I have been absent from the regular blogging scene for most of my first year of law school, but recent events have pushed me to take a moment to write something other than an appellate brief (or to continue the property reading I should be doing :) ).
Last weekend at Soul City, we talked about comparison, and the negative impact it has on our lives. I wanted to take a moment to note the extent that comparison has affected me within the last couple years. Comparison is such an ingrained part of our society, and often it is so natural that we can be bound by its fruits without even realizing it.
Pride or Insecurity
One of the focuses this weekend was that comparison has one of two results: pride (when we view ourselves above someone else), or insecurity (when we feel we don’t measure up to what we believe we should be in relations to others).
Recognizing this distinction is humbling. Until starting law school, I admit I struggled more with pride in many of my passions: music, writing, schooling, etc. Now, however, the tables have turned, and this is yet again humbling.
Law School: breeding comparison
Law school is notoriously competitive, and such an environment breeds comparison on every level. While some of this competition is self-induced–trying to be the top of the class, especially for better job prospects these days–the structure of the first year law school requires comparison, especially with the infamous “curve” grading system. In this system, professors are allotted a few different curves to choose from, but each curve limits the amount of A’s, A-’s, B+’s, etc. they are allowed to award. In addition, most first year law school classes are entirely determined by a single test at the end of the semester. Because of this, no matter how well you do on your one exam, your entire success is determined by whether or not you do better than someone else.
I have not adjusted well to such a theory–the forced comparison is absolutely toxic. I have been a relatively confident person in my young-adult life. However, this environment of ideas and concepts that are completely foreign to this creative-journalistic-reflective psyche, has caused severe insecurity some days and an unhealthy obsessive tendency to compare.
I have spent my years since Princeton, while at law school and in my various professional jobs, not feeling completely a part of the worlds I inhabit. I am always looking over my shoulder wondering if I measure up.
Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice
I am thankful that I am interning this semester at an organization I deeply believe in. Each day, I feel like I am able to contribute in a meaningful way and I feel respected and challenged each day. It is encouraging to know that such an environment exists in the legal world.
What I realized in this discussion is that I have not only been comparing myself to those around me, but I have been obsessively comparing myself to…myself. Since my first surgery for Thyroid Cancer (over a year and a half a go), when I said goodbye to my thyroid, I have become obsessed with trying to get back to how healthy/fit/focused I was able to be prior to all my surgeries and treatment.
When I look at myself in the mirror, I always remember what I used to look like. I remember how much easier it was to stay fit, how much slimmer my jaw line was prior to my second/third surgeries, and how my face shape used to be less-round when I had still had a thyroid. This obsession is also toxic, especially since many of these issues are not “fixable.”
It is hard to tell yourself that there are things out of your control–things that no matter how hard you try, you cannot change. I am so very thankful for the preservation of my life and my voice in my journey with thyroid cancer. I do not wish to downplay this at all. However, it does take setting some pride aside to admit that these permanent life-changes, many changes that only I would really see in myself, have caused me to look at myself as something less than I could be–as opposed to different. This kind of comparison has been the most difficult to admit, the most difficult to let go, and the most damaging to my confidence.
Tomorrow I go in for another round of scans to see if I am clear or if another surgery is in my future (since I am resistant to radiation treatment). Each time I’ve gone in for these tests, I have walked out knowing it wasn’t over, and each time I’ve had treatment or surgery again. I will receive tomorrow’s results next Tuesday.
Comparison is a burden we all carry in one sense or another–many of us err on the side of pride, others on the side of insecurity. My prayer is that we take time to examine ourselves and own up to our tendencies and work on freeing ourselves from these burdens.