Nicole Kidman – a brief profile of high ability and complexity

Nicole Kidman as Martha GellhornIn addition to acting, Nicole Kidman is a producer of a number of movies, was a singer in several of her films, is a pianist, and did her own piano-playing in Cold Mountain.

She was named goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

She wrote the introduction to the book “Truth: Personas, Needs, and Flaws in the Art of Building Actors and Creating Characters” by her friend and acting consultant Susan Batson.

Part of what she wrote: “I can’t create unless I have truth–I have to feel it. Susan helps me to find the truth in myself and use its purity, intimacy, and honesty to make my work real.” 

This photo is from an HBO movie in which she portrays war correspondent Martha Gellhorn, the third wife of novelist Ernest Hemingway. [See post: Nicole Kidman: “I’m drawn to what I’m scared of.”]

Talking about the project, and her work in general, Kidman said she loved Gellhorn’s persistence, determination and courage, and that she is “drawn to what I’m scared of. I’m never going to let fear dominate my life.

“Many other things I’ve let pull me off my path, but not fear.”

Over the course of the many years I have admired her dynamic and powerful work as an actor, and have collected many quotes in which she has talked about her personal qualities and experiences that relate to being a gifted and talented person with multiple abilities.

Below are some of those quotes, plus comments by teachers, psychologists and other experts on gifted children and adults, and links to related articles and other material.

Divergent thinking

Columnist Liz Smith : Do you believe in reincarnation?

Nicole Kidman : I don’t know. There are times when I say “yes,” it has to be true and other times, I don’t. 

Liz Smith : That’s so typical of you, seeing both sides of everything. 

Nicole Kidman : That’s pretty much the way I am. I know it infuriates people. That’s why I can’t really argue with people. My mother always says to me, “Hey, hey, stop jumping around.” But I think that’s what gives one the ability to be compassionate, particularly as a parent.
[Liz Smith column Oct 29, 2004]

“Divergent thinking has positive social and emotional value. Gifted adults possessing this trait are able to find creative solutions to a wide variety of problems, including interpersonal problems, and are able to see several aspects of any situation.”

Deirdre V. Lovecky, Ph.D. – from my article : Gifted Women: Identity and Expression

Shy & feeling like an impostor
Nicole Kidman

Once they actually started making “Bewitched,” Will Ferrell [as Darren] says he tried to be “as silly as possible around Nicole whenever I could think about it. It helped me feel not nervous.” …

“He would make me giggle,” says Kidman, with a laugh. “I’m very shy. With someone like Will, with a comedy like this, when dealing with people so adept with it, I felt like a fish out of water.

“They’re going to look at me to fire me. Which is what I always think anyway. He would coax me out of my shell.”   [Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2005]

“Every time I star in a film, I think I cannot act. I’ve tried to pull out of almost every one I’ve done because of sheer terror. I can always come up with a list of actresses who would do better and try to convince the director to cast someone else. My mother keeps telling me to call it quits. She thinks my nature is too fragile for acting. She’d love it if I was a writer and had a more secluded life. I agree.”   [Reuters Feb 17 2003]

The Imposter Phenomenon is an internal experience of intellectual phoniness that seems to be prevalent among high-achieving persons, with particularly deleterious effects on women…It is an emotionally debilitating condition characterized by persistent and unwarranted anxiety about achievement, dread of evaluation, fear of failure and exposure, inability to internalize success, and lack of enjoyment of accomplishment and achievement.The Imposter Phenomenon – as defined by the “Women’s Studies Encyclopedia, Revised and Expanