Building Yourself Up: Tips for Gaining Real Confidence

Building Yourself Up: Tips for Gaining Real Confidence

It is safe to say that confidence comes with an ebb-and-flow. I don’t believe it is something that comes to you and stays forever. It requires maintenance, you have to build it up. When we aren’t taught that from the beginning as children – what true confidence is and how to gain it – it can be so much harder to figure it out as you grow up (at least, in my opinion). As we grow into adulthood, who are we supposed to look to for those lessons? Society? Magazine covers? Friends? There are so many influences, some good and some…not so much.

The more I learn about it and grow comfortable in my own skin, the more I realize that confidence is internal at its root. The more you exercise and grow it inside you, the more it will affect your external – how you talk, carry yourself, establish relationships, and navigate the world. I’m not talking about the “confidence” that we often think of: an almost-abrasive, nose-in-the-air, toughness where our chests are puffed out with our arms on our hips. That’s not confidence, not in my book, *that* is an act and one that won’t get you far long-term.

I wanted to write about the specific things I’ve been working on to build up true confidence in the hopes that it can help others. Especially in law school, where imposter syndrome seems to be lurking around every book and casebrief, true confidence is of the utmost importance. So, read on!

Get To Know Thyself

Confidence is rooted in trust, how can you trust yourself if you don’t know yourself? Who are you at your core? This is why confidence is something that needs to be maintained over time – because we each are constantly changing overtime. At our core, though, is the stuff that makes us who we are and while, yes, we are always evolving, there is a part of our personalities that stays with us. Get to know that part of you. Reflect on your core beliefs, desires, and goals – why do you believe those things? Why do you want what you want? Why are you working towards those dreams? Write down your ‘why’s and even practice saying or writing them out. If you’re unable to pinpoint these things then you’ll be unable to present these critical details of your personality to the world around you.

List Accomplishments

Yes, you will feel like you’re bragging but I’m not saying to put them on Facebook (although LinkedIn might be a good idea!). Sit down and write down all your greatest accomplishments. If you have crippling insecurities this could be very difficult so ask family and friends who you feel comfortable with what they think are your greatest accomplishments or traits. Write them down. Every night before bed, read over them and reflect on each thing: what was accomplishing that thing like? What did it require of you? Why were you successful? Give your brain evidence as to why you are a successful person. This is especially helpful if you are insecure in a specific area. For example, if you feel insecure in public speaking, sit down and think of all the times you’ve ever talked in public (ALL the times – classes, speeches, toasts, group studies etc.) and read over it until you start to see yourself as a successful public speaker.

Get Feedback & Constructive Criticism

Go to friends or family members for feedback (perhaps even coworkers or bosses depending on what you are trying to build confidence in). Be sure to ask for both areas where you are doing well and areas of improvement. People who avoid feedback are in the same boat as those who say they can handle it but then get defensive when presented with criticism. When the people you’ve asked for feedback give it to you, just listen. Write what they say down. Say ‘thank you’ then walk away and forget about it for a bit. This is just one interaction, one opinion – it doesn’t define you. When you feel like it and have a moment, reflect on what they said, how you feel about it, and if it is something you agree needs work or not. Maybe get a second opinion if you don’t agree. This is more about the process of putting yourself in a situation of objective criticism (someone else’s point of view and not your own) to get to hear about things you are good at as well as could use improvement in.

Open Yourself Up To Rejection & Discomfort

Much like the tip above, open yourself up to awkwardness – dating, job interviews, public speaking…pick the thing that scares you and try it out. The only way you’ll show yourself you are capable is by doing it, even if it requires taking baby steps to get there. For every baby step you take to get out of your comfort zone, write it down on that list. That way you are constantly reinforcing to your brain: “hey, I CAN do this, I am GOOD at this, and I am IMPROVING.” Confidence is rooted in trust and we gain that trust by our actions. Someone may tell you “I love you” but if they don’t act like it, will you believe them? Show yourself why you are worthy of confidence, because you ARE worthy.

Challenge Your Inner Critic

We are our biggest critics and our inner critics always rear their heads right when we need confidence the most. Learn to challenge that voice – come up with sentences or affirmations to tell yourself both when that voice is speaking up as well as when it isn’t. Practice saying them before bed and don’t just say them, really think over every word. Let’s use the public speaking example again: if you feel insecure about it, tell yourself “I am a strong public speaker.” As you say that, picture it – what does a strong public speaker look and sound like? Then maybe look at that list you wrote and reflect on the times you did well in public speaking. Remind yourself that you are capable of it and doing well at it! Yes, you may feel like you’re lying or an imposter when you write these sentences out but something my therapist told me is: “that’s the point.” It feels like a lie but it isn’t. So, you keep proving to yourself why it isn’t until your brain learns the Truth.

