A couple of days ago I came across a post on Instagram. The person who shared this post is a lawyer and yogi. Laura’s IG handle is @manipurabylaura, in case you want to check it out.
Here is what Laura posted:
“You’ll never believe what I’m about to admit 👀
I regained my trust in myself with yoga after several years in law school where I was made to feel stupid 🧠❌
For years I struggled with my confidence and self-esteem and I didn’t trust myself 🙇♀️
That’s why as a yoga teacher, trusting yourself and listening to your body is SO important to me 🌈✨
Now, this is not an overnight success story, but it is true – and it can be for you too”@manipurabylaura
I read the post and stepped away from it. I returned to the post, re-read it, and stepped away again. I’ve been processing what Laura wrote and here are my reflections.
- Yes to yoga being a beautiful teacher in trust, listening, and slowing down.
- Yes to changes not happening overnight.
- But law school making you feel stupid? I’m not sure about this one.
I begin by saying that I am not minimizing Laura’s experiences. Not in the slightest. I honor what she wrote and wholeheartedly believe this was her experience. And, for what it’s worth, I’m proud of all the work she has done to build her confidence, self-esteem, and trust in her own journey. Kudos! (Note: I don’t know Laura other than what she posts on IG, so my analysis is based purely on that.)
The sentence that gave me pause was the one about law school making people feel stupid. I went to law school and so I instantly started scanning through my experiences and what I thought and felt during that three-year period. Was law school challenging? OMG yes. Did I learn things I had never even heard of before? Absolutely. Was I surrounded by very intelligent people? Yup! Did law school make me feel stupid? No.
Did I feel stupid in law school? Yes.
And, did I struggle with my own confidence and self-esteem in law school? 100% yes.
I cannot read Laura’s statement on feeling stupid without directly connecting it to the next one on struggling with confidence and self-esteem. I can personally relate to not feeling confident and lacking self-esteem during law school (and beyond!). I bet I felt this way on a daily basis.
I have struggled with my own self-confidence and self-esteem my whole life. Whenever I tell people this, they usually look at me sideways. For whatever reason, people believe me to be quite confident and full of a healthy dose of self-esteem. I think I’ve just gotten good at portraying that side of me when needed. But the honest, vulnerable truth is that I struggle, daily, with my confidence. It might just be the thing I am meant to work through during this life.
I have felt “stupid” many times. And as I’ve processed Laura’s words, I see a direct relationship between feeling “stupid” and a lack of self-esteem/confidence. I have felt stupid because I did not trust myself enough to believe that I could say “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand” or “Could you explain that a different way” and be ok at the end. Through this lens, I can absolutely see why an environment like law school (or a job, or another academic endeavor, or anything in life, really) has the ability to make us feel “stupid”. It is something I struggled with a lot over the years, and as a young law student and young attorney, I never wanted to look as though I did not know what I was doing (even though now I know I couldn’t have known much at these points in my journey). I understand the pressure this type of situation can breed.
I refuse to say that one cannot be made to feel stupid without one’s consent. Perhaps if I had more confidence and self-esteem I could make such a bold statement. However, sometimes we are made to feel certain things (consciously or not) and it can hurt. Such an experience can also be an incredible teacher when we have enough awareness to see the gift in the situation. And I truly believe that the tools/skills/techniques found in yoga and meditation help us build this type of awareness.
It has been quite a while since I sat in a lecture hall for a Constitutional Law class, but being a law student is an experience I will never forget. Law school was an incredibly rigorous experience and one that challenged me every single day. I know that, just like Laura, I felt “stupid” many times throughout my legal career. And because of Laura’s post, I understand clearly now (15+ years later) that the reason why I felt that way was not because I was stupid but because I did not feel confident in my own voice, my own intuition, and my own sense of self.
But all that is changing. And has been changing little by little for many, many years. Like Laura, yoga and meditation came into my life to show me trust, compassion, grace, flexibility, and dare I say it, (more) confidence and self-esteem. I personally believe I have more work to do. In fact, I don’t think the work ever ends (lol). But, as I sit here, reflecting on my 24-year-old-law-student-self, I see clearly that she was never stupid; she was a strong, brave, ambitious person learning who she was and who she wanted to become. And in many ways, I have law school to thank for this crazy-beautiful ride.