Pessimism in law

As a lawyer, I perpetually exercise thought and action in accordance with the dictates of my legal training. I examine things before me with a fine-toothed comb, I look for the flaws or errors, and I anticipate the worst-case scenario. The legal profession deems such an approach to be doing one’s due diligence. Those unfamiliar with the inner workings of law, however, see taking said approach as being overly pessimistic.

Research shows that law is the only professional strand in which pessimists outperform optimists. Being pessimistic in law can thus be virtuous in that it allows you to promptly anticipate and grasp problems or issues that may arise in a given task. From a professional point of view, therefore, being a pessimist in law can be a good thing. Problems arise, however, when such a mindset spills over into your personal life. I consistently have problems with this – the production and release of this book project being the perfect example of my oft-ineptitude.

Despite having published a book – one of my lifelong goals – I have, for the past few months, felt little to no pride or joy in that achievement. I have instead been overwhelmed by stress surrounding the book launch, disenchantment over the longevity of the project from inception to the present, and a failure to see it as a worthwhile accomplishment. The excitement that my friends and family express for the the project only served to increase my frustration about this.

Thankfully, I am aware of this overly and perhaps unnecessarily pessimistic view I have taken, and know the steps needed to address it. Incredibly, this is something that I’ve only recently come around to with regards to the book…because it dawned on me that, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t ever feel satisfied with the final product.

Over time, I have learned to be okay with not always being the best at everything I do. If this book fails (in whatever capacity that might be), I know that it shouldn’t be a reflection on me as a person. I have interests and activities outside of this book project including sports, cooking, and politics. I don’t need to rely solely on the book for stimulation or validation in my day-to-day existence. I have a number of helpful, inspirational mentors and friends whom I can always call on for guidance, as well as my family. I am increasingly comfortable in asking these people for help, as I no longer feel as though it is incumbent upon me to go it alone.

If you are a law student or young lawyer who is susceptible to displaying pessimistic tendencies in the study or practice of law, be mindful and aware of this. Such traits are, generally speaking, best exercised within the confines of your vocation; giving them room to breathe in your personal life can potentially give you grief. But if you take certain steps – along the lines of what I do – there is no reason why this should ever be a lasting issue for you.

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Article by: Jerome