I cannot squat 220 pounds.
220 pounds is 100 kilograms, which is the unit the weights I train with are in. I want desperately to be able to squat 100 kilograms.
Although I cannot squat 100 kilograms, I love trying and I spend about 9 hours a week in the pursuit. I love everything about barbell training. Nothing feels as good as completing a heavy set of squats or as triumphant as pushing a barbell overhead. I feel accomplished and purposeful and on top of all that, there is a tremendous sense of community in my gym and I have made some great friends.
Lifting is really hard work and personal bests can be really hard to come by. So why was I so upset after squatting a personal best in competition last year?
Because I compared myself to the other lifters in the competition. That’s right. I let myself be robbed of the joy of achieving something extremely elusive because a bunch of women I barely know lifted more than I did.
Unfortunately, this is something us humans (and law students and lawyers) have the tendency to do. And we need to stop.
I see it everywhere. Every year in January, I’ll talk to an accomplished, amazing 3L who has done extremely cool things in law school and they will be defeated because the organization they really want to work for that doesn’t even start hiring until March hasn’t offered them a job yet. When I try to hone in on why they feel so defeated, it almost always come down to a perception that everyone else in their class has a job (not true). To some, they feel like every law student in America has a job except for them. (Very much not true).
Similarly, I will talk to a passionate, engaged 2L who is preparing for a summer doing exactly what they came to law school to do and yet they feel down because their summer job isn’t high paying and somehow as prestigious as their classmates’ jobs. The 2L always knows and always knew even before law school that their chosen job path pays less than other legal jobs and yet somehow, the knowledge that others around them have higher paying jobs that they don’t want causes distress.
Now, comparing my lifting to others’ lifting is destructive but at least it makes sense why I would do it. Whereas, this mindset is the equivalent of if I were upset about the weight I squatted because a friend of mine ran a really fast mile.
It doesn’t stop with job searching. When I was in law school, students endlessly compared themselves to others with respect to moot court, journals, who got what leadership position in a student organization, who had the best cold call in Professor so and so’s class, and even who on the softball team had the best game.
It doesn’t stop with law school either. I bumped into a friend recently who is killing it as a litigator at her firm and yet all she could talk about was another friend of ours who made Partner at a different firm before her. (My friend’s firm has a policy of not promoting anyone to partner unless they have been at the firm for 9 years so she wasn’t even eligible).
When does it stop? Can’t we ever just focus inward and be grateful for the things that we do have? If you didn’t win moot court but you had the best argument of your life, shouldn’t you focus on that incredible achievement? If you came to law school to be a prosecutor and you have a job offer from a prosecutor’s office where you will be getting tons of trial experience, focus on that experience. You are pursuing your dreams and that’s amazing! What anyone else is doing is entirely irrelevant.
Why does it always have to be about what others have, especially when we tend to focus only on those who have more?
When I look around me at lifting meets and instagram, it often feels like every other woman in the world can squat 100 kilograms. There exists an endless sea of lifters with whom I could infinitely compare myself.
I am committing to not doing this anymore. I derive such intrinsic joy out of lifting, even on a bad training day. My enjoyment of that activity has nothing to do with how good other people are at lifting unless I let it. I want to focus on my own progress, my own lifts, and on ensuring that I am doing everything possible that I need to do to be the best lifter I can be. I am sure that in doing this, I will not only enjoy lifting more but I will one day squat that elusive 100kg.