29. Renata Musial, The Happy Lawyer Project — The Recipe for Happiness: Mindset and Accountability

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Renata Musial, an attorney turned coach, teaches female attorneys how to go after their happiness – unapologetically. The owner of The Happy Lawyer Project spent years struggling to find happiness in her career despite ticking standard boxes guaranteed to bring joy. After an Adult ADHD diagnosis and realizing the power of the stories we tell ourselves, Renata mentors female attorneys to help them feel as good in life as they look on paper. Today, we get into how mindset and accountability work together to transform lives. We dive into limiting beliefs and the importance of following your own compass.

What’s in This Episode?

  • Who is Renata Musial?
  • Why is there a disconnect between the external success of female lawyers and internal distress?
  • What is one of the first steps to having a happier life?
  • What are common limiting beliefs and how can one get past them?
  • Why is it important to understand the difference between confidence and self-confidence?
  • Why is the concept of balance really a limiting belief in disguise?
  • What role does accountability play in happiness?
  • How has a diagnosis of adult ADHD changed Renata’s perspective?

Transcript

Renata Musial

Like you’re dressed professionally and you’re not in like PJs, whatever your hair is done up, but like you inside, you’re carrying the same brain. the same feelings.

Sonya Palmer

Work and personal life are interconnected. We can not leave the essential parts of who we are at home when we go to the office or the courtroom. Nor should we.

Renata Musial

They think they’re unhappy because all of these things are happening in their life, the job’s not working out the partner’s, you know, difficult, they’re working too many hours. They think that that’s why they’re unhappy. Why they’re really unhappy is how they’re thinking about all those things that are happening.

Sonya Palmer

In 2021, women made up over half of all summer associates – for the fourth year in a row. Yet equity partners in multi-tier law firms continue to be disproportionately white men. Only 22.0% of equity partners are women. We would like to see that change. Hello, and welcome to LawHER, the show where we celebrate the trailblazing attorneys and entrepreneurs who are changing the game for women in the legal field. Be inspired by their stories. Learn from their mistakes. Build community. And look forward to the future they’re helping build for the next generation of women in law. I’m Sonya Palmer, your host and VP of Operations at Rankings. The SEO agency of choice for Personal Injury lawyers. This is LawHER. We are told – over and over – that to have a happy life we must tick the boxes: education, career, partner, title, income – you get the picture. So why is it that so many female lawyers, with every trapping of external success, are not happy? Where is the disconnect? Today I met up with Renata Musial – attorney turned coach – who teaches female attorneys how to feel good at work so they can make more money and build the life and career they want. We cover how mindset and accountability work together to transform lives. We dive into limiting beliefs and how undiagnosed adult ADHD can impact your entire life. Let’s dive in.

Renata Musial

My journey from lawyer to coach, um, you know, that, that early sort of lawyer life, like, I don’t think it’s probably that different from what most lawyers experience. Right. It’s like you go to law school, it was fine. so my background is in like commercial litigation, insurance coverage, and all that really exciting stuff. And it was one of those things where like, you get a job and the job gets another job and then another job. And then all of a sudden you’re like down this path and you kind of look up five years later and. How, how did I get here? Like this isn’t interesting to me, I don’t like this. This feels, you know, um, on top of, um, you know, all the things that young lawyers are, are dealing with the, you know, the stress, the long hours, not knowing what the hell you’re doing. a lot of the time and, you know, getting thrown into this, you know, um, this crazy experience. So what I have discovered now, um, I have, ADHD And I didn’t know that then. And so that definitely was compounding a lot. Right. Um, and I thought it was, I hated the subject matter. I didn’t love the environment. So I would switch firms. Right. I played this game for like five to seven years where I was like, trying to figure out what’s wrong with me. Why isn’t this working? Why don’t I love this? Like I had spent, you know, you, you build up this, like, this is what the career’s gonna look like, and it’s gonna be amazing. And I was like, w want And immediately you’re like, well, something’s wrong with me cuz all these people here seem to love it and get it. And it’s, it’s easy for them. Right? That’s what everyone thinks. Like for them, it’s easy for me. It’s hard. And you know, so, so that was kind of my feeling, my experience of like being a young lawyer and it was not pleasant. And ultimately, you know, the long, you know, long story short, I was moving from the city I’m uh, live outside of Chicago. I lived in the city and was moving to the suburbs. I was getting married, and starting a family. And so I was looking for a new job. And at that period of time, you know, it, I just was like, you know what, let me take some time to kind of figure out like, what’s the next step? Am I gonna pivot into something else? Um, and that ultimately led me to decide, to stay home with kids because I wasn’t finding, you know, the next right thing. I hated it. Honestly, I was a really unhappy lawyer. And I thought, hell, I don’t want to go back to that right now. Do you know? And I thought, great, I’ll be a mom. That’s so much. Oh, my God. Um, and ultimately, you know, so, so for the last 10 years, my like official title has been a stay-at-home mom. Now I have dabbled a little bit in, you know, practicing, um, practicing law. I worked for a small law firm here and there. You know, I did some doc review kind of just like trying to keep my foot in the door. Um, but I also kind of started pursuing some like entrepreneurial interests, and, um, I’ve always really loved coaching. And I think that’s what drove me to, you know, wanting to be a lawyer like helping people being involved right? In like big decisions, things that were impacting their lives and, um, And so I kind of just was doing that already. You know, I was leading leadership groups. I started, um, an event business where I was like hosting events for women, for moms to, you know, help them stay connected to who they were as like people and individuals. Right. And, and so over the last, like 10 years, I’ve kind of slowly just started just that coaching part of me right? Has kind of been like, hello. Hello. And, um, and then, so I’ve been doing that kind of slowly, gradually more and more, and then as a business. Right. And then, um, in the last like six months, I decided to really shift that focus to lawyers. Um, so that part has been really newer for me. Um, and I realized. I wanna be that coach that I needed 10, 15 years ago. Right. Like someone to like talk to like the younger Renata, um, and kind of just help empower her a little bit. Not necessarily to like save her or change her, but just to show her like that there, that, you know, we really do have so much power.