I hope these tips helps! Remember: they only work if you try them. So schedule in some time each week to work on it (I would venture to say every day if you can) and see if you notice any differences. Let me know if you do!

Sincerely,

My LSAT Journey: What Was Good and What Was Bad

My LSAT Journey: What Was Good and What Was Bad

Every student and lawyer I go to for advice on law school, the LSAT, being a lawyer or any other related legal topic, always prefaces their wisdom with a healthy dose of negativity:

“[Classes] could be going worse.” 

“You will stay up until midnight studying and have very little sleep and social life.” 

“Don’t go.” 

Most of the time, they’re coming from a place of humor but I’ve always been a firm believer that jokes always have truth in them somewhere. While I appreciate authenticity and transparency when giving advice, there is an art and nuance to giving it in a way that is both honest and encouraging. Most people, including myself at times, could use some training in this art-form. 

So, if I’m going to be giving you a little taste of my LSAT-prep-and-testing journey, I want to make sure that I give you both the positive and negative of what I went through. Keep in mind, I am DEFINITELY (did you see the emphasis on “definitely?”) not an expert on LSAT prepping. I’ll leave that to Kaplan, The LSAT Trainer, and The Princeton Review. However, my experience is one that others, I’m positive, have also gone through and one that can be learned from just like anyone else’s. 

I like to end on a good-note so let’s start with the things I could have done differently or better

  1. I should have signed up for the test earlier. That should have been the first thing I did when I decided that I was going to take it. As I started studying, the lack of a firm deadline floated underneath the surface of my subconscious the whole time. While I did have a vague timeline in my head of when I wanted to be done with testing and I approached the LSAT with a study schedule, topic logs etc from the get go, I still had not committed to it. Plus, with that deadline, I could have properly staged my studying period for it. I began to burn out about a month-and-a-half before the LSAT. I kept studying but I remember a lot of the content feeling more foggy and was not nearly as focused as I should have been. 
  2. This next one I go back-and-forth on but have a feeling that many people would attest and say, I should have taken the test again. That’s right, I only took it one time. Take that for what you will – I scored an average 153 and that was the score I needed to get into the school I was looking at with a scholarship. However, I did decide as I was putting in applications (way before then actually) that should I not get accepted, I would take a break over the holidays, sign up for the LSAT again, and try the next year. If you have the opportunity to take the LSAT again, I would recommend it unless your score is truly at a place where you can be content with it. For me, I knew I could have done better had I switched up my study game but that being said, it got me the result I aimed for so I’m still on the fence with this one. 
  3. Having a study partner would have been very helpful with accountability and challenging myself more. If you are in your undergraduate years studying the LSAT, count your lucky stars! This is a great time to take it and if I could go back I would have forced myself to take it the first time, at least, during college. I would have been able to network more easily with other pre-law students, study together, have more time to study, and have the benefit of pre-law, on-campus resources being at hand. 
  4. I would have focused more, from the very get-go, on practice tests and quizzes. I started off taking a practice test and followed The LSAT Trainer for the first four months, I learned so much from the book itself but my test-taking ability and applying what I was learning needed honing. For whatever reason this has always been my issue in education – I understand the subject matter but then applying it is the hardest and I would imagine a lot, if not most, could commiserate with that! I would have doubled the exposure to quizzes and practice tests if I could go back even when I was already taking them consistently.
  5. No comparing. Comparison is the thief of joy. I am good at asking for help, advice, and gleaning lessons from other’s wisdom (it is the Anthropologist in me). However, sometimes being too concerned about how other’s approached situations can paralyze me from making my own. Do not let this blog post, or any other post or piece of advice you receive keep you from moving forward. Make the next best decision you need to for you, okay?

Now. The irony is that the majority of the things I would have corrected are things I commonly heard from other law students about their experience with the LSAT – and all of them had varying degrees of where they went or what they were doing. The point: studying, just like learning, is different for everyone and at the same time, the majority of us are going to experience similar feelings, fatigue, and fears with the LSAT. You are not alone. Keep working and you will get there! So, let’s end on a good note of the things I did well…

