There’s nothing like a lawsuit to make you feel like a loser, but repeat after me if you want to win: None of us are perfect. You’re not a loser, but feeling like one can be self-fulfilling. Feeling like a loser can make it true. Instead, convince yourself the case is not your fault, and that you’re in the right. Whether you’re suing someone or being sued, there’s nothing fun about litigation. A day in the park it is not, and who has time for all that work? When the initial angst and anxiety of being involved in a lawsuit fades away, you’re left with a long, difficult path to winning or losing.
Doubts about your legal position and your ability to fight seep in and weigh you down. The longer your case goes on, the worse you can feel about yourself. How did this happen, you ask. Where did I go wrong? Normal people don’t get sued, right? Just stop it. These things happen. You’re supposed to sue to protect your rights when you’re wronged. You’re supposed to defend yourself when you’re sued. That’s all that matters. The case is not your fault, but winning is your responsibility. Focus on that and trash the self-doubt. Know this: there are millions of normal people in court right now. Someone in your family is dealing with divorce, custody or child support issues. Some of your friends are dealing with debt collection and bankruptcy. Some of your neighbors are fighting eviction or foreclosure.
Self-represented litigants have been swamping courts nationwide for several years now. But we don’t talk to each other because we’re ashamed. If you are among them, there’s no reason to feel shame about it. You are not alone out there. The reason you don’t see your friends and neighbors when you go to court is because they were assigned a different court date or a different courtroom. They are struggling just like you. The guilt and shame of dealing with a civil case is so prevalent that psychologists have a new name for it — litigation stress. It’s actually part of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) that mental health professionals use to diagnose psychological problems. If you find yourself growing isolated from friends and family over the stress of your case, it’s a good idea to seek help. Not only will it improve your outlook, it may help you think more clearly about your case and find a route to victory. The truth is that the economy is driving many of us into court. Despite the constant good news in the press about the economic recovery, too many of us are not feeling recovered. And the conflict between that positive news and our personal circumstances has us blaming ourselves and feeling ashamed of our failures when the failure is actually global.
If you’re among the millions of Americans in court due to financial issues, stop feeling shame about it. In the context of a global economic failure, it is truly important to remember that none of us are perfect. But more to the point, we’re also not entirely at fault when that vaunted rising tide that lifts all boats fails to lift ours. Get over yourself. Overcome your emotions. Your time is better spent figuring out how to win.