Sonya Palmer

I’m glad. That cuz I think the best coaches are often people who needed one and didn’t have

Renata Musial

Yeah, totally.

Sonya Palmer

Exactly what you just said. It’s like you can be a little bit floundering a little bit wondering if is this normal. Um, is this just part of the job? Is it me or am I like truly unhappy where I’m at and not having a person, a coach, um, a support system even to? You know, ping ideas off of. So I think people who didn’t have that often make cuz they know those gaps, they know how to fill them.

Renata Musial

Yeah. And you think that there’s something like that’s wrong with you? There’s something you’re like, I shouldn’t feel this way. And like you said, you know, to even just have someone to talk about that with, and also to realize that like, you know, I was always very quick too, to, like I said, like trying to switch jobs, find a different practice group to work under cuz this partner isn’t. Meshing with me.

Sonya Palmer

Right.

Renata Musial

it was always kind of about like the other person and not necessarily that I had some ego that like, I knew everything, not at all, but that like something, something outside of me was like the factor that was not making this work. Right. Instead of looking at like, okay, well, how, how could I maybe think about this differently? Shift my perspective, maybe position myself in. Maybe it did re you know, maybe I could have pivoted earlier, um, to a practice area that would’ve suited my personality and interests more. Right. So like, I didn’t think I had any of that power or any of like that. I should even be thinking about that. Um, yeah.

Sonya Palmer

So lawyer, mom, business owner,

Renata Musial

Yes.

Sonya Palmer

Good trajectory

Renata Musial

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer

So you help female attorneys actually feel happy and not just look like they are on paper. Why is there such a disconnect between what we see on the outside? And then the actual emotional space of female attorneys?

Renata Musial

You know, I think really the women that are drawn to practice law are, you know, generally, like we’re, go-getters, we’re achievers, we’re strong in so many ways. Right. Or at least like we can put on a really good show. and that’s amazing that is incredible. Even the women who are not, you know, I’m, I’m even the transactional attorneys who are, you know, not necessarily feel like they’re like extroverted, right? Like they are truly driven. They love challenges, and that’s all amazing. But I think what happens is that. And I don’t know if this is, you know, I’m, I’m not a therapist, I’m not a counselor. Like, I don’t know if it’s how we’re brought up, if it’s something, you know, in our, in our DNA. But like we have a hard time, I think then, um, sometimes dealing with, with the, you know, situations where it’s like, oh, maybe you didn’t do as good of a job as you wanted, or, oh, this isn’t working out. That’s not a problem or we don’t have to make it a problem. Right. Like all of a sudden we feel like some, we did something or, you know, we, um, aren’t in control, so we’re freaking out. Right. And like slowly over the course of time, that really starts to erode on a person’s value and worth. And like, you just feel like. Shit, you know, and you’re doing all these things. You’re taking action. You are going through the motions and you’re like, why am I doing all the things that should be, you know, giving me these results that, that I maybe even want? Right. But like, it doesn’t actually feel as good as I thought it was gonna and I, by no means, you know, like I joke like people are like, are you, I, you know, the name happy lawyer is kind of like tongue in cheek because like, do we know many happy lawyers? I mean, yes, of course. Right. But like, it’s kind of funny. Like there’s unfortunately, like we have a, a bad rap, you know, and I wanna change that. And I, and I, I don’t just wanna make everyone happy cuz that’s not reality, but I want to really like. Especially females, um, women in, in practice to just like navigate some of the parts of being a lawyer that is like, other than like the actual work. Right. You can be amazing at your work, but like, if you’re not also managing, I hate to, I don’t, I’m not gonna use the word balance, but like, if you’re not managing all those other components, you’re emotional life, your, your personal life, your, you know, family life, your mental stress, your physical health, like we all know this, right? Like everyone knows about self-care. But we’re not like sure. How to actually, like, what does that mean? What does that look like? I’m going to the gym 10 times a month. And, but I still feel like crap, you know? So I really just wanted to kind of touch on some of those other components that, as I said, I think would’ve helped me to have them actually like develop and create this like a career that they really wanna have and like love and experience and, you know, not on a daily basis. cause that’s not possible. Right. But just more.