  1. Immediately when I started, I created a study plan. Actually, a lot of the planners and logs I utilized in the beginning were from The LSAT Trainer’s Student Resources (highly recommend them!) plus, he has different study schedules you can use if you need help determining when and for how long you should study! *This is where having a set date for when I needed to be done would have been ideal – I ended up just studying with no end in sight until I finally committed to a test date. No bueno.*
  2. I changed methods when it suited me. About four months in, I had had a conversation with an acquaintance about his LSAT journey and he said the number one regret he has was not taking a prep-course of some kind. I mulled over that for a bit because I, too, was self-teaching. In the beginning, I felt good and I could see improvement, small but improvements nonetheless, in my scores anytime I would take a practice test. However, I did feel a lull anytime I sat with the book and my pencil – I was starting to hit a wall. Ultimately, four months before the test I signed up for Kaplan’s Self-Guided Online Prep Course. I felt refreshed, I didn’t need to think too hard about what I needed to do next because Kaplan pretty much laid it all out for me, I just needed to do the work. 
  3. As I stated above, it’s good to get advice from others until you start to get too concerned about how others did things. It’s a double-edged sword: you absorb wisdom by asking people about their experience without actually having to do what they did BUT you then wonder if perhaps it would work differently for you should you do what they did (or vice versa, NOT do what they did). At the end of the day, I think it’s always better to ask how others approached the LSAT. It’s interesting to hear (at least to me) and helps provide perspective. Just don’t ruminate too much on how Sally studied 6-weeks before with a tutor and improved her score the second time or John self-taught himself 6-months before and scored high the first time…it truly does not and will not help you. Focus on you and the improvements you are making and will continue to make if you keep working
  4. Although I struggled in the deadline department, I DID have a goal for schools I wanted to attend and more so, how I wanted to finance my law school career. I wanted scholarships, just like we all do; however, I was never tied body-and-soul to one particular law school which gave me freedom to look at my score, see what my options were, and then decide whether I should go for it or try again. The alternative would have been aiming for a particular law school and taking the LSAT until I got the score I needed to attend that school. Just because you get accepted with that score does not mean you will get scholarships though which is why I focused more on my score first before picking schools.
  5. I stayed hopeful. I would be lying if I told you that I studied from the end of February/beginning of March all the way to November with gusto, organization, and constant improvements. I work full-time and have a handful of other commitments that I also had to budget time into – there were periods that I fell off of my study plan. That being said, I kept trying, switching things up as needed, and at the end of it all, I consistently kept coming back to my study books and at long last, showed up for the test.

I actually came very, very close to throwing in the towel the day of out of nerves and fear. I didn’t because I knew I would regret that even more than scoring really low – so, stay hopeful even when you make mistakes, score lower than desired, or the subjects start to run together. There will be an end and you get to decide when that is! If you score low? Try again. If you end up not taking the test for whatever reason, give yourself some time then hop back on the horse. If you get rejected from your dream school because of your score, try. Again. 

The LSAT is learnable and you are coachable. That only stops being true when you decide it is false. 

“The LSAT is learnable and

you are coachable.

That only stops being true

when you decide it is false.

-KimberMarie Faircloth

“Is This The Path For Me?” Three Tips for Discerning Career, School, and Big Life Decisions

I wish I could say that I had a lightening-bolt moment where the heavens opened up around me and harps played signaling that my life’s calling was to be a lawyer. Alas, that did not happen. However, what did happen, which I find to be all the more meaningful and personally empowering is the process by which I landed on this decision to pursue becoming a lawyer. The earliest I remember being interested in this were at various times throughout middle and high school growing up – random daydreams usually after hearing a lawyer talk about their career or seeing something eventful or interesting on television. Then the urge would dissipate as I became distracted by one of my many other interests.

As I entered the College of Charleston, I flipped back and forth between different paths (as most students do). I knew for a fact I wanted to keep my Anthropology degree but was lost in where to go from there (a subject I will dive deeper into in the future). I remember buying an LSAT prep book but never getting past Chapters 2 or 3 and never committing to actually signing up for the LSAT. The end of my college career was a whirlwind – I ultimately dropped a minor so I could move back home and finish my last few classes online a semester early to be close to my mother who was diagnosed with cancer. I don’t regret that decision.

Fast forward to 2020, it’s the beginning of the lockdowns in March due to COVID-19. I have a little more time on my hands since I’m working from home with no commute to work. I had spent the last year in my first “big girl” job as a leasing agent with full-benefits and good pay for a great company after facing around six-months of unemployment post-graduation, with the exception of part-time time gigs found by a temp agency.

One of the first days of lockdown, I remember texting my sister asking her opinion on what she could see me doing and if she could see me being a lawyer.

“Will it make you happy?”

“Yes, I think it could and I think I could be very good at it.”

I had my answer. I started prepping for the LSAT, which I would later sit for in November, finally feeling more secure in my purpose and the life I wanted to have moving forward. All that being said, there’s three MAJOR details that I want to emphasize for any fellow future-law students, college students figuring out their next step or anyone who is discerning a potential career change. Looking back on my journey, I’ve found that these three things played a large role in my decision-making process that I feel will help others too:

#1: Talking to People

Quick: who are the people closest to you that you can trust the most? Whoever came to mind, write their names down. Use them as sounding boards for your discernment process. These people should know you very well and should be people that you can go to about anything but who will give you honest answers. For me that was my Dad and my sister with a few very close friends. Ultimately, their opinion should NOT be the defining voice in your plan – you should be. So, even if they tell you some opinions you don’t want to hear, take their input and really mull over it. If it upsets you, reflect on why. If it excites you, reflect on why.

