Through conversations with many of my colleagues at conferences – I hear a common thread (other than their passion for their work). I hear it over and over and it secretly confirms issues I’m struggling with as well.
The conversation goes something like this – Is our work good enough? Are we doing enough? Are we doing as much as others? I hear it from newer librarians and experienced presenters as well. I hear it on Twitter in Twitter chats, but more often in quiet face-to-face conversations at conferences. Social media exacerbates this feeling that we aren’t “doing enough,” or as creative as someone else, or as accomplished as someone else
I often recite my favorite quote – “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Despite knowing and believing that, I’m not immune from falling prey to that feeling that I’m failing because I’m not doing more. It can be insidious when you are in public forums like FB groups and Twitter chats. The old “imposter syndrome” raises its ugly head – what if people find out I haven’t had a Maker event this year, or I haven’t genrefied my library? It crops up when I’m having a challenging personal year, and distracted from my work by life events, or struggling with new administrators. It even crops up when I know that my campus is different, that our students have their own needs, and that what I’m doing is suitable for my own situations. And too often, we are ashamed to admit our so-called failures, admit we aren’t having a good year, admit we cannot “do it all” because of #life, or allow ourselves to #notbeokay at times. (I so much appreciate our current principal to treats us like we are “human first.”) .
These expectations aren’t foisted on us by anyone or voiced by anyone else. They aren’t mentioned by our own teachers or by our principals. They are that little gremlin that tell us we aren’t good enough. (After all, a lot of educators are high achievers – who like our high achieving students are often plagued by these thoughts).
A colleague I respect and admire, who has so generously shared their innovative work and inspired librarians all over the country, including librarians on my own team, expressed recent appreciation when I told them how much my own library team appreciates their blog posts and their sharing. Their first response was that they had been letting their writing slide a little and that this was encouragement. I couldn’t really believe they didn’t realize what an impact their work has had on other librarians.
It struck me that in addition to this “not good enough” gremlin, there is the gremlin that also prevents us from really hearing/believing the praise and appreciation that others might share with us. But it also strikes me that sometimes on social media, we don’t get(or give) the sort of long term recognition and thanks to someone who inspired us. Do we ever go back months later and tell someone that something they shared made a difference to us?
What can we do to mindfully overcome these often self inflicted challenges?
- Try not to compare. Everyone has a unique voice, unique contribution, and unique set of skills they bring to the table, and they are all needed.
- Repeat to yourself: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” We are really in this to “share” and give back to the profession to the benefit of our students – whether you are an “edustar” or a new to the field” librarian who is trying to get out there and share their work and learn.
- Give thanks to others. Let them know how you learned from them. Share a project that they inspired months ago. Let them know how their work impacted you. Take time to write them a note, highlight them on Twitter, or share something on your blog. Everyone needs their bucket filled sometimes.
- Be more transparent. Share your worries, your fears, your bad days, your failed ideas, your self-doubts. Shine the light of day on them.
- Don’t judge and don’t worry about being judged. We cannot control what other people think, but hopefully we can control what we think, and how we approach things.
- Encourage your colleagues – whether you are experienced or new, there are always issues in our field that are perennial, that we struggle with, and that we would appreciate feedback on.
- Deepen your conversations, ask more questions, offer suggestions – rather than a quick RT of a question or project. Engage with others – think depth, not breadth.
- Be kinder to yourself. As we teach more and more SEL skills to our students, are we applying them to ourselves? How can you practice self – kindness? Find a book, start a book study, or a find group of colleagues you can share with. (I could share a long list, but books like Brene Brown’s or Caitlin Krauss’ Mindful by Design come to mind. )
- Understand that it takes courage to share anything and to try ANYTHING. Give yourself a pat on the back. Write yourself a positive postcard and mail it to yourself in the future. Thank yourself for your own courage.
- When you receive thanks or appreciation, take the time to treasure it. In the flood of RT or Twitter chats, stop and take a moment to breathe in that appreciation. Let it fuel you. Appreciate it.
I’ve seen colleagues I admire share various struggles publicly. Maybe you know who you are, and maybe you are unaware that you’ve inspired me. They have shown me that our struggles are also opportunities to inspire someone else. And when we speak of ourselves as a part of a community of learners, we really should mean Learners. For learners, expertise isn’t the thing — the thing is the willingness to learn and a community to learn in.
And because it is Thanksgiving, I want to thank a thousand of you who have shared, cared, questioned, struggled, laughed, and been part of my far flung learning community. If I could name each of you, I would. I’m planning to be more mindful about sharing your work, thank you, and asking questions so I can learn more. I invite you to do that too.