Sonya Palmer

Yes, I think there’s room for more than one thing. Cause what you described early is a very stereotypical sort of lawyer, um, female and male, very driven, very intelligent, very hardworking, um, almost aggressive they’re winners. You can do all of those things and then still just want to sit on the couch for a day.

Renata Musial

Yes. And that’s okay.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah, like there’s room for both. Just because you feel lazy for a day, doesn’t mean that you’re lazy. And it doesn’t mean that you’re not a hard worker. And I think that identity that a lot of lawyers have and that’s put onto them, um, if they deviate away from that, then it creates unhappiness. and what you just said is like making balance. It’s kind of a word that gets overused at this point, but again, like making room for more than one thing you can, your life can be more than about your career. It can be more than just these things. You have to make room for them.

Renata Musial

Yeah. And I, I think too, it’s really important. I think a lot of times, like we, again, sort of like look up and you’re like in your forties maybe, or, or, you know, even older. And you’re like, how did I get here? Wait, how did this ha you know, and, and I think it’s important to assess. You know, whether it’s yearly or, or, you know, every few years, like, is this working, is this right? Like if you have kids, things change right in the season of life with the age of your children, um, if you get married, even, even just as a, as a young attorney coming out or a newer attorney, I don’t wanna say young even, right? Like coming outta law school, like that’s different, like what you’re interested in, what, how you, the capacity you have to, to work that changes. And I think if we never question that if we never assess that, are we surprised then, then like you wake up, you know, again, 10 years down the road and you’re like, well, this sucks. . And, and I think that, um, you know, it’s not just about like billing the hours and putting it in, like you’re dealing with difficult people. You wanna ask for a raise, but you don’t feel like you’re worth it. I just did a post, um, or my own podcast episode about like becoming a Rainmaker. Right. And. You wanna drum a business, but like as a second year, I mean, that was never the top, you know, that never crossed my mind. I’m like, oh no, that’s, that’s not me. Like, I’m not a Rainmaker. I don’t know how to do that. And, and instead, I think my goal is to like help women too, to just think about like, no, you like, think about what you want your career to look like. What kind of life do you wanna have? What do you wanna work on? Who do you wanna work with? Like, those are valid things to be thinking.

Sonya Palmer

Yes. And to just give them permission.

Renata Musial

Yes.

Sonya Palmer

Isn’t what you thought it was going to be, or maybe something changed you are allowed to pivot, you know, you’re allowed.

Renata Musial

For sure.

Sonya Palmer

So what is one of the first things that you need to understand to have a happier life?

Renata Musial

I use myself as such an example, right? I’m like, huh? How was I, you know, 15 years ago when I was practicing and I, I would be like, oh, well, you know, opposing counsel is making my life hell like this is, or I have so much work because the partners are piling it on and I’m just working, working, working. And I have no time for, you know, whatever else I wanna do. And I didn’t even consider it. And, what I know now as a coach and what I really like is number the one, the first thing I try to like teach my clients. We have so much power with our thoughts and like, you know, people talk about mindset work and like, what is that? And listen, I am like, as skeptical as they come, you know? And so for me, I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah. I think about it. You know, my feelings and I go to therapy and like, I’m good. I don’t, that’s, it’s this person’s a jerk. And that person is, you know, impacting me this way. And when I really like took a step back and like really looked at that and shifted my perspective to be like, okay, let’s think about like, what if I changed my thoughts? just saying, okay, you know what? This is gonna be fine. I’m not gonna let myself be bothered by it. I’m not right. And, and when I started to do that, like in the tiniest ways, I’m talking like tiny, tiny ways with like, you know, a family friend that irritated me with, right. Um, because I didn’t learn this until after I was done practicing. it was instantaneous. it was like a non-event and it felt so much better. And I remember thinking, holy crap, like. Where else could this, you know, work? And so I would say that is kind of the first step is just realizing the power that your thoughts have over every action that you’re taking. Every interaction that you have, and every relationship at work at home, everywhere like that. I think people say they, they know that and they understand that, but I don’t think they really do.

Sonya Palmer

100%. That’s a sort of a founding principle of stoicism, which is control what you can control.

Renata Musial

Yes.

Sonya Palmer

You cannot control the actions of another. But you can control your response to it.

Renata Musial

Yes.

