A young Joan Didion, before she grew into her position as one of the most influential journalists and writers of our time, and following a disappointment at college, wrote “innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself”.
It is a statement perhaps more easily made at the outset of adult life, capturing as it does the pain we can all experience of passing from a childlike state of easy acceptance of ourselves to the discomfort or ‘dis-ease’ that emerging adult self-awareness can bring.
As our small country catches up with our American neighbours in our appetite for psychological answers to life’s big questions (50% of trainee solicitors now attend the Law School’s counselling service), our emotional relationship with our work has never been more closely observed.
The pursuit of success
Perhaps this recent curiosity is unavoidable. After all, to become a solicitor requires a level of drive, self-generation, and maybe even a certain detachment from the perceived confusion of emotion. It calls for competitiveness, alongside a desire for collegiality.
As training is left behind, the pursuit of success involves long hours, days, weeks and even years apart from the people and passions we all need to light us up.
So, alongside growing expertise, legal professionals can carry undercurrents of self-doubt, or even self-criticism, that no amount of billable hours can resolve.
The good news
The good news is that, as long as we are breathing, our brains are evolving; personal change and growth are possible right throughout our lives.
Yes, we evolve through our experiences, our achievements, our roles and our work. The real change agent, however, lies in our relationships – with ourselves and with other people.
The challenge offered to you this month is to swap some screen time for real time – with yourself and with loved ones. It’s a sound investment – your wellbeing levels will rise, vaccinating you against the inevitable stress of professional life and equipping you with a self-belief that is earned and so sustainable.
Of course, the beautiful irony is that, if you make that plan to care for yourself, you will also be optimally equipping yourself to care for your clients – personal wellbeing for professional success.
If you would like to learn more about self-care, places are available at our Law Society Professional Wellbeing for Success conference on 17 May at the Connacht Hotel, Galway. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for details.