Six months to conquer perfectionism

For our next blog for 2019, we hear from Aimee Robinson, former MIDPA Committee Member and fellow MIDP student, and her insights on the heart-wrenching experience of completing an assignment and handing all of one’s hard work with a simple click of ‘submit.’ Does the perfect assignment exist? Read more to find out! 

I have lived my life in six-month increments. In six months I have saved enough to travel (cheaply) for the following six months. In another six months I have completed an internship. In the first six months of 2018, I moved to Melbourne and completed my first semester of a Master of International Development Practice at Monash University. Six months after that, I completed my second semester. This was a huge accomplishment for me. I not only moved across the country with no connections, I also managed to make it to the end of the semester, submitting all my assignments in on time.

Reflecting on those two semesters, I can’t help but be proud and grateful for the opportunity to study at this level. As part of a unit I was allocated a mentor who challenged my pre-conceived ideas of development. In another unit a lecturer challenged me in such an effective way that my awareness and critical thinking stretched greatly. In both units I met people from all over the world and made friends and connections that helped reduce my isolation as a new arrival in Melbourne. I was provided with information, orientation sessions, support, guidance and so much more.

Photo Source: Haresfield School 2019

All positives aside though, this was a tough six months. My mind often felt like a trampoline, with new information pressing into my brain before rebounding out. The stress of assignments left me feeling exhausted from the minute I woke up. I wondered if my classmates found this semester as challenging and trying as I did? Did the tonne of new information stay easily in their minds? Did they cope with the stresses and pressures that deadlines bring? As the final assignments were submitted and assessed, I realised one particularly important thing I did well each semester; something that got me through in good stead. I let go of perfectionism.

I let the pressure of handing in the “perfect” assignment go. I let the fear of not handing in the “perfect” assignment go. Don’t mistake me, I worked really hard, put in the hours, tried to write the best I assignment I could. But once I had written it, sometimes re-written it, asked for help and edited it as best I could, I let it go. I submitted the assignment and went for a walk. This was really difficult because you’ve not just handed in a paper, you’ve handed in all the time, effort, preparation, reading, thinking and your personal writing flair over to another’s critical gaze. Pressing ‘submit’ often left me with somewhat of a vulnerability hangover; a feeling of dread about the potential grade and whether or not I should have edited it one last time. But we will never be perfect, and our assignments will never be perfect. We can write them to the best of our ability and get support from lecturers and learning skills advisors to grow our writing skills, but perfection is impossible. ‘Perfectionism is internalized oppression’ as Gloria Steinem says and I agree. It traps us in fear and stops us from submitting our best work. Letting go of perfectionism and handing in that imperfect assignment was the best lesson I learnt in this increment of time.