Sonya Palmer

And I liked what you said about just like, sort of using it with like a family friend or an acquaintance because you can practice these smaller doses, smaller things. And then that can lead up to making it way easier to handle the difficult meeting. It’s like I said, it’s, it’s not about loving them or, you know, like inverting the relationship so that it turns good. No, it’s. Don’t allow it to affect you. Um, so yes, yes. Control what you can and you can control your emotions and your feelings to a certain extent, your thoughts.

Renata Musial

Yeah, because, like what is ultimately happening is Like they have no idea, but you’re allowing them to have so much power over you.

Sonya Palmer

I love that you use the word power because particularly for women in male-dominated spaces in leadership, you have to fight to get power often. And. And sometimes harder to keep it, and then you’re sort of willingly giving it away and allowing them to have power over you. So I love that. Um, what are some of the common reasons that you see for women lawyers to be in emotional distress?

Renata Musial

Well, I think, um, not having an understanding of like, how they’re thinking about, you know, their day-to-day actions It’s about empowering you just a, just getting you to be a little bit more curious about. how you’re thinking about your work, your inner, your interactions, your, you know, your career in general, your at-home life. I feel like just like the thoughts really just dictate everything, but then from there, you know, You know, the emotional distress is, is also like a big one I think is, is something I call like having a manual or having this like playbook in your head that you have for yourself, but also for other people. I mean, that also is like a series of thoughts, right? Like you think that your colleagues should behave this way. Partners treat Y you know, lawyers this way, um, you as a lawyer should be showing up this way and that way as a mom, you, right. And so like, we’ve got this like a playbook, and we forget that we actually wrote the playbook, which means that like, you can pivot, alter it, change it. Right. And also some of that shit just ain’t true. Like. It’s made up, it’s a story you’ve kind of told yourself that this is how, in my case, it was like, this is how lawyers on TV act. So I think that that sometimes is a big component. another one I was gonna mention is just a feeling of self-worth, like thinking that your self-worth is tied to your output. How many hours do you bill? How many hours you’re in the office versus, right? Like, again, I mean, as a mom, I think these examples are like easier, a little bit easier for me to give just cuz it’s like, there is so much of that pull, push and pull and that back and forth. And you’re never feeling like you’re winning it either of ’em because you feel like you have to, you know, produce so much and create so much and, and also have your house clean and meals prepped then, and it’s too much. It’s too much. And I think that we’re just, again, we’re doing it to ourselves.

Sonya Palmer

The roles of ‘mother’ and ‘lawyer’ come with extremely high expectations. On their own, each is challenging to live up to. But for women who hold both positions – the social pressure to strike the perfect balance is impossible. To relieve the pressure, Renata wants to see change across the board. :

Renata Musial

I think the only way that we’re gonna change that is to have women attorneys like start pushing back and creating their own, right? Like your experience is gonna look different than mine and like, to be open about it and honest and. You know, share what’s working, what’s not working. And then also to kind of be like, I don’t give an F, like, I’m doing this for me. This is my career. This is my family. This is right. Like, because at the end of the day, like that, it’s your life that you’re living for yourself. And so I think that pushing back, um, on that, or starting to question it, right, like that’s the only way that we’re gonna change those

Sonya Palmer

Yes. I, I think step one is what you just said. At least question it at least wonders or doubt, like, is this, is this what it’s supposed to be?

Renata Musial

Yeah. And is it working for me? Cause a lot of times like, wait, why am I doing this? This isn’t actually even like working. I never, like I said like I got this job, and I, I mean, I swear to you in law school, I already. Now looking back hindsight’s 2020. I felt terrible about this. Like, you know, my first clerkship, I was like, my body was like, stop. Don’t do it. Get out. And I’m like, oh no, it’s, you know, you again were very rational, very like, you know, analytical people obviously. So we would just talk our way to being like, this is fine. You can handle this. This is how it is, you know? And that was a huge mistake for me.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah. There’s a ton of discussion around stuff like that, especially around jobs and work. Suck it up. You know, no jobs are no jobs. Perfect. It’s it works. It’s supposed to be hard. A lot of that, especially from like previous generations, I think. And I think our generation and those following are like, I think that’s waking up. Like they’re starting to realize, no, I don’t, I don’t have to do that. Um, and still contribute to society, you know, like still be a good human.

Renata Musial

Well, and this might be like a tangent, but like, you know, this concept that’s coming up now of like quiet, quitting, right. And like, is that actually, I mean, even that name is like a misnomer, cuz it’s like, well, no one’s quitting, but also if you’re just doing your job, like, I don’t even wanna say at the bare minimum as you could still be doing your job at a very competent, amazing level. You are just not like overextending yourself and sacrificing everything about your personal life. Like that’s. Is that a problem? I don’t know. I’m. Right.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah.

Renata Musial

I would say no, it’s not a problem at all.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah, no, I, I mean, I manage a team of people. to me, the quiet quitting is what I expect from them. , you know, like good at your job while you’re at work. It’s gonna be interesting to see how all that sort of plays out.

