Since the beginning of my schooling, I have had a problem with “confidence in my work”. My problems with anxiety and perfectionism have plagued me for as long as I can remember- I would finish all my work weeks in advance, yet never feel like it was ready to be handed in. I have always felt that, when people say positive things about my writing, they’re simply trying to be nice- they could never actually think that my writing was okay. I’ve always preferred criticism to compliments because they felt more real, they didn’t feel like comforting lies. One could call me a tad bit of a perfectionist.
I have a tendency to scrutinize my work at a level that I never would think about with other people. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve re-edited, re-worked, or re-written a piece of writing, it isn’t good enough. The voices in my head constantly tell me that I’m going to fail the assignment at hand. I hand an essay in thinking that my academic career, and therefore my life, is over. Yeah, I seem to have a knack for extreme thinking. Up until this point in my academic career, I have always felt less-than. I’ve always felt that my work is less-than. Interestingly enough, the most important thing I have learned so far in university is that my work probably isn’t good enough, but that’s okay.
Okay, okay, just hear me out: yes, of course it is important to complete work to standards that you are proud of. Of course it’s important to strive for the best and aim to achieve certain results. However, through my time in university up until now, I have found that the volume of work is high enough that it’s impossible to make everything perfect- so striving for it won’t help you. It’s unnecessary and actually doesn’t benefit you to re-work and re-work and re-work until your eyes and fingers are numb.
I’ve found this realization to be particularly important due to the nature of tasks asked of Arts students in university. I constantly have essays and critical responses to complete, and the only way to get it done is to accept that it’s not going to be perfect. If I constantly kept rewriting assignments to make them “good enough” by my standards, I probably wouldn’t end up handing anything in. Interestingly enough, that’s not exactly an acceptable or fulfilling approach to post-secondary education. But this realization does so much more than help me stay on track, it’s actually become an important skill that challenges a belief system that I’ve had in place for my entire life. I am learning to assess when my work truly needs re-working, and when I simply need to hand it in and move on. I’ve been able to keep my mind much more at bay, which in turn allows me to produce better work, all because of this tiny little distinction.
I know what you’re thinking: “congrats, you’ve accepted that you’re not superhuman and that you can’t make everything even close to perfect. Welcome to the real world.” I agree, I’m a little late to the game in realizing that perfection is a figment of the collective imagination, but sometimes the simplest realizations can have the most profound impacts. I have to say, this has been a profound impact. I look up at my very full calendar posted above my desk, and I see countless (actually very countable, but for the sake of my sanity I avoid doing so) more essays and critical responses to complete in the next 6 weeks. Even though I love essays (read: I REALLY like essays) I can’t help but feel overwhelmed, but also kind of excited- something that I would never have expected 6 weeks ago. I’m excited that, even though it will mean challenging every fibre of my being, I have the chance to actually become a better student, something I always what I strive for. Who would’ve thought that, in a world where we seem to see working until your eyes are numb as a sign of a job well done, sometimes the best thing to do is just step away.