To nobody’s surprise, there are a variety of emotions that come with attending law school. Some of these emotions are positive, while others are negative. Most of the time, you hear about the emotions that are negative. Perhaps this is because people are inherently negative. Often times we fail to acknowledge the great benefits that come from law school. Both kinds of emotions serve a specific purpose. Additionally, both kinds of emotions are unavoidable while attending law school. As such, the purpose of this article is to outline those emotions and how they may be utilized to encourage law school success.
Many students start law school feeling like they are an imposter. Surrounded by those who know much more or are more experienced. For many, this feeling never passes throughout law school and continues into their career. The impostor syndrome can be healthy if used to drive students towards greater heights. Additionally, the feeling of being an impostor can diminish as students gain confidence.
A natural consequence of simply gaining more knowledge is greater confidence. Having a sense of confidence builds trust in others. More importantly, having a sense of confidence builds trust in your ability. As such, this trust in your ability through hard work leads to better performance in school.
So, how do you gain confidence? Hard work. Reading, studying, and practicing the material grows the knowledge necessary to feel comfortable. As the confidence grows, so will your performance.
Confidence and satisfaction seem to be correlated. For instance, confidence leads to greater performance which leads to satisfaction in that performance. Satisfaction is a rewarding feeling that derives from achieving success. Additionally, satisfaction is a feeling that can be utilized as a motivation to obtain future success.
For instance, when I obtain a good grade, I feel satisfied that hard work has paid off. As a result, I want to work harder to maintain that feeling of satisfaction.
There is a difference between satisfaction and pride. Pride can be both negative and positive. Negative pride leads to a feeling of self-importance. In other words, negative pride works to inflate a big-head that no-one wants to associate with. However, it still is important to feel accomplished and proud of your achievements. Give proper credit where credit is due and you will not go astray.
In summary, the feeling of satisfaction comes as a reward for hard work and may be used as a motivation for continued hard work.
Some of the best moments I have felt in law school have come right after finishing a large project. For instance, when I turned in a legal brief, the feeling of relief was extremely enjoyable. For me, this relief comes in the form of giddiness, almost to the point of annoyance (for others); endless smiles; and excessive rambling about how good I feel.
So far, this feeling has come only a few times since starting law school. The feeling arises every time I have turned in a large paper (only 4 since last fall), after midterms, after taking finals, and after receiving good grades.
Although guilt is not the first negative emotion people think of when asked what is hard about law school, I believe it can be one of the most detrimental.
I feel guilty when I fail to read a case before class (a rarity for me, but it does happen), or when I have obtained a poorer grade (accounting the grade for a lack of hard work). Currently, my feeling of guilt has come from falling behind in keeping up with outlines. Constantly, I am reminding myself to work on the outlines, or read a case I missed before, but feel guilty when I fail to do so.
Guilt can also arise from engaging in activities that are not inherently guilt worthy. For instance, sometimes I am so exhausted that I just want to relax and watch TV or YouTube clips. The guilt comes when I feel like other activities (such as updating outlines) should take priority but are failing to do so.
So, how do you overcome guilt? There are two methods that come to mind. First, avoid situations that make you guilty (e.g. focusing on outlines before spending times elsewhere). Second, engaging in healthy activities that contribute to a positive lifestyle (e.g. proper sleep, exercise, positive relaxation).
By the time the end of the day hits, sometimes I am so exhausted I simply go home and sleep. Law school lifestyle right now automatically trends towards an exhausted life. For instance, my daily schedule usually follows this pattern:
- Wake up at 4 am to work
- Get ready between 6 and 7 am
- Start work at the library from 7:30 am until I feel comfortable with what I have left to finish. Usually I leave the library between 4 and 5 pm
- Assuming I get home around 5 pm, my evening usually comprises of the following activities:
- Hopefully exercise
- Clean the apartment
- Relax with my wife
- Head to bed between 9:30 and 10:30 pm
There have been several times throughout the past two semesters where both my wife and I are so tired, we fall asleep to take a nap at 7 pm and sleep until the next morning.
All this to say that exhaustion can have a negative impact on your performance, motivation, and desire to engage in healthy activities.
How to combat exhaustion? Make sleep a priority, even if it has an impact on other things you can complete. Additionally, take a day completely free from school (Sunday for me). Finally, take one day a week to sleep in a bit. These three principles will give you the proper energy to stay motivated.
Finally, a direct result of law school is stress. Stress can be both positive and negative, depending on how you treat it. Stress comes from deadlines, exams, a busy schedule, and a desire to perform well in those activities. Failure to manage stress well leads to feelings of guilt.
So, how to manage your stress? Once again, engage in healthy activities such as sleep and exercise. Additionally, hard work and meeting deadlines will help mitigate stressful emotions.
Focusing on your Purpose
As a religious individual, I believe we all have a purpose in this life. God has given us the ability to use our strengths and overcome our weaknesses so we can be tools in blessing the lives of others. Additionally, all of our triumphs come from God. All of my success, I attribute to his help and influence on my life. My relationship with God ultimately helps me focus on the positive emotions and overcome the negative emotions.