Renata Musial

Yes.

Sonya Palmer

It sounds like a lot of what you teach is mindset. What are some of the common limiting beliefs that you hear?

Renata Musial

Some version of like, I’m not good enough. Or I’m not, you know, worthy. I mean, a lot of it comes to like, they’re, they’re looking for some outside validation. So for example, they don’t get a promotion or they’re not getting the Projects or assignments that they would like to have. They feel like they’re not seen. And they, they translate that to mean, like, I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy. I, you know, I’m stupid. Some version of that, you know, a feeling of, of, or a lack of self-worth. Um, I think another is definitely a lack of self-confidence, you know, that’s different than confidence. Confidence is based on like things you’ve already accomplished and you could be like, oh yeah, You know, I could run a marathon. I, I like, you know, I’ve been running and cool. That seems like something I could do self-confidence is believing that you can do something when like there’s no evidence that you’ve ever done it. And I think a lot of what. Attorneys need to do that, right? Like, require self-confidence, especially in those early years of practicing. Like you gotta just jump in there and do it, but trust that you, if you, you know, mess it up or if you make a mistake or that you’re gonna have to ask questions and that’s okay. Right. So I see that really lacking. Um, I would say those two are probably like the, you know, they go together. They’re really probably, I would say the top ones.

Sonya Palmer

you mentioned balance earlier. And I think where that’s become like a. Focus to find balance. I think that that also becomes, um, difficult and it limits people because then they’re, oh, I’m spending too much time at

Renata Musial

Totally.

Sonya Palmer

Not spending enough time at work. I’m spending too much time at home or, oh, I’m not spending enough time at home. I have, I’m not going to the gym. Um, the house, like to try and find balance. I think that if they’re not that then tends to limit them. It makes it worse.

Renata Musial

Yeah, because, I mean, if you think about what balance actually is, that means equality. Right. And there’s no way like, and it’s like, okay, so, you know, what do, what you do at work? And that’s gonna mean that that home, maybe I don’t even wanna say is gonna suffer, but right. Like that means that you don’t necessarily have all the time at home, but maybe right now, again, in this season, maybe it’s just this week, right? Like maybe it’s just today. Maybe, maybe you’re like, Hey, I’m on a, I’m on trial for the next, you know, month. It’s gonna kind of suck at home, but guess what? Then it’s gonna sort of flip to the other side and I’m gonna focus and. I think giving yourself that permission, you talked about permission. Like that is so important to be like it’s that’s okay. Like sometimes, you know what? I got time to go to the gym more often. That doesn’t mean that I suck and I’m terrible. And I don’t can’t I’m not disciplined. It means nothing. It just means that right now you are choosing to put your priorities elsewhere. That’s again, like, I think shifting that again, that perspective to you are in control. You are making the. How do you wanna, you know, how do you wanna think about it? How do you wanna, you know, respond to it? How do you wanna, you know, think about yourself? Um, it’s not gonna make you feel very good if you’re like, well, I suck. I’m a piece of shit. See, I can’t, you know, manage anything like this story that is running a loop in our head. Right. Um, so I think seeing it is more of like, people call it harmony or flow or like, right? Like you can be up or you can be down in, in different areas. And it’s just like every day being like, okay, what’s gonna be the focus today? What can I do that maybe I can’t do? And that’s okay.

Sonya Palmer

Loved seasons. I think that’s exactly, that’s a perfect way of putting it. And I think somebody’s season can be different. Like you said, it could be today. It could be a week. It could be a year, but. For women working in like law firms, it’s okay to focus. Like there’s a promotion or there’s a partner position, focus on work. And then when you get that, you put that time in. Now you go back, you focus at home. All my kids are getting ready to start school. I need to spend more time at home and that’s perfectly okay.

Renata Musial

And it’s okay if it’s like, I wanna go to this, let’s say performance, a dance recital, but you know what? I can’t go to all of them. And also I think, understanding that like, Hey, you know what, it’s okay. If your kids see you. Only at one dance recital, because also you’re teaching them so much. You’re not just teaching them that they, you know, you don’t care about them because you’re not at every dance recital. You have this amazing thing that you’re trying to also create and do in your life, which is your job. I feel like we’re very caught up. How, like we have to be everything to everyone at work at home and every relationship. And that is actually, it is just, it’s literally impossible. It’s literally impossible.

Sonya Palmer

Failure. Yes.

Renata Musial

And so like, why are we let’s just quit that shit.

Sonya Palmer

Part of taking ownership of your priorities is understanding your values. Renata touches on her guiding principles.

Renata Musial

I think that one of my guiding principles is to really always like, be checking in with, with like who I am, what I need. How I feel about a situation, this isn’t work and this isn’t personal life. you’re not a different person at the office. Like you’re dressed professionally and you’re not in like PJs, whatever your hair is done up, but like you inside, you’re carrying the same brain. the same feelings. And so, um, I think a lot of times, like we go to work and try to. Turn some of that off and you’re getting signals and messages and, and responses and inputs, and you know, your body’s telling you something, your brain and you’re, we’re like ignoring that. And I did so much of that, that it, took away my ability, I think, to enjoy my career as a lawyer. so that’s probably like the first and foremost, um, just really being authentic to who you are, like really listening to that, like listening to that inter compass.

