Marcus's Story

I was certain my life would change if I just followed certain steps. Every issue I had faced or would face would be resolved. In my mind, the steps were simple: maintain a high GPA in college, perform well on the US entrance exam to law school, get admitted into one of the top US law schools, and begin to reap the benefits of a career in Big Law. For me, these were the steps to success, from rags to riches as they say. The first three steps came easy for me, but the last step never came. I experienced deep feelings of inadequacy. 

At my law school, the question was not whether you were going to a big law firm paying high, market salaries. Rather, the question was which big law firm you were going to. I had convinced myself that I could finally show my family how much they meant to me if I just got that offer from a prestigious firm; the offer that would allow me to make more in one summer than my mom would in an entire year. But, it never came. My classmates were getting those offers but not me.

The questions came. What did I do wrong? Were my grades that bad? Was my personality that bad? How silly was I to think that I deserved anything more than poverty and misery? 

Blame followed the questions. It is because of my race. It is because of my faith. It is because of politics. The elite stood guard before the doors of the promised land, and I felt like I was not in the “in” group and could never be in the “in” group. I blamed myself and everything about myself. I sunk deeper and deeper into despair. 

The worst part was that on the good days, on the days where I had the courage to look back and entertain being proud of what I had accomplished, I quickly admonished myself for daring to think I deserved joy. Instead I would tell myself I failed and let my family down. I even started to think there was no sense in finishing law school. If the final step to my promised land couldn’t be completed, it was all for naught anyway.

But comparison is cancer. And, little by little, I allowed myself to think back and remember what I had accomplished. I allowed myself to stay in that state of joy for longer periods. I decided to choose contentment over misery. As my perspective changed, I realized the family I wanted to lift up and support looked up to me as if I had already surpassed anything they could have hoped for me. They were proud of me; they loved me. Their love and joy for me did not swing with my job prospects. 

I began to allow myself to hold on to the truth of the pure love of my family. That love broke every single feeling of inadequacy. It gave me the confidence to ignore any temptation to compare myself to others. I wasn’t inadequate at all. 

In addition to family, I dropped my pride and asked close friends to help me process through my feelings of inadequacy. Through friendship, I received wise advice. I realized my feelings of inadequacy really came from a false belief that I could do everything on my own, using my predefined steps to success. Over time, I learned that the opposite was true. When I began with contentment, then I had a foundation on which to build true success. 

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