Obelisk In Action Women in Law

Friday Live: Building resilience and confidence

Resilience and confidence are key qualities that can sometimes be hard to keep hold of – particularly as a lawyer facing increasing levels of stress. Lawyer, life and career coach Janine Esbrand of LightBOX, spoke to us at Obelisk’s Friday Live event about the effect of stress on our productivity and self-esteem.

Janine Esbrand has a background in corporate law and works as an in-house legal counsel. During her time in corporate law she always wanted to help on more personal level. So, in addition to her consultant work, she now also helps other women with work transitions after motherhood as a certified life and career coach through her consultancy, LightBOX. Time and time again she has seen the issue of low confidence and resilience crop up, and she had plenty of insights to share on the subject.

Starting with stress management

Janine presented a shocking statistic that more than 95% of lawyers felt that their stress levels were extreme or severe. The pace of modern legal work is getting faster, with internet and technology advances meaning immediate round the clock responses are expected, and it can be difficult to manage client expectations in an overwhelming results driven environment.

Speaking about our responses to stress and how different types of people respond to high levels of stress and pressure, she referred to well-known study by Pennsylvania State University identifying people as Velcro and Teflon. People who suffered and persisted with unresolved emotions are Velcro people, whose negative emotions continue to stick long after the event, without good resolution.  People categorised as Teflon people managed to either resolve the stressful situation or just let it go and move on.  The study found that Velcro individuals had higher rates of chronic health issues a decade after the phone interviews, compared to the Teflon group.

The key message here though, is that we do have control over what type of person we are. We can become more Teflon by focusing on positive thoughts to increase our resilience and become more productive in stressful situations.

Learning to let it go

Discussing some stress management tips with the group, a number of techniques were put forward. The important thing is to find what works best for you as an individual. For some it can be taking a step outside gain some distance and allowing time to think clearly. Just five minutes can make a difference to the way you approach a problem. Some people start by asking: what is the worst that can happen? Then it is easier to focus on what has to happen now. It is vital to keep perspective and don’t ‘catastrophise’ the problem. Allowing yourself a daily lunch break – no matter how busy you are – can make all the difference, as without it your productivity is lower and the quality of work in afternoon suffers, increasing levels of stress.

Self-care is at the heart of stress management: Regular exercise, a switch off day during the week where you concentrate solely on doing something pleasant, and not relying on stimulants to get through all contribute to better resilience. One thing that was agreed on was the tendency for lawyers and their clients to expect almost robotic levels of work and efficiency – so it is important to set boundaries for clients and don’t set unrealistic deadlines for yourself. We all have the tendency to be ‘people pleasers’. Being more honest with yourself and with clients, and seeing yourself and them as human, creates a better working relationship.

With better stress management we can become more resilient. The more resilient we are the more naturally inclined we are to focus on positives and effective behaviour. With that, our confidence in our own abilities increases.

Characteristics of resilient peoplewonder-woman-power-pose

Purpose, flexibility, confidence and support are the four key characteristics of resilient people. Janine believes that little confidence boosts before daily tasks can help build towards overall confidence. One thing in particular she advocates is putting your body in a power pose for an instant confidence boost.

Confidence built to last

Lasting confidence is about looking within ourselves rather than relying on external factors. Identifying, reviewing, and using strengths in different ways each day increases positivity, vitality and self-esteem. Our strengths are not just our skillset; we also need to pay attention to our character strengths. Wisdom, curiosity, bravery, social intelligence, the love of learning new things – by identifying our top strengths we realise our sense of meaning and can start to see our career as a calling again, a feeling that can get lost in the day to day pressures we face. Using our top strengths each day leads to increased satisfaction and helps our confidence and resilience to grow.


By Kayleigh Ziolo

Kayleigh Ziolo has a background in magazine publishing and is writer and Commissioning Editor at Obelisk. She specialises in the subjects of workplace wellbeing, flexible working practices and gender equality.