Sonya Palmer

And mindset can only really take you so far. what is the actual advice then? So change your perspective. How do you act on that?

Renata Musial

Like the clients that I have and, the lawyers that are unhappy, they think they’re unhappy because all of these things are happening in their life. the job’s not working out the partner’s, you know, difficult, they’re working too many hours. They think that that’s why they’re unhappy. Why they’re really unhappy is how they’re thinking about all those things that are happening. All these, these situations in their life. Right. What they don’t realize what, what we do is we fill our, our, our time, our lives with like more stuff, all these action items. Right. Cause that’s what people say, get organized. you know, like, uh, say no more, right? Those are, are great. Those do and can work. However, we’re doing it backward. We’re taking this action and expecting that the feeling is gonna come than right then, oh, now I’ll feel better now. I feel good and happy. See, I worked out and organized my time and I decluttered. But in reality, you are still thinking about the situation in the same. And what happens when you have a thought is that then you feel a certain way. So if I feel like, oh my God, I’m so overwhelmed. Like you feel overwhelmed or, or if you’re, if you have, let’s say a lot to do, and you’re thinking about it, I’m so overwhelmed. Oh my God, this is so much. Guess what you feel overwhelmed. overwhelm is, is the feeling. And then from that feeling, you start taking all this action. So I really think that the action that you’re, you need to be taking, you know, what’s the actionable item here. You gotta start with like, okay, what am I thinking? And how, like, what am I thinking? So that I feel the way I wanna feel so that I can take the action.

Sonya Palmer

And you’re talking about accountability. Yeah. Not just to others, but to ourselves.

Renata Musial

Exactly.

Sonya Palmer

Um, so when you work with attorneys, what are the bases you cover?

Renata Musial

The way I work with attorneys, we start with like, okay, what’s kind of the main issue, I don’t want to have my clients to be reliant on me and have to like, stay with me forever. I wanna teach them how to get into the habit and the practice of like, How do I get myself back into a position of feeling better able to handle it confidently? Right. All those things. And so teaching them how to like self coach. I don’t have a program. Of course there are definitely themes. You know, we talk again a lot about self-worth self-confidence, um, about, um, dealing with difficult relationships. so that’s kind of how I work with them. It is really like on an individual basis. Um, yeah.

Sonya Palmer

You mentioned earlier that you were diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 41. how does ADHD show up in women and why is it either not diagnosed or misdiagnosed so often?

Renata Musial

Well, I think it’s misdiagnosed and or undiagnosed because again, as women who are high achievers who are intelligent, who. Um, you know, can get shit done. Like we, we hide it and not, and not even like knowingly. Right. I didn’t know I was hiding it. I just suck at remembering things. I’m terrible at planning. Like you just think that that’s just like part of your personality. Um, because you know, in, in women, I mean, ADHD is a spectrum. It doesn’t appear the same way in, in, you know, even two women. women are just a little bit better at creating coping mechanisms. We also see like, oh, the outside world looks like this and we don’t, how do I mold myself so that I right? So I can like play a role so that I can hide. And, and you don’t realize you’re hiding anything. You’re just like, wait, I don’t look like that. for example, how, how was someone with undiagnosed ADHD able to get through law school? You know what? I could spend a few years hyper-focusing on something that was my job. That was it. Right. I think that’s when things started to unravel for me personally, is. When I became a mom, when my, uh, demands at home and trying to manage, you know, maybe a little bit of, you know, trying to run a business also, right? Like these things start to kind of pile up and pile up most of the managing, you know, your home or being a mom. A lot of those are like, you know, tasks that are executive function that you’re like, organize this, manage this, manage your time, keep this straight. Like I was terrible at all of it. And. Did not understand what was going on. Um, I think, you know, you talked about like misdiagnosis. I was, I mean, I spent most of my adult life, um, with a depression, uh, diagnosis. Um, and that’s not to say I didn’t have depression, but what I realized, um, after going through the process. So yeah, I was diagnosed this summer with ADHD and, and also depression, but my doctor essentially said, I think you have depression because of undiagnosed ADHD. Because again, as a woman who is a high achiever, who like is like, how can I come up with these amazing ideas? I’ve passed the bar. I, I went to law school. I’ve done amazing things in my life. How can I not keep up with my damn laundry? And my kids every morning, it is like literally like meltdown city for me, for them. Like why, you know, and you start to just really, um, again, because of the expectations, the pressures of, you know, moms of women, like you start to really feel like there’s something wrong with you. This is terrible. And after years and years of that, that really wears on a person, you know

Sonya Palmer

As women, we are already. Expected to conform to so many different things that when you have a, a disease like ADHD or depression or bipolar, anything like that, or, uh, physical, if you’re, you know, something like that, it’s just another thing we have to conform ourselves to. We just bend ourselves in a different way, attempting to avoid this so that it makes a ton of sense. I also just read recently that the. Diagnosis are starting to come up because parents are taking their kids to the doctors. Their kids are getting, getting, getting diagnosed and they’re like, wait a second.