The other people you should be talking to are those who are doing whatever it is you want to do. When I worked for the temp agency, I landed a part-time job working for an Estates Lawyer which would later be very impactful in my decision. I got to see the day-to-day of one type of lawyer, the good and the bad that came with her position, as well as at least one area of law in practice. That experience, plus gaining advice and guidance from that lawyer and hearing her journey through law school helped me start mine. I also relied on other friends and acquaintances who are either going through law school or have already graduated and are out “in the world” (some working as attorneys and some not) to gain their insights.

This website also has a great outline for preparing and discerning law school: What Do Lawyers Do?

#2: Data Dump

If you’re going to pursue something, especially any sort of professional or graduate degree, you need to know what you’re getting into. More than likely, after talking with people who are in the field, they’re going to give you resources. Some more helpful than others.

Use them.

You don’t have to treat them like the Bible – after all, everyone’s experience is different – but they will help you get a more holistic idea of what you are or might be pursuing. I’ve read articles written by people who have been left in debt, embittered, and regretful of their time in law school as well as heard from those who are successful and happily running their own law practice or working in law now. Both help and are necessary to listen to for a fuller understanding of what it means to be a lawyer.

Research the different industries within law – trademark, cultural heritage, environmental, corporate etc. (If you’re pursuing a different field, do the same, I assure you there will be many different subsets and industries wherever you’re headed). Look at the current growth rate for lawyers, which sub-industries are booming, bar passage rates for your school (or those you are interested in applying to), different law schools in your area, day-to-day experiences of different types of lawyers etc. the list goes on and on. Take in as much as you can about the career you’re interested in and then see what excites you and what does not. If you start to get overwhelmed, step back, take a break, and pick up at a later time.

A great place to start, the American Bar Association.

#3: Visualize

So, this is going to be the part that is most ‘woo-woo.’ Yes, I want you to visualize yourself as a lawyer. Use all the experiences that you’ve heard and details you’ve researched to paint a picture in your head.

Here’s the catch: don’t just envision success.

You could pursue law school to find that you hate it, it’s not at all what you want to do and/or it’s much much harder than you ever thought it could be. The opposite could also be true: it may be something you love, it’s exactly what you expected, and although it is rigorous, you’re doing it. Most of us are already daydreaming anyways, the key here is to visualize both the good and the bad.

If visualizing the bad really makes you uneasy and question whether you want to move forward maybe you need to step back and explore more before making a decision. If you can’t even imagine what the day-to-day of being a lawyer means except whatever you’ve seen on Law & Order or Suits, then DEFINITELY step back and do more research. I’ve had many law students who look at me and answer my question: “how is school going?” with:

“it could be worse.”

Yikes! Granted, I don’t blame them – I’ve heard that law school itself can be very detrimental to mental health – I’ve had a couple friends warn me to not drink too much as they’ve seen many colleagues grow dependent on drinking for relaxation, coping with stress etc. Should this scare you or me away? Not necessarily! But that’s exactly why “visualizing” both the good and the bad of a profession will help you determine if it is truly the path for you – specifically focusing on overcoming the “bad” can also help profoundly.

If you don’t believe me on the power of visualization, check out “The Extraordinary Power of Visualizing Success” by Matt Mayberry, CEO of Matt Mayberry Enterprises.

Finally, Take Action!

So, those are the three main things that I’ve done and continue to do while preparing for law school! They helped immensely with my discernment over whether this path is for me. Although I am understandably nervous about starting school, I’m more excited than nervous even though it is extremely challenging, time-consuming, and mentally/emotionally taxing. If you’ve done these three things and nerves are still keeping you from pursuing a career or a dream that all-in-all feels like your next best step, here’s your sign to pursue it. Most people often don’t succeed or get the life they want simply because they refuse to take action. The steps above will get you nowhere if you don’t ultimately make the decision to try.

“The steps above will get you nowhere if you don’t ultimately make the decision to try.”

Actionable Steps:

  1. Talk to people you trust and those who have experience with what you’re setting out to do. Learn from them: listen, ask questions, take notes, and reflect on what they’re sharing with you – the good and the bad.
  2. Research as much as you can about your interests, create a full picture of the industry or career you want. You should be able to walk away knowing what you need to do to achieve it, the different paths to getting there, and to be able to explain to others what it is you want to do.
  3. Visualize yourself doing what it is you want to do – visualize success as well as failure, can you see yourself overcoming failure? Persisting with the career or idea in spite of adversity? If not, then perhaps you need to step back and take more time to research, shadow, and reflect before moving forward.
  4. Take action – make a decision!