout & Practical Steps to Overcome Them

In my last article I talked about how many lawyers are “Success Junkies” and how this attribute, while at times may propel us forward, it can also be harmful to our mental health and well-being.

Today, I am here to discuss another incredibly common attribute of lawyers, which can devastate our well-being.

That is being a perfectionist.

Lawyers, as part of the job are required to consider all eventualities and preempt worst case scenarios. They are essentially required, due to the nature of their work to have a cynical or pessimistic mindset.

“That court brief or contract that you drafted; it better be word-for-word perfect.”

There’s no room for tpyos. 😉 No room for error.

At a base level for anyone, the pressure is a lot to handle.

Mindset Challenge: Perfectionism, Inner Critic & Pressure

The law attracts individuals with a tendency towards perfectionism. This makes sense because the law requires accuracy, and there’s little margin for errors.

Perfectionists place a huge amount of pressure on their own shoulders. Perfectionists, by nature, set themselves up for failure (because are human-beings and not robots) when a slip-up inevitably happens, perfectionists are typically incredibly tough on themselves.

Perfectionism has a domino effect on an individual’s well-being.

  • They place unrealistic expectations themselves. They begin to question themselves. They have a sense of “not being good enough”.
  • They beat themselves up, they are overly critical.  
  • Perfectionism creates the fear of letting their team/ colleagues down.
  • It breeds anxiety.
  • It breeds self-doubt.
  • Fear of failure.

The recent American Bar Association (ABA) & Law Society studies, show that many lawyer’s struggle with “imposter syndrome” because of the high ideals and pressure they place on themselves.

As the Law Society report highlights, the “personality attributes of those who enter and teach law, of a legal profession replete with ‘insecure overachievers’”.

How to Shake Self-Doubt & Self-Criticism

Shaking self-doubt and self-criticism isn’t easy. The process begins with being able to identify and be aware of when you are telling yourself a self-criticizing narrative, and are being overly harsh on yourself.

I would recommend journaling to explore and reframe these negative thought patterns by following this method:

Journaling & Self Compassion

Start by taking some deep breaths and remind yourself to have some self-compassion. Realize that we are often our own worst critic. Remember “Kindness is not just about how you treat others; it’s rooted in how you treat yourself.” — Londro Rinzler.

Step 1: Write down the Trigger of the Self-Criticizing Narrative.

Step 2: Ask yourself (and answer in written format) How TRUE is the Narrative that you are buying into?

“You are a complete failure”, “you are never going to be good enough”, “you aren’t smart enough to do get that promotion”.

Chances are, the internal narrative you are buying in to doesn’t have much of a foundation in the truth.

Step 3: Write down what you would say to a Friend or Colleague in this situation.

Think about the words you would share with a close friend or colleague. Chances are you would be a lot kinder. You’d offer constructive feedback about how to deal with a situation, you would express compassion and kindness.

Step 4: After following this process, take some time to observe your new feelings regarding the situation. Then write down a reframe.

I use the above technique with my clients to successfully rewire negative thought patterns.

To find more information about how I can help you overcome burnout, go to Charlotte-Smith.com

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