Renata Musial

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer

um, I have dealt with that my entire life,

Renata Musial

Yes. Well, so

Sonya Palmer

Is encouraging. Yes, us.

Renata Musial

A hundred percent. And I will say like, okay, so probably for the last I officially went to get diagnosed and I’ll tell you exactly why I did that. but I kind of joked for the last year that I was TikTok diagnosed because I started to see, women like myself, attorneys, moms, whoever, right? Who are like, I have a really hard time doing X, Y, and Z, or, oh my God. This is really hard. And I’m like, that’s ADHD. Hold on a second. Right because I didn’t really, you know, did I struggle in school? I don’t know. It was, it was fine. Right? Because I, again, put myself in this box, I could get it done in this. Right. I conformed. But when I was outside of that and I had to do everything on my own, figure out my own schedule and organize my own life. It was basically impossible. And when I started to see myself in these other women, I want, I went, whoa, this. This is, this is me. And then ultimately, my husband and I started actually going to marriage counseling. Just to kind of, after 10 years, 12 years, you’re like, Hey, we need to figure out how to communicate again. And, um, my son, we have, we’ve been thinking that he has ADHD and my husband though, he was never diagnosed, but he definitely has like the more obvious traits and we would again, joke about it, whatever. So it was like, oh, sun, has it husband. Duh, there is the correlation, right? Well, so we went to marriage counseling and we started talking about our issues and just the, you know, the difficulties we were having and like communicating and the sharing, the workload, and our therapist literally on like our second session was like, I think you both have ADHD, like clear cut. And I was like, well, yeah, he does just like, no, you too. And I’m like, Okay. Maybe. And I, and I did say, I was like, oh yeah, TikTok said I have it. You know, but so then she kind of encouraged us to start to research it. You know, we started getting some books and, and looking into it. And then I started reading about it and I went, holy shit, this is, it felt like just reading my biography, you know? And so then we did both go through the process of actually going to see, um, Or to getting a psychological evaluation, um, you know, the full, like, oh my gosh, it was like a six to eight-hour test, um, going through different evaluations. It was intense.

Sonya Palmer

They give us six to eight-hour tests with people they think have ADHD.

Renata Musial

Yeah. So you essentially go in for like a one-hour eval with a, with a psychologist who kind of, you know, chats with you. And then if they think that there’s, that warrants, um, you know, further evaluation, Like they don’t just test for ADHD. They are kind of to see because there are other things that could manifest. Um, and so they did test me for depression and I think bipolar some, uh, mania. They’re um, it’s a very like elaborate test.

Sonya Palmer

Okay.

Renata Musial

Um, and so that was kind of yeah, that over the last, like in the last, like two to three months of knowing that has kind of like exploded my understanding of myself,

Sonya Palmer

What clarity have you gained after the diagnosis?

Renata Musial

You know, it’s kind of a weird combination of like clarity and also likes it’s hard not to look back and be like, damn. It just provides some relief, right? Like, Just knowing, being like, oh my God, I And it’s, it’s not an excuse. It’s not right, but now I know what I’m working with now. I know that like, I’m just, it’s not that I suck at, you know, I don’t need a new planner. I don’t need a new, right? Like, this is just always going to be hard. And that’s okay. That’s, that’s not it. Right. And so you just kind of like now, like, you know, now it’s really just kind of being like, okay, so now we know that like now what, and what are we gonna do with that? And, um, but I think, yeah, it’s just sort of like a really nice relief to, to know a little bit more about yourself.

Sonya Palmer

I agree. In addition to TikTok, if someone was listening and might be wondering or feels like this might describe them, what are some resources that you have found helpful?

Renata Musial

I mean, I’m a huge component of just therapy in general, you know, like even if you, you know, definitely that’s something that you could talk to your therapist about. I just, I kind of confirmed some things with my therapist who recommended me to someone who had more experience. You know, with ADHD. Um, ultimately now I’m seeing a therapist individually that does have ADHD experience and, and works with women. Um, but I think, yeah, just like, listen, the internet is an amazing place too. You get a lot of, there are some amazing podcasts out there. There are actually some great, um, podcasts for lawyers, um, with ADHD. Um, the name is escaping me, but Google is, you know,

Sonya Palmer

We’ll find it. Yeah.

