The Ultimate Race: On Comparison & Law School

I have this terrible habit of reaching for my phone whenever I can’t be stuffed concentrating on a lecture or reading a whole case.

Whenever I’m listening to someone drone on about the principles of law or find out that a case is more than 5 paragraphs, I instinctively turn to Instagram and Facebook to save me from my boredom. To counter this habit, someone recommended a productivity app that plants a digital tree whenever I resist touching my phone for a specified period of time. So far, no trees have been planted.

The best thing about social media is I can watch the lives of people I admire and all the ways they’re making their mark on the world. The worst thing about social media is I can watch the lives of people I admire and all the ways they’re making their mark on the world.

Now that I’m close to the end of my degree, and we’re in a season where people are starting to buck up and gain some sort of legal experience, I can start to feel the familiar grip of anxiety. The pit in my stomach would grow every time I found out yet another person had scored a reputable job, achieved something significant, or secured a notable position. With each ‘good news’ that came my way, so did the thoughts that whispered, ‘you’re getting left behind.’

***

Comparison.

It’s this annoying buzz word that’s been circulating ever since social media dominated our screens. We’ve all been warned about its dangers, yet we continue to engage in it and measure ourselves against those who we believe are ‘better’ than us. I don’t think I ever fully understood the intricacies or dangers of comparison until law school.

Like weeds, comparison begins its lifespan so small and seemingly harmless that we’re initially dismissive of its existence. It starts off with a tiny twinge when you hear someone else got a better mark than you, and a throbbing ache when someone got the position you were gunning for. Its birthed from a small question, ‘why didn’t I get that opportunity?’ and manifests into ‘why aren’t I good enough?’

Then more questions start to fire off:

Am I going to be successful?

Is there a purpose for me here?

Is everything that I’ve been working towards for the last 5 years going to be worth it? 

You become wholeheartedly convinced that you’re inadequate and you’ll never measure up. You resolve to do whatever you can to close the gap between you and this idea of ‘enough,’ only to find it’s a never-ending uphill battle.

Distrust and bitterness grow rampant when we continue to water the seeds of comparison. Left unchecked, these weeds can entangle us in a never-ending cycle of wondering why other people have it better and easier than us. It can choke the life out of the dreams we’ve planted for ourselves and make us question if it’s even worth tending to our garden if someone else’s is just going to look better. It can cause us to feel low-key resentful towards others and forever keep us in competition mode. It can be the driving force that compels us to keep striving to prove we’re worthy- only to leave us burnt out in the end.

Nobody wins when we engage in this battle of comparing ourselves to others.  Whether you’ve waged full-blown warfare against someone, or just made snarky digs at them in your mind, nobody is crowned the victor.

My honest belief for all of us experiencing these questions is that there is a purpose for you here. The work you do matters. And the thing you’re working for will pay off for you in the end. Even if someone else gets what you want first, it doesn’t detract from the fact that you will get to claim opportunities of your very own. There’s so much influence and impact running through your veins that everything you touch is going to have purpose.

But I know this is real hard to believe when we’re consumed by the mentality that Law School is this Ultimate Race. You know, the race where there’s only one prize for all of us, and we have to strap on our weapons and battle each other Hunger Games Style until we win. We end up tearing our eyes away from our goals and spend all our energy twisting and turning our necks to see who’s gaining momentum on us and wondering why someone else is faster, better or smarter than us.

I don’t claim to be above this. I get consumed by this mentality too every time I see someone else’s job update on LinkedIn or catch a whisper of someone else’s GPA. All I know is that time gets wasted when we worry about who’s ahead of us. Time gets wasted when we are constantly turning our heads to see who our competition is or analysing all the ways why someone else got the prize.  

Last year, someone I looked up to, purely because of the fact she seemed to have her future career planned and figured out, sent me a flurry of messages to vent about the fact that she was doing everything ‘right’ and only getting minimal returns. Other people were coming up from behind and getting the opportunities she’d worked for, and anxiety was whispering that maybe this meant that she wasn’t cut out to be a lawyer.

