By Paulina Bandy, Esq.
A little change in perspective is helpful when you feel beaten by negative bar results and find it necessary to gear up for another bar exam.
Here is a compilation of negative thoughts you might be telling yourself and some different perspectives, or points of view, to help overcome such thoughts.
Embarrassment – What will others think?
The first negative thought I would like to tackle with a little change of perspective is the feeling of embarrassment, and what others may think of your failing.
You set higher goals for yourself than most do. How many times have you heard strangers and acquaintances say, “I was going to go to law school”, or “I was thinking about going to law school”...well, they didn’t. You did. You have your freakin’ JD. What do you have to be embarrassed about? You failed the CALIFORNIA Bar Exam. It is the hardest exam in the world. Most people can not even sit for this exam. Don’t be embarrassed, you were beat by a tough adversary. It is the pursuit of this lofty goal that makes the victory so sweet. You did not fail a quiz...it is the CA Bar Exam. Give yourself a break.
Are you are concerned about how certain people will respond to the news of your results? Here is a street perspective I like to call, “Are They Paying Your Bills?” One time I overheard a person telling her friend about some hurtful things someone said about her. The friend’s response was “So, does she pay your bills?” At first this response seemed apathetic; however after taking pause, I thought, nice perspective. This person had elevated what this gossiper had said about her to her own detriment...and really what affect did it have on her? Keeping it in perspective, what they said held no truth, no bearing at all. The only power it had was what she gave it. So, I pass this street-wise advice on to you, don’t fear the judgment of your failing by nay-sayers, ask yourself...does it really matter what they think? Are they paying your bills?
Another perspective, mom taught me, consider the source. Res Ipsa Loquitur...this one speaks for itself. Are they jealous of your past success? Have they had much success? Likely their criticism is more about them, than it is about you.
The Feeling of Failure
Here’s some perspective for you, remind yourself of your past success. You are smart. You have achieved. You will achieve again.
Keep this divergence in your intellectual pursuits in perspective. You have a proven history of being smart. Any one that knows you, likely knows this. You graduated law school, this per se tells the general public you are smart. There is no need to feel inferior because you failed the CA Bar Exam. You will make the necessary adjustments and will do what you need to do.
Here’s another one, see yourself through someone else’s eyes. Think of the person you love and respect...spouse, mom, best friend. Now see yourself through their adoring eyes. They know you well. Do they think you are a failure? People that know you and care about you, know you are a success.
Another point of view, this is one exam. It is not who you are. It does not take away all the good you have done, nor will do in the future. It does not define who you are as a person, nor does it define your intellect. Take some time to hang out with people that will remind you of this...your child, your mom, your spouse, a long-time friend. If you need to, ask them what you have to offer.
Yet another perspective, you still have laughter, hugs and joy. Seek out things you enjoy doing and places you like to be, at this time. There is more to you and your life than this exam. This will put the exam in perspective quickly.
Another point of view, attorneys are faced with making themselves competent through-out their careers. No shame in that. Consider this negative result as a novelty and you just need to make yourself competent in this area, which you will do by associating with someone competent or making yourself competent.
Another way to look at failing, you know some things worked and some didn't. Realize that you did some things correctly in your preparation and on the exam. What did you gain from this experience? What did you learn about yourself?
If your scores are getting closer, think of it as so are you.
Yet another perspective in this category, failing goes together with success. You’ve had the failure, go get your success.
Try not to get caught up in all the negativity of other repeaters and bar exam bashing. This perspective is not success oriented.
Instead, find and nurture your optimism. Optimism makes this process palatable. Although commiserating is helpful to a certain extent, dwelling on how impossible it is to pass this exam, and saturating yourself with the bitter ramblings of negative people, does not do you any good. Look on the bright side, for both your mental and physical health. You want to dwell on success not failure. Although you have to deal with the negativity of not passing, keep a successful perspective.
It is natural to feel a little sorry for yourself at first; however, you don’t want to be detrimental to your progress. A different perspective, put your focus on someone else for a while. An amazing thing happens when you help others, it helps you heal. I highly recommend it, everyone benefits. You help others and you feel good doing it.
