Part of creating the life I desire is doing things that are uncomfortable… Like writing a letter to my local bar members about my emerging practice as a private mediator. I have put off writing this letter because it absolutely invites rejection. It invites criticism. It is open season for people to discuss my qualifications, skills and experience as a professional. Sounds fun, right? Didn’t think so.
The list of negatives that ran through my head included the following:
They’re all going to laugh at me.
100% of the people who read this will think I am full of bologna.
They will think I have no place holding myself out as a professional in this category.
They will find every reason to reject me.
They might make fun of me.
They will certainly talk about me.
They won’t give me a chance.
Why am I spending time writing this letter?!?
Talk about a waste of paper.
I should really just email this so I don’t waste the cost of postage.
To be fair, I know some of this is already true. It’s a small bar and some of the small talk has already circled its way back to me. Knowing this, I still have to decide whether or not to send this announcement. I have to decide whether or not I am going to be braver than the fear, bigger than the small, and aim higher than the limitations imposed on me by someone else. And guess what?
I totally am.
But first, I recognize the facts. I am a younger lawyer. I do not have several hundred mediations under my belt as of yet. I have not survived 20+ years of practice in family law. BUT, I am a good mediator. I have an irrefutable ability to build real, meaningful connections with people quickly. I make it clear that I care about their case (because I do) and that I believe they are in the best position to make decisions for themselves and for their children (they are). I listen well. I communicate clearly. I research and know the law. I work very hard to empower people and I challenge them to think bigger and broader. More often than not, my mediation style results in settlement.
Also, it’s fine, totally fine, that I am not a good fit for everyone. My mediation approach is a bit softer, a little more motivational, and very patient. That’s different than some others. Some mediators come in like a hammer- they pound people over the head with the law and get to resolution that way. Sometimes that works really well. That is just not me. Can I be tough? Oh yeah. Absolutely. But I usually hammer you over the head with your own logic and I do it in the tactful, somewhat sweet way I do everything else.
This comparison between my approach and others is what drives my insecurity. This is what makes it all a little bit scary. I am putting myself out there. The real, unabashed, authentic version of me is going up in front of my colleagues. I am used to doing that in front of a pre-qualified crowd (people who either seek out my message or request that I share it with them). That is warm and comforting and it’s absolutely what builds me up.
However, I am keenly aware that my values are very different than some people in my profession. Some people really buy into that whole the-law-is-reason-free-from-passion-Aristotle thing. But for me, in family law, the law is passion. The law has seeped in to the most sacred, personal realm of people’s lives. My guiding compass requires that I venerate that ground.
So I do, because that is what aligns with my values. I have to live up to the values I have set for my work, and more so, the vision I set for my life. When I was sick, I promised myself I would create a life that was brave and bold and beautiful. I can’t do that if I let my fear of other people’s opinions about me box me in.
Besides, that negative self-talk is probably deeply unfair to most members of my local bar. It certainly isn’t fair to me. Maybe instead of expecting the worst, I’ll focus on dreaming about the best this move could yield. Maybe I can have a small piece in building a better local practice among family law attorneys. I don’t have to know or understand the final destination to take this first step. I just know that this is the most honest and truest manner in which I can move forward in my career. It feels right for the families that need legal services, it feels appropriate for the relationships I want to build in my career, and it is in alignment with who I want to be at the end of the day. Yes, it’s hard. But it’s also necessary.
This is all to say that I’m betting on myself. As scary as that is, I feel incredibly fortunate to be comfortable and confident with who I’ve become. I trust that doing what feels right is right. And with that, I’m off to lick some stamps.
Give ‘Em Hell.