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The February 9 Pep Talk

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The February 9 Pep Talk

It’s December. The daylight is fading fast. It’s cold. The holidays are upon us. It’s a rough time of year for a lot of people – myself included. It seems like everyone around me is struggling with something. It’s an extremely helpless feeling to know people you care about are hurting and you can’t do anything to take their pain away.

In February 2019, I did something that I’d never done before – something that terrified me and fed my anxiety more than anything had in a long time – I participated in a mock trial (a “Moot”). In 2019 (and for most of my life) public speaking terrified me and I didn’t do it well. I usually could not do it without extreme nervousness – shaking, carrying a lump in my throat, voice cracking, heart racing, palms sweating, and just not having a good experience all around.

Law school was a time to try different areas of law on for size and hone your skills. I had always believed that I would never be a litigator and I convinced myself that I was scared of it. I’d also convinced myself that I wasn’t capable of it and I’d have nightmares about being asked a question in court I couldn’t answer and being laughed out of the courtroom.  Being in court didn’t ever appeal to me, but in my third and final year of law school, I decided to take a leap in an extremely low stakes environment. I knew I would never get the opportunity to fail fantastically in court and not have a real client’s money, rights, or liberty at stake again and so I forced myself to take that opportunity.

During this time, I was also in therapy for the first time in my life for unrelated trauma that happened earlier in the year. We spent some time working on my anxiety and panic attacks because they were making my day-to-day life extremely difficult. In doing so, I received a side benefit of addressing my anxiety in a way that actually allowed me to be able to public speak. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. It wasn’t perfect and I needed practice, but it was a start.

Journaling and working on my self talk was something that helped me heal from my ordeal and as a part of that, I would journal when I was having a hard time or when I was very anxious. The morning of my Moot I was extremely nervous and needed to give myself a pep talk. I had spent many months practicing and preparing and I wanted to deliver my oral argument in the way I knew I could, so I wrote this pep talk for myself. I hope that it can bring you a little light if you’re struggling right now.

February 9, 2019

You might be terrified but that’s okay. There is nothing about today that is extraordinary. You are merely going to Court to have a conversation with the judges and counsel. They are a normal group of people. Think of them as your intellectual equals. You know your case and you know your oral argument. You know how you want to articulate yourself.

This is an opportunity for you to shine. I will be proud of you no matter what happens today. You could give the performance of your life or have the worst day. But at the end, nothing will happen. No client is out any money. No shots fired. No jail. This is safe and there is nothing to be worried about.

Take a very deep breath and stand tall. You are beautiful and intelligent and nothing can take that away. You are not perfect, but no one is asking that of you. It’s just a day where you are being asked to do your best. Whatever that is. You are capable of knocking this out of the park. You can do this. There is nothing to fear. Just breathe. Just be present, be grounded. It’s all you need to do today.


Give yourself grace this holiday and winter season. You don’t have to have it all together. Each day your best may look different and that’s okay. Take time for yourself and don’t let others make you feel guilty for that. Me and mine wish you and yours a holiday season that is exactly what you need it to be, whatever that is.

About the Author

Charlene Scheffelmair is a partner with Davidson & Williams LLP in Lethbridge, Alberta. She practices primarily in the areas of corporate and commercial law; residential and commercial real estate; estate administration and planning; and foreclosures.

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