Mia Wasikowska earned acclaim for her intense performance in the HBO series “In Treatment.”
She played the title role in the Tim Burton movie “Alice in Wonderland,” and noted that at age 20 she was still fairly new to acting, and comments why she left dancing:
“I was at dance school doing about 35 hours practice a week until I was 14.
“Then ballet started to grate – the whole idea of trying to attain perfection started to ruin the experience, so I decided to try another type of performance.”
[Quotes are from article Mia Wasikowska: My adventures in Tim Burton’s Wonderland, The Guardian, 6 Feb 2010.]
Excellence can be fueled by perfectionism
Linda Kreger Silverman, PhD, Director of the Gifted Development Center, says “Excellence is the hard-won prize of those whose zeal and dedication are fueled by the drive to attain perfection, as they envision it.”
But that drive can affect others – as well as those who experience it.
Director Jane Campion said about working with Nicole Kidman [see profile]: “She can be quite murderously challenging in her perfectionism. Take Twenty: ‘Are you sure that’s good enough?’ We’re going, [wearily] ‘Yeah.'”
A vice and an asset
Emmy Rossum says that for her, being prepared for a role is crucial: “It’s not about control but perfectionism – my biggest vice and one of my biggest assets.” [photo from “The Phantom of the Opera”]
That is a perspective shared by many other talented people.
Michelle Pfeiffer has commented, “I’m a perfectionist, so I can drive myself mad – and other people, too. At the same time, I think that’s one of the reasons I’m successful. Because I really care about what I do. I really want it to be right, and I want it to be good, and I don’t quit until I have to.”
A number of talented and accomplished actors and other creative people are energized – or burdened – by this drive.
Jennifer Connelly has admitted, “I am an obsessive-compulsive and a perfectionist. I don’t say it with pride.”
And Bridget Fonda has said, “I’m afraid of making a mistake. I’m pretty neurotic about it.”
“No, I’m a greatist.”
It’s also a matter of how you think of it.
Director James Cameron refutes being labeled as a perfectionist: “No, I’m a greatist. I only want to do it until it’s great.”
But a drive to be perfect can be an obsessive emotional force that helps fuel insecurity and dissatisfaction with your work, and undermines healthy self esteem.
Jane Fonda – in her memoir My Life So Far – admits to suffering from a destructive aspect: “Because I believed that to be loved I had to be perfect, I moved ‘out of myself’ – my body – early on and have spent much of my life searching to come home… to be embodied.”
So it’s a matter of balance, of using this need to “make it great” to refine yourself, your talents and your work, without being overwhelmed or undermined by it.
> Related :
Perfectionism quotes etc
Perfectionism posts on the High Ability site
Article: Perfectionism – by Douglas Eby
Book: When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough: Strategies for Coping With Perfectionism, by Martin M. Antony, Ph.D and Richard P. Swinson, MD.
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Perfectionism and Obsession
Psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD thinks obsession is a more or less necessary element of creative achievement – at least the healthy variety of obsession. He says,
“Negative obsessions are a true negative for everyone, but most creators — and all would-be creators — simply aren’t obsessed enough. For an artist, the absence of positive obsessions leads to long periods of blockage, repetitive work that bores the artist himself, and existential ailments of all sorts.”
From my article Positive Obsessions To Be Creative.
But he also notes there are negative obsessions, and other challenges that smart people can experiences, including:
* Distressing states like mania, insomnia, and unproductive obsessing are the natural consequences of a good mind gone racing.
* Living in a society and a world that does more than disparage smartness, that actually silences smart people (because the power and privilege of leaders is undercut by smart people like you pointing out fraud, illogic, and injustice).
* Doing work day after day and year after year that fails to make real use of your brainpower
“It certainly isn’t the case that smart people as a group have it harder than other people. Smart people are more suited for and more likely to grab society’s highest-paying jobs, from doctor to academic to stockbroker, and have a better chance at material ease than other people.
“We could name countless ways in which smart people have it easier than, or at least no harder than, other people. Nevertheless smart people encounter many special challenges that can cost them their equanimity, their self-confidence, and their emotional health.”
Eric Maisel, PhD also has a related online course to help people explore and deal with many challenges: Why Smart People Hurt.