Turns out, while she had been measuring herself against others, I was also comparing myself to her.

I think this happens more than we realise. The irony is that, while you’re comparing yourself to another person, someone else is probably wondering why they aren’t more like you.

And how heartbreaking would it be if you never discovered your full potential because you were too busy trying to imitate someone else.

So let me leave you with this, dear reader.

There is a seat for you at the table.

There is enough blessings and abundance in this world for both you and someone else to achieve the things you want.

Someone else’s success doesn’t take away the fact that there is so much purpose and impact running through your veins.

No amount of striving will change the fact that you’re already enough.

“Take yourself out of the race,” I told my friend at the end of the call. “You’re in a league of your own.”

Don’t look side to side for your inspiration. Don’t turn around to see who’s coming up behind you/ Just look straight ahead because that’s where you’re going.

Ahead.

By Ash Chow

Share your story:

Your story is important and your experiences are valuable. If you have a story about your time in law school that you believe will help others, we’d love to hear it!

Beating the First-Year Blues

Everyone feels down and out sometimes.

This is just a natural part of life, and first year law students are no exception to this. Whether it be in your first few weeks of classes, halfway through the semester or even as you are leaving to go on Christmas break, pretty much all first years will at some point question what they are doing, why they are doing it, and who they are doing it for.

Chances are, you’re reading this and thinking ‘yeah this is me right now!’ Well you’re definitely not alone and lucky for you we’re here to help you out! Here are some tried and tested ideas that may prove helpful in overcoming this first-year slump. Give them a go!


Change it up

From experience, change really is as good as a holiday. If you’re feeling like you’re just going through the same motions every day, chances are you need to spice things up in your life! Break your routine and give a new sport a try, get in touch with a Monash club or try meeting new people. There’s plenty to do if you go looking!

Set yourself a challenge

One of the best ways to beat the first-year blues is to concentrate on a specific and realistic goal. Not only will you feel accomplished when its achieved, but you can also reward yourself! An example of a realistic goal is trying to do all of the readings for the week. A bad goal however, would be trying to get 100% on your assignment.

See a careers adviser

If you’re really feeling off track and questioning if law really is the right course for you, don’t hesitate to drop in and visit Career Connect at Monash. They provide free course and career advise which can be really handy to point you in the right direction.

Think about your long-term goals

Sometimes when you’re feeling down, the best thing to do is to think about the future. We all go through hard times but sometimes you just have to remember the incredibly cliché saying ‘there’s no sunshine without the rain’. Try to think about how your law degree is going to benefit you in the future and all of the opportunities it provides, rather than how much study you are drowning in study – remember this is only temporary.

Talk to someone

Often we feel much better after we have vented all of our worries and concerns to somebody. A good rant may just be what you need. Find somebody you trust, whether that be a family member, a good friend or somebody independent of your personal life such as a counsellor. Sit down and talk with them about how you are feeling. You might not have figured things out by the end of it, but they may offer you the direction or reassurance you need.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you are really struggling to stay afloat, or you feel as though your mental health is collapsing, please please please don’t be afraid to ask for help! Monash has plenty of support practices in place to help you get through this. Whether it be seeking special consideration for your upcoming assignment, or going to visit Monash counselling services, these services are all there for you to utilise free of charge and it is all very accessible.

Hopefully these tips have provided you with some idea of what you can do to smash these first-year blues out of the park! Below we have a list of valuable resources and contacts that may prove helpful in moving forward.

 

Resources

Monash Careers Connect

For all things careers, Careers Connect is your way to go!

Either pop in to see them on the bottom floor of Campus Centre or call 9905 3151

Monash University Counselling Services

Open 8am-5pm every weekday

Drop in at 21 Chancellors Walk, Campus Centre (Clayton Campus) or call 9905 3020 to book in a free appointment.

Headspace

If you would like to chat to somebody outside of uni grounds headspace is a great resource designed specifically for youths struggling with mental health.

The best way to get in touch is by calling 1800 650 890

Written by Claudia Opie