Renata Musial

I think there are some great resources. Um, and yeah, don’t be embarrassed by like looking at TikTok, Instagram, using hashtags like that. They’re amazing search engines and I think people are becoming more vocal and, um, You know, honest and open about their personal experiences and you can learn so much from those things that I think then you can bring to a doctor. Right? Cause then you are more, I think educated and you can ask questions, you know, how to advocate for yourself cuz you go, no, there’s something right. Like. I mean for, I, like I said, like for years it was you’re depressed. You’re depressed. Oh, now this is postpartum. And that’s not to say that that was it. But like you said, you know, that was a, a symptom that was just a tiny part of it. No one ever looked at anything else that was, that was happening, you know, in, in such detail. So, um, yeah, I think those are good places to start.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah. There’s, you know, don’t Google your symptoms, talk to a doctor, but I think what you just said is sometimes you have to do that research so that you can then advocate for yourself, um, to kind of plant that seed.

Renata Musial

Yeah. And I think lawyers maybe would be like, you know, because we, we so much of what we have to do, it is research-driven. Like I think for the most part we’re skeptical enough, right? Like, no, one’s gonna be like, whoa, the, I mean, you know, I say that with the grain of salt, but you know what I mean? Like, so I feel confident to, to say that to, you know, like your lawyer audience like that, that you would be okay to like Google some stuff, research, learn some stuff on TikTok and then kind of follow up with.

Sonya Palmer

What is something you are optimistic about?

Renata Musial

I’ve got three kids. Um, my youngest just went to kindergarten. And so, you know, that’s like a big like season in the mom’s life. And then, um, having been diagnosed with ADHD, so I am like testing out some medications and it’s been amazing, like really seeing like some great, um, you know, effects from that. it has started to get me thinking about it. Maybe wanting to practice again. it actually makes me, think about like, okay, like what, what could that look like? so I’m, I’m excited by that, like just the prospect and kind of like, you know, peeking on LinkedIn and looking and seeing like, all right, what, what kind of, you know, the firm would I wanna work for? What kind of, you know, practice area? Um, so that’s been, that’s been like, it makes you feel hopefulness is good. Is a good feeling.

Sonya Palmer

My next question for you was what was next for you?

Renata Musial

I’m loving coaching, you know, right now. I wanna help these, these lawyers, I wanna help these women. Um, so a lot of what I’m doing is still one on one, but I also am working on possibly developing maybe like, I a mastermind or something on like more of a specific topic.

Sonya Palmer

We talked about self-care. So what do you do when you need to decompress or take some time for yourself? Do you have any rituals or routines?

Renata Musial

I love going for walks, but like, you know, like now the trend is like hot girl walks or whatever they call it, you think walking is like, not that hard or whatever. I’ll tell you what, as you go in an hour-long, like, you know, music pump in like kind of a get you like. You’re sweaty, you’re exerting energy, and sometimes it’s just like, through the neighborhood, it’s not necessarily in nature, you know, like everyone recommends, it’s just like going around the block. Like, it just feels good aid of course, to move your body. But like, I feel like, I don’t know. It’s just this like this like it’s simple. I don’t feel like I have to like, stress about it. I mean, it’s like, you can go as slow as you want, you know? And it always, always makes me feel better, you know? So, yeah. So I, I feel like if I can, you know, I would love to say like, I, you know, ride the Peloton all the time. And like sometimes, you know, but like just going on a, on a, on a short walk even like, is like, I IM always amazed at how powerful that is and how, you know, how it can change your day.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah, I completely agree. I think walks are underrated for me. I’m like my preference is strength training. But if I like, if I’m feeling low, I just go back to walks. Like I start my day with a walk. It’s a great way to make myself feel better. And then sort of like ease back into then maybe a more strenuous, um, activity. So no, I think walks are totally underrated,

Renata Musial

And I think too, so if you’re having a bad day or something like literally like physically moving your body, just to like stand up, walk to another part of the room like that, that shifts something in your brain. And like, so I always like, think about that, like, okay, you know, I’m like, God, I don’t wanna go on this stupid effing walk you know, but I’m just like, no, you, you know, you kind have to like psych yourself up to, to get there. Yeah. But, um, and, and then you do it and you’re like, oh yeah, dang. Those people are right. it.

Sonya Palmer

Your life can – and should – be more than one thing, one identity. To get there – start with evaluating where you are, deciding what you want, and making space for it to show up in your life. Then the real work begins – take complete accountability. Pay attention to the stories you’ve written about yourself and others that your mind continues to repeat. And remember that, as the writer of your own story, you can change the narrative whenever you want. A big thank you to Renata for sharing her story and unbelievable insights with us today. You’ve been listening to LawHER with, me, Sonya Palmer. If you found this content insightful, inspiring, or just made you smile, please share this episode with the trailblazer in your life. For more about Renata check out our show notes. While you’re there, please leave us a review or a five-star rating. It really goes a long way for others to discover the show. I’ll see you next week on LawHER where we’ll shed light on how another of the brightest and boldest women in the legal industry climbed to the top of her field.

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