As a student of psychotherapy, I learned that shame is the first and deepest of emotional wounds that we suffer as children. As a student of law, I experienced precisely how deep this wound was. I just didn’t know it at the time.
Somewhere along the way, I equated my worth with my accomplishments. Whatever I failed to accomplish remained with me as constant, silent reminders of my inadequacy. Retrospect has afforded the opportunity to develop a language around these feelings. In those moments, I thought very little about their looming presence or their underlying significance. From my vantage point, everyone had those feelings and, more than that, needed them as motivation to succeed.
I think the education system, at least my experience of it, reinforced these beliefs and feelings. This was particularly true of law school. It was also my experience of the legal profession when I first began to practice. How much of what we value in ourselves as individuals stems from what we value in ourselves as lawyers? More importantly, how quickly and to what extent do we devalue ourselves when we fall below our professional expectations?
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. I will readily defer to Aristotle on this point, and I will continue to question how his proposition plays out in the context of my personal and professional life. As someone who quite often finds it necessary in the professional context to answer a question with a question, I sometimes wonder: might the questions matter more?
The lawyer in me will likely resist this notion, but the therapist in me is quick with a reminder:
This is not a test. This is an exercise in self-awareness.
Originally posted at www.susannegabriele.com