As folks around the country continue to get disappointing bar exam news, many are devastated, frustrated, or just not sure how to move on. Picking yourself up after a failure is a challenge. Deciding whether to take the next exam offered is a challenge. And having to figure out what went wrong can look like an even bigger challenge.
One thing that many students don’t consider is that anxiety or fear of failure could have been standing in the way of their bar exam success in the past or may be standing in their way for the future.
These feelings can prevent you from staying focused while you study, from getting a good night’s sleep, or from being focused on exam day. It can lead you to make some extreme decisions such as walking out of the exam before it is finished or practicing other, perhaps less dramatic, self-sabotaging behavior.
Sometimes I wish I had training to help students cope with these issues. My students and I do talk about these problems as they come up and, at times, I can recommend certain ways to help cope — often by taking better care of themselves, taking breaks, getting more sleep, or trying stress-relieving techniques like meditation or even yoga.
But more and more often I am recommending that students seek out professional help in this area. The longer I work with students, the more I am seeing fear and anxiety hold them back from success. The fears are almost like a wall standing in their way. Without learning how to move past that wall, it is difficult to continue to move forward. It doesn’t matter how many practice exams they do or MBE questions they complete, students may still feel that something is standing in the way of their success.
Now, in the legal profession, we aren’t great about asking for help. We think it is a sign of weakness and many of us shrug off therapy of all kinds as unnecessary and a waste of time.
But I would like to challenge this assumption. If you are struggling, the only foolish response is not to seek out any help at all. Only you need know that you are reaching out for help. And if doing so leads to being the best bar exam taker you can be, is there any reason not to seek out help?
The bar exam is hard enough without letting worry, fear, and anxiety play into it. Please, if you are really struggling, I encourage you to ask for help. It may play a critical role in getting passing results on the next exam day.
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