We all have insecurities. We all have feelings of inadequacy. We all have those feelings that drive us to act to assert that we are better. I am awesome, screamed the dust speck.
The problem is when those insecurities have impacts. If you’re taking your insecurities out on others, I have concerns about your soul.
In eighth grade, children attempt to elevate themselves at the expense of others. We are cool. You are not. We are popular. You are not. The goal is to elevate one’s self at the expense of another. That’s the innocence of the insecurity of a child. It’s also the plot to Lord of the Flies.
In law school, it’s narcissistic or, worse, bullying.
In law school, that same behavior is excruciating. People boasting of their grades. People assuring themselves that they are better than the rest of the lot. People suggesting that other colleagues are less than they are. It’s maddening, and it takes an emotional toll on people who are merely trying to learn.
Along with the pettiness comes the gossip. The pettiness comes in terms of social standing, much like junior high. Who do we invite to parties? Who do we slight? Who do we scapegoat for all of our insecurities? Who to start rumors about to feel better about ourselves? Who do we ridicule for errors? And which colleagues do we pardon for errors because they are friends and think we are smart?
People will boast because they want to stand out. They will recount the fact they have 20 job offers, apparently unconscious of the fact that you have none. And in that process, they will make you feel less than what you are, all the while desperately seeking to feel more than what they are.
How do you avoid becoming like this? How do you avoid feeling shredded by this kind of behavior? It’s difficult, but worth the effort.
- Be kind. Be compassionate. Realize that if someone is attacking you, absent you causing the issue, the problem is most likely an insecurity. Being kind demonstrates two things. First, you aren’t affected by the mean-spiritedness. Second, you’ll feel better as you reach out to diffuse the issue.
- Don’t take the bait. People sometimes like drama. They like to hold power over someone by bullying, belittling, or otherwise diminishing those they see as different. It’s difficult to ignore it (and you shouldn’t if it rises to the level of abuse), but otherwise it is good to take their power away from them.
- Keep your eye on the prize. Why are you in law school anyway? If you’re there for external validation from other law students, you are there for the wrong reasons. Hopefully, you are there to learn and progress. If that’s the goal, the opinions of colleagues mean fairly little.
- Surround yourself with less toxic people. The key to law school is to find a group of people who support you. People who want you to win. People who will celebrate your victories and mourn your losses with you. Those are the friends you will make for a lifetime.
- Monitor your own behavior. It is easy to fall into the same trap as the others. To deride those with different goals. But that is the path to greater insecurity. Instead, remember the language of Henry V: The gentlest gamester is the soonest winner.
Oh, and by the way. Is this column about being a law student, or is it about being a law professor? So difficult to tell.
LawProfBlawg is an anonymous professor at a top 100 law school. You can see more of his musings here. He is way funnier on social media, he claims. Please follow him on Twitter (@lawprofblawg) or Facebook. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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