I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half now, and I’ve learned a lot about so many of you, but you don’t know that much about me. So today I want to share a little bit of my story, because I think a lot of you will identify with my journey and find it helpful to hear about how I used coaching to change my own life. I also want to tell you about changes that are coming to my offerings, and they all start with my own story.
I’ve been a feminist since I can remember, and I’ve worked on women’s issues in a lot of different ways. In college I was the coordinator of the Yale Women’s Center, and I worked at a domestic violence court during the summer. After college I worked for Planned Parenthood’s national media office, and I was an emergency room sexual assault crisis advocate in my spare time. Then in law school, I spent my summers interning at reproductive rights organizations, and was the president of the board of directors for a national non-profit organization that used to be called Law Students for Reproductive Justice (it’s now called if/when/how). I also continued to work with domestic-violence and sexual assault victims. After law school, I clerked on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and then I was a litigator at the Center for Reproductive Rights. When I transitioned into academia after a few years, I worked on questions relating to women’s equality and liberty rights, including reproductive health care access.
Bottom line: I have always felt like my purpose on this planet was to contribute to women’s liberation.
And yet, the whole time I was achieving all of those brass rings and talking that feminist talk, I didn’t feel like I was really walking my walk. I believed that women should be powerful, ambitious, and “run the room” if they wanted to . . . but I got anxious every time I thought about speaking in a case-strategy meeting, and I would often preface anything I did say with “this may be stupid but…” Every job I had, I felt like I wasn’t cut out for it.
And I wasn’t alone! I’ll always remember being in meetings at a national leading reproductive rights organization, and all the women at the staff meetings would preface their comments with disclaimers. I remember thinking “we’re literally global experts in this area, and yet no one is comfortable just stating their idea.” When I got to academia, it wasn’t any different—I was constantly doubting my own ideas and work, even though I was an expert in my area of study and the people commenting on it had barely read my draft!
The same disconnect was present in my personal life. For example, I thought it was bullshit that society puts so much pressure on straight women to find a husband, but I would still find myself obsessing over some guy I had only known for two weeks, as if he was my last chance on earth for love and acceptance.
I would tell friends of all shapes and sizes that they were beautiful, but I was incredibly critical of my own body and constantly trying different diets and exercise regimens to try to change its natural shape. At some point the language I used changed from weight loss to health, but the self-hatred was the same.
I wanted to feel like an adult and believe that I was entitled to decide how to spend my time, but I still felt obligated to fulfill family and social obligations. And I would feel a lot of guilt if I put my own preferences or desires above someone else’s.
It wasn’t until I started exploring coaching and reading about cognitive psychology, mindfulness, and self-inquiry, that I began to see there wasn’t anything wrong with me. The reason I constantly felt confused by believing one thing rationally and feeling another thing emotionally was because my brain had been conditioned to operate that way. It didn’t work to just tell myself I “should” feel differently. Instead, I had to combine powerful coaching tools with my background in feminist theory to carefully identify the social conditioning and self-critical thinking that was holding me back, and then rewire my brain to overcome them.
Once I figured out how to do this, I finally felt unstoppable. I got a new job with 3x the salary of my old one. I stopped dating dudes who were “meh” about me and found my current partner. I learned how to enjoy my time with my family and let them have their own desires and beliefs, without letting those control my feelings and actions. I stopped torturing my body with restrictive diets and mean mental commentary and learned how to eat and move in a way that feels good. When I say that life is a confidence game, I am living proof—I feel totally at home and sexy and desirable in my body now, even though it’s bigger than it was when I was spending all my mental energy hating it.
This work was an incredibly powerful process for me, and it brought me to coaching. I got certified first as a coach and then as a master coach, and when it was time to pick my first practice area, women lawyers were an obvious answer. I was raised by lawyers, educated as a lawyer, worked as a lawyer, and I knew first-hand that being a lawyer created certain ways of thinking that exacerbated all the social conditioning and self-criticism to which I was already susceptible.
As this blog, my podcast, and my community has grown, I’ve gotten more and more non-lawyers coming to me for coaching.
I’ve come to realize that what I’m working on really isn’t 100% unique to lawyers. For sure there is “lawyer brain,” and lawyers do have a few mental habits that develop differently from other professions. But so much of what I’m doing is really teaching high-achieving, feminist women how to overcome stress, anxiety, and insecurity so that they can get what they want in life. Whether that’s a bonus or a life partner! And I know some of you already know this, because you’ve been sharing my work with your non-lawyer friends.
When I think back on my own life, learning how to recognize and rewire my lawyer brain was absolutely part of my journey into a sane life—not to mention an incredibly fulfilling one. But lawyer brain wasn’t all there was too it. A lot of it was recognizing the ways my own self-critical thinking was combining with all the gender socialization I had learned to make me constantly feel anxious, insecure, and guilty. Rewiring my brain to undo that socialization was what really took my life to the next level.