Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Problem with Comparison

Comparison is the thief of Joy. - President Theodore Roosevelt

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. - Pastor Steven Furtick

Unfortunately, now is the season of comparison.  Grades came out recently, and I hear 2 questions from many of my students.  The first question is, "am I still in law school?" For the vast majority of law students, the answer is yes.  The next question I hear is some version of how do I compared to everyone else.  The joy of passing or completing a semester of law school isn't most students' reaction.  The near immediate reaction is to start comparing to others.  The immediate comparison furthers the demoralizing effect law school has on many students.

Depression in law school is four times higher than society.  I believe one of the reasons is our natural tendency to compare ourselves to others.  Not only do people like to compare, society has furthered the comparison mindset.  Pastor Furtick's quote from above is specific to social media.  He is 100% correct.  One study indicates over 69% of adults use social media.  Social media is a constant comparison.  Individuals see friends' vacations, clothes, habits, food, etc. and start feeling bad about life.  The perception is the pictures and stories on facebook are the constant, and our own daily constant can't compare. 

Current students grew up on social media, so they are even more entrenched in comparisons.  Our job is to find a way to help students fight the immediate need to compare to others' grades.  When students come in, I always start with acknowledging students' feeling'.  Many are upset with grades, and feeling disappointed is understandable.  From there, I talk about what they accomplished.  I tell them not everyone can make it into law school, and not everyone graduates.  Making it through a semester is impressive.  Here are a few additional strategies for decreasing comparisons:

1.  Turn off social media as much as possible, but definitely during the week after grades are released.  Disappointment from grades can be compounded by comparing to others on facebook. 

2.  Write down why you came to law school.  Ask yourself, can you still complete your career goals?  The answer is most likely yes.  With a few exceptions, you can still accomplish your goals no matter what your grades were.  Many jobs are found through networking.

3.  Don't listen to others' stories.  Too many people talk about their "great" grades or how well they did.  Don't listen.  I hear more people talk about how well they did than is statistically probable.    

4.  Focus on what matters, which is this semester.  Last semester's grades are finished.  The only thing that can change are current and future semester grades.  Now is the time to focus on how to improve.  

Grade comparison is a thief of the joy of law school.  Intellectual attainment should be rigorous but fulfilling.  Constant comparison can ruin it.  Let's strive to help students stop comparing to each other.

(Steven Foster)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2020/01/the-problem-with-comparison.html

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