By Keisha Stanford • September 28, 2010•Writers in Residence
Today is my 30th birthday, and in exactly a week, I will begin my life as a lawyer. In recent weeks, I have been experiencing the pre-work jitters. Will I be good any good at this? How long will it take for someone to figure out that I have no idea what I’m doing? If the Bar taught me anything, it’s that law school doesn’t teach you everything you need to know to become a lawyer. So, how long do I really have before I have before I make a tragic mistake and have to figure out a new career path?
In talking to friends that have already started working, I realized that I am not the only person with pre-work doubts. We’ve all had some sort of work nightmare – losing an important client file, showing up late for court, missing a filing deadline, forwarding confidential information to opposing counsel. What’s been most interesting about these conversations is that my female friends seem to be more concerned about their future performance than my male friends.
It is not that my male friends are doubtless about their future success as lawyers, but rather that getting them to admit it takes a bit of prodding. Basically, it’s not the first (or second, or third) thing out of their mouths when we talk about work. With my female friends, the doubts are free flowing and openly discussed. To some extent, this difference may simply be the result of the things that I talk about with my female friends versus those I discuss with my male friends.
But that can’t be the whole of it. Many of my female friends are some of the most accomplished people in my entire law school class. They have landed coveted clerkships and fellowships. They secured jobs at the leading law firms in the country. They had clearly proven themselves through their work, and someone believed they were up to the task. So, why all the doubt?
An article in the September 2007 edition of Real Simple gave me a little bit of insight. In “What Are You Waiting For?” Gail Blanke, a personal and executive coach, discusses the ways in which women give away power from time to time. Whether it’s selling themselves short or giving into to societal pressures that indicate that people just don’t like strong women, women are not always the best at embracing their inherent power. Gail’s point was not that women aren’t amazingly brilliant or talented, but rather that we “put our power on hold while we wait for the signal or the invitation or the exact right moment or until the planets are aligned before we take that step to change our lives or our world.”
So as I begin this new year in my life, I am making a pact with myself to truly embrace my power. That doesn’t mean ignoring my shortcomings or weaknesses, but it does mean that I will refuse to allow them to overshadow my strengths or to keep me from moving forward. I sat through the same classes as my male counterparts, took the same exams, and graduated from the same law school. We are equally prepared for our first day in the “real world of lawyering.” So if they aren’t losing sleep over embarking on their careers, neither should I; we should be equally well rested for our first day in Big Law.
In that vein, I think it's fitting to end this blog post with a quote by Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we’re inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond all measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? . . .Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.”
So ladies, let’s play big and get to the business of being fabulous…because we truly are.