Legal Success Starts Within: Recognizing Your Worth

confidence growth mindset well-being

How valuing who you are leads to improved well-being and performance.


The other day, I saw this quote by Malcolm Forbes:

 “Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.

Wow - gut punch. How many of us focus much more on the things we “are not” or “can’t do” instead of all of the skills, talents, abilities, achievements, and potential we actually have?

When I’m giving presentations, providing coaching, or teaching the law school well-being course I teach, this kind of “undervaluation” happens all the time. So many times, I hear people say things like:

"I'm not as smart as my colleagues, so I shouldn't speak up in meetings. I have nothing to add."

"I don't have enough experience to take on this project."

"I'll never be as successful as [insert name], so why bother trying?"

"I'm not good enough to be considered for a promotion."

"I always mess things up, so I should just stick to what I know."

"I'm not a natural at this, so I'll never be able to master it."

"I'm not as talented as others, so I'll never be able to achieve my goals."

Since my work focuses on the intersection of well-being and performance in the legal profession, this quote makes me think of a variety of ways that undervaluing who we are relates to key concepts like growth mindset, optimism, resilience, hope, and well-being.

Growth Mindset:

Research by Dr. Carol Dweck and her colleagues has shown that a growth mindset can lead to greater resilience, optimism, and overall well-being. This mindset is about embracing challenges, persisting in the face of setbacks, and seeing effort as a path to mastery. For legal professionals, adopting a growth mindset can be transformative, opening up new possibilities for development and helping us see missteps, setbacks, and inevitable learning curves as opportunities to learn and grow.


Dr. Martin Seligman defines optimism as the belief that good things will happen in the future. Optimistic legal professionals are more likely to approach challenges with a positive outlook, leading to better outcomes and higher levels of performance. By cultivating optimism, lawyers and legal professionals can enhance their well-being and productivity, ultimately leading to greater success in their careers. (Studies show that lawyers are more pessimistic than the general population, so while optimism might not feel as natural, it’s still critically important.)


Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. Research by Dr. Angela Duckworth has shown that resilience is a key predictor of success in various fields, including law. Legal professionals who are resilient are better equipped to handle the stresses and pressures of their work, leading to improved performance and well-being.


Dr. Shane J. Lopez defines hope as the belief that the future will be better than the present and that you have the power to make it so. Hopeful legal professionals are more likely to set ambitious goals and persist in the face of challenges. Cultivating hope can lead to greater well-being and performance in the legal profession.


Well-being encompasses both mental and physical health. Research has shown that legal professionals who prioritize their well-being are more likely to perform at a high level and avoid burnout. By practicing self-care, seeking support when needed, and maintaining a positive outlook, lawyers can enhance their well-being and productivity.


Practical Takeaways:

Embrace Your True Worth:  Recognize and appreciate your unique abilities and strengths. Avoid comparing yourself to others and focus on your own growth and development. As the old saying goes, “Comparison is the thief of joy” (attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt). If I asked you to list things you are proud of, accomplishments you’ve had, or skills you bring, I’m sure you could (even reluctantly) create that. So remember to value those things rather than focusing on what you “aren’t.”

Cultivate a Growth Mindset: Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth. Start to see setbacks as temporary (even when they don’t feel that way) and learn from them. Believe in your ability to improve and succeed through effort and perseverance.

Foster Optimism and Hope: Approach your work with a positive outlook. Believe that you have the power to create a better future for yourself and your clients. Cultivate hope by setting ambitious, yet achievable, goals.

Build Resilience: Develop coping strategies to deal with stress and adversity. Seek support from colleagues, mentors, loved ones, and mental health professionals when needed. Remember that setbacks are a natural part of the journey to success.

Prioritize Your Well-being: Take care of your mental and physical health. Practice self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and spending time with loved ones. Seek help if you are struggling with burnout or other mental health issues.


Malcolm S. Forbes' quote reminds us of the importance of recognizing and appreciating our true worth. When we can embrace a growth mindset, optimism, resilience, hope, and well-being, legal professionals can enhance their performance, productivity, and emotional intelligence. 

Let’s remember to “overvalue” (or at least value more!) what we are and “undervalue” (or focus less on) what we are not. That’s how we can unlock our full potential in the legal profession!