“The whole idea of trying to attain perfection started to ruin the experience.” Mia Wasikowska
Perfectionism can be an unhealthy way to try to satisfy ego needs, or perhaps defuse shame or low self-esteem.
But it is a simple name for what can be a complex set of drives and attitudes that can also fuel our pursuit of excellence and motivate social change.
“Perfectionism is often something gifted people have learned to dislike about themselves, sometimes openly vilifying their “nit-picky” ways.
“Yet at their very core, many gifted people are visionaries who do indeed have the capacity to turn pipe dreams in to concrete innovations—they can and often must hold out for the ideal.”
From article Encountering the Gifted Self Again, For the First Time, By Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PhD – author of the book The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius.
[“The magic is in the mess” quote image is from Facebook/BreneBrown.]
Ruining the experience
Mia Wasikowska earned acclaim for her intense performance in the HBO series “In Treatment” and plays the title role in Tim Burton’s movies of “Alice in Wonderland.”
She noted that she had an experience of perfectionistic striving as a dancer:
“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.”
Hilary Swank expressed a healthy attitude:
“The great thing about my Oscar was when I received it, they put the nameplate on with my name crooked, and I went home and I was like, ‘I am going to have to take that back and have them fix it.’
“Then I said to myself, ‘This reminds me that I’m not perfect, my performance wasn’t really perfect, and that I still have a lot to learn.’ To a lot of people, this represents perfection and it’s not.”
(About her Academy Award for Boys Don’t Cry.) [Gotham, May 2002.]
Brene Brown on The Gifts of Imperfection
From an article by Brené Brown:
The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting, but as hard as we try, we can’t turn off the tapes that fill our heads with messages like “Never good enough” and “What will people think?”
Why, when we know that there’s no such thing as perfect, do most of us spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to be everything to everyone?
Is it that we really admire perfection? No — the truth is that we are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth. We love authenticity and we know that life is messy and imperfect.
We get sucked into perfection for one very simple reason: We believe perfection will protect us. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.
We all need to feel worthy of love and belonging, and our worthiness is on the line when we feel like we are never ___ enough (you can fill in the blank: thin, beautiful, smart, extraordinary, talented, popular, promoted, admired, accomplished).
Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best.
Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield. Perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen and taking flight.
Continued in her article: Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect
Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW “is a research professor at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work who has spent the past 10 years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.
“She is a nationally renowned speaker and has won numerous teaching awards, including the college’s Outstanding Faculty Award. Her groundbreaking work has been featured on PBS, NPR, and CNN.”
(From a profile on the Sounds True page for her course The Power of Vulnerability – see below.)
Brown is the author of books including The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
From The Power of Vulnerability course with Brené Brown.
“In our culture,” teaches Dr. Brené Brown, “we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty.
“The Power of Vulnerability is a very personal project for me,” Brené explains.
“This is the first place that all of my work comes together. This audio course draws from all three of my books – it’s the culmination of everything I’ve learned over the past 12 years.
“I’m very excited to weave it all into a truly comprehensive form that shows what these findings and insights can mean in our lives.”
“She lives her own moral code, and is kind of uncompromising about that.”
Rooney Mara – about playing Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (Charlie Rose Show, 12.15.11.)
Photo of Rooney Mara from article The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – A Gifted Trauma Survivor, By Lisa Erickson, MS, LMHC.
Is being uncompromising a form of perfectionism?
Fearing criticism may be a form of perfectionism
Robert Pattinson created two songs for the first Twilight album and also contributed three to the soundtrack for the film How to Be, but says he won’t be recording an album anytime soon.
He explains, “Doing movies, I can handle the criticism because you can always blame somebody else.
“There are hundreds of people to blame. But, with music, as soon as you’re putting something out there you’re basically only putting an album out there for people to judge it.
“I don’t necessarily want people to judge it.
“Also I know if I had an album out, the day it comes out I’m gonna be on the internet looking at stuff (comments) and I’ll probably shoot myself. So I don’t know if it’s worth shooting myself over.”
[imdb.com news 11 November 2011.]
More perspectives on striving to be perfect
Anna Quindlen – in her Commencement Speech, Mount Holyoke College, 1999, commented:
Trying to be perfect may be sort of inevitable for people like us, who are smart and ambitious and interested in the world and in its good opinion.
But at one level it’s too hard, and at another, it’s too cheap and easy.
Because it really requires you mainly to read the zeitgeist of wherever and whenever you happen to be, and to assume the masks necessary to be the best of whatever the zeitgeist dictates or requires.
Those requirements shapeshift, sure, but when you’re clever you can read them and do the imitation required.
But nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great ever came out of imitations.
The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.
Book: Being Perfect – by Anna Quindlen