There have been several posts on self-care in the past two months, as Kerri wrote about the separation of work and school and recognizing secondary traumatic stress; Katelyn started a conversation about burnout in library school; and Alyssa wrote about finding community. It is clear MLIS students have many projects and responsibilities that accumulate to be overwhelming. While there are things students and professionals can do on institutional levels to mitigate burnout, people still have to navigate this reality right now and need solutions for the stress, anxiety, and other emotions that are products of the demands of library school and work.
One thing I have found helpful is embracing being good enough, both in school and my personal life. Being good enough means showing up without shame for the flaws in my work and self. This is something I have fought to do as someone who deals with anxiety. Striving for perfectionism leads to procrastination, overthinking, and crippling self-doubt. Thanks to anti-anxiety medication, reflection, and some work, I have gotten better at getting things done and turning them in, even if I know I could have done better.
Not every assignment needs to be excellent, nor should they be. There is just not enough time or energy for everything to be done perfectly (does such a thing even exist?) or even excellently. There is no need to earn straight A’s in graduate school as employers don’t care as long as you finished your degree. Further, agonizing over every sentence in an assignment is not healthy and takes up time that can be used working on other things, or sleeping. For school work specifically, this looks like not doing every reading, reading only the chapters most relevant or interesting to you, not spending hours and hours on a weekly assignment, or not fine-tuning every sentence of a paper.
The idea of good enough also applies to experiential learning and otherwise getting outside of your comfort zone in graduate school. As someone who has little experience with taking the initiative or starting projects in a professional setting, directed fieldwork can be terrifying. I spend much time feeling like I did a terrible job, don’t belong, and have to figure things out entirely on my own. If I waited until I wouldn’t feel these things, I would do very little. Instead, I have to show up and trust what I can do is at least decent and helpful. I know I will learn along the way, and that doing something is better than nothing, all the while being open to critique and suggestions for improvement. There is no other way to learn the skills needed to be successful in the workplace, and your employer, mentor, or supervisor don’t expect you to be an expert in everything.
Showing up good enough is also needed so you can do certain projects or assignments excellently, as one of my classmates pointed out to me. We have all had a class where we put in minimal effort to meet some requirement in order to focus more on classes or more relevant to what we want to do. It is impossible to do excellently in all our classes and commitments all the time, and this allows us to pick and choose what we do what to put more effort and energy into.
Being good enough also applies to your personal life. This can look like asking for help from family, showing up to friends for short coffee dates, asking them to travel further to meet up with you (at least for friends who are not also in grad school), showing up a little tired (if you want – sleep is important!), showing up a little grumpy, or saying no to expensive concerts or bars. Doing any or all of this doesn’t mean you are a bad friend or spouse, only that you are human and can’t do everything perfectly.
Where have you been brave enough to show up good enough in school or your personal life? Where do you want to be good enough, and where do you want to be excellent? What challenges do you face in being good enough?
Hanna Roseen is a second year residential MLIS student at the University of Washington with an interest in public, academic, and school librarianship, and archives. You can check out her latest project, a sexuality education bookstagram, here.