The Laundry List: Lesson 2

Editor's Note: This post was submitted to Ms. JD anonymously. For more information about ACOA, AA or NA, or if you or someone you know needs help, visit the links. The Laundry List refers to principles of the ACOA fellowship.

Lesson 2: We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.

I would rather get shot than have one of my friends get a paper cut. This is not a statement for shock value, it is simply true. I will throw myself under the bus before I will let someone else be mildly inconvenienced. Would you like to inappropriately delegate review of several thousand documents or be picked up at the airport at 1am when I have to be back at work at 8? Would you like me to babysit your cat even though I am terribly allergic?  I'm your woman and these are just samples from the last week (you should see what I can do in times of crisis or stress).  I seek your approval at all costs; I am unrelenting until I feel that I have exceeded your expectations, like an unending, one-woman customer service operation.

This poses a serious problem in the legal profession, especially for women. We are constantly endangered by bias in the industry, and it is doubly important that we act in unabashed self interest to survive. We need to stand up and stand out. More troubling is that others can smell our nature and many will pray on it.

And yet law is a natural choice for an ACOA.  We are driven, we are detail oriented, we are self critical. These qualities make us better students and attorneys. We enjoy being compulsive, thrive in chaotic and busy environments.

Par for our troubled course, we walk right into an industry that preys on our natural weaknesses. In turn, we feel that we are thriving, that we are a perfect fit. In reality, we are especially willing cogs in a machine that is meant to refine and eliminate. We are left with nothing more (and usually less) than those who stand up for themselves, who draw rational boundaries and circumscribe limits of sacrifice.

So what do we do? We can change the system. This ties with the mission of organizations like Ms. JD, and the ethos of countless attorneys working to improve conditions in the profession in every practice area and environment. But it has to start with us. To change our environment, we must first change ourselves: learn to say no, learn to articulate what we will and will not do, practice reflecting positively on our accomplishments. To respect the identity within and value the boundaries of our abilities while honoring our strengths.

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