If you are not working full-time, you may want to consider volunteering. There are so many people that need what you have. At www.volunteermatch.org/ you can search your location and your interests to make a good volunteer match. There are all kinds of organizations in your area that need your advocacy skills, and other skills, you have to offer. You can pick who and where to help, as you regain your value and purpose.
Spending too many hours studying and building this exam up to be insurmountable is not good for you. By helping others, you can escape, do some good, then come back to your studies feeling good about yourself.
Failing will end your relationship
Going through an experience such as this, shows you a different side of people generally not exposed in day-to-day life. Some will demonstrate unwavering support. Some are threatened, or possibly expose their jealousy of your past accomplishments. Some have your back, and some don’t. Weed out the ones that don’t. Notice the ones that do.
I am Poor
Gain a monk’s perspective.
Generally having money is easier than not having money. However there are notable, profound benefits to derive from economically challenged times.
You learn truly what is important to you. You also learn what quality of person you are. Focus on the fundamentals that make you happy. Focus on the qualities that you have learned about yourself. Feeling blessed when in challenging times is a peaceful monk-like experience. There really is something freeing about getting rid of worldly goods and focusing on what is important.
After investing so much money in bar exams, hotels, and bar exam preparation it is easy to feel poor. Consider that this is a temporary situation. You have had money before. You will have money again. You are choosing to make sacrifices to achieve your goal. Although you would prefer less sacrifice, it is your choice to continue.
I don’t want to take this exam again, however I want to be an attorney
Remind yourself why you are going to be a great attorney. Write yourself a list of why you should be an attorney. Why the world needs your special skill set. Use your persuasive writing skills, to convince yourself. Would you be a dynamo in the courtroom? Will you bring a sensitivity that will endear clients and juries? Can you make a difference using your writing skills? Clients could use your tenacity. Maybe it is your integrity and ethics that will be appreciated by the public.
I hated law school, I hated studying for the bar, my life is on hold, and I’m not too thrilled with attorneys now
Sometimes, a candidate’s perspective after failing the bar exam should be, “good, now I can go do what I love to do”. Sometimes, Repeaters that are use to being successful have difficulty cutting their losses and moving on to what they were meant to do. If this process is torture, maybe it is a bad match.
Often, I ask my candidates to suppress parts of their personalities in order to conform to bar exam standards. Leave your sense of fun, charisma, originality, and spontaneity at the door. The bar exam is no place for these characteristics. However, I would not discourage these candidates from pursuing their dreams of being an attorney. After they pass the exam, they implement these wonderful characteristics into their practice. After all, we can always use more charisma in the courtroom.
On the other hand, the candidates I want to provide a different perspective, are the ones pursuing a dream that is a living nightmare. Such as, the creative, impulsive, expressive artist that asking to study for so many hours is like shadowing a flower. Although I could incorporate these characteristics into his bar exam preparation to ease the pain of studying some, wouldn’t it be more humane to stop him from wasting his time and money? Wouldn't it be kinder to encourage him go back to what he was successful doing? If you are a psychedelic square peg trying to fit into a pin-striped round hole, one perspective is... yeah you failed the exam, now you can stop tormenting yourself and get back to what you were meant to do. Give yourself permission to be happy and productive.
I wanted to pass now
Good things actually do come to those who wait. The path may not be as direct as you would have planned, but there always seems to be a path. A rewarding career is just waiting for you.
Another perspective, this experience will make you a better person. It will make you more appreciative, more receptive and generous. It will make you a deeper person. It will provide understanding and sensitivity that will balance well with your intellect... a winning combination.
In conclusion, try to provide a healing perspective for yourself. Hopefully this article will springboard good thoughts. Keep a positive attitude. Be optimistic, and good to yourself. This will make it easier to continue.
Keep your sights on your goal.
Disclaimer: This article is written from my viewpoint as an expert in bar exam preparation for Repeaters. I am not a psychologist and my opinions should not replace needed psychological advice or counseling.
Copyright © 2009-2013 The Legal Education Annex - All Rights Reserved