Note to Self (125) My Confidence’s Back Up

I’m going to sound corny. I know I am. Because to a perfect stranger, I look like I know what I’m talking about every time I open my mouth. Well… I feel intimidated by a lot of smarter people all the time, and I hide my nervousness by just staying silent and observing, like I’m in a deep concentration state or something. It’s easier to look pensive than to say something stupid.

I sometimes don’t feel as confident as I should be. It’s normal. I express doubts like everyone else. But I don’t like to show I don’t know. I don’t like to feel ignorant, and when I actually feel challenged, I force myself to swallow my pride and I step up my game.

I started law school when I was seventeen. In France, once you graduate high school you go directly to university, and you study whatever you want, and this includes law. College and grad school are combined. I never studied anything else than law and political science until my twenty-third birthday. I spent six years reading law books and taking law finals. My life revolved around law. I even forced myself to forget I loved to write for fun. If I wanted to become a lawyer, I had to make a few sacrifices.

I never was the star of the class. I did my work and I got good grades, but I wasn’t an A student. I maintained a nice B average throughout my years, and the more I progressed on my journey to becoming a lawyer, the less I felt confident about my real abilities to work as a lawyer. Paradoxical. But true. When I decided to move to the US to finish my legal studies, I felt even less confident. My first few classes gave me a reality check, and I knew right off the bat I had to work my ass off if I ever wanted to pass and graduate. I certainly worked hard and I got my degree. And then I worked harder to study for the bar and I became an attorney. But what did I know about being an attorney? Nothing. I was clueless. All the moot courts and mediation classes wouldn’t change a thing. I needed a real attorney job now.

Another reality check hit me in the face when I started job hunting. My resume looked nice, but so did millions of other resumes out there. Some candidates’ credentials were impressive. I didn’t graduate from Harvard. I didn’t have a 4.0 GPA. I didn’t clerk for a judge. My father wasn’t a lawyer in town. I had nothing but my brains and my determination to make it through. After many months of searching, I finally landed a great job, but not as a lawyer. I work as a paralegal. Still, the title doesn’t mean I can’t do legal work. I learned so much, and I’m grateful for the chance I was given because it’s honestly the best experience I could ever have asked for. My ex used to always criticize the fact I didn’t have the title of associate. But a title is only a title. It doesn’t define anything besides your paycheck.

I swallowed my pride and I embraced the opportunity. I’m proud of where I work. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, knowing I grew up in a small town where nobody ever gave a damn about me, and I didn’t know anyone in the law business. I never doubted my intelligence, but for a long time I was intimidated by big shot lawyers because I knew these guys weren’t only smart, they were brilliant. Yet, I fought and I never gave up. My first experience working for a big law firm was a disaster, but I learned nonetheless. I sharpened my blades little by little, until I reached the level I’m at today.

Nothing comes easy. I have to prove myself every day. And because I love challenges so much, I decided to participate in more activities at work, and one of these big challenges was Moot Court. I remember my Moot Court days many years ago. But it was a different setting, and a different logic. When I entered the conference room for the first Moot Court session, I honestly wondered if I’d ever be able to speak one word during two hours twice a week. I was surrounded by brilliant minds. Could I stand that new environment and prove I could do this too? You bet I could.

It took a few sessions, but it finally happened. I felt so great, and so proud of myself. I worked hard, I read and reread the material, I took notes, I watched and listened, and finally, I held the reins and I rode my horse to victory. I could do this. I could actually think like a lawyer. I could actually speak like a lawyer. What a blast.

For the great opportunity that was given to me, I’d also like to thank a very talented and brilliant mind who’s definitely smarter than me, but I won’t tell him. Between us, a woman should never admit a man is smarter than her. You didn’t do anything besides letting me in these Moot Court sessions, but that experience truly changed my life. Thanks again pal. I know I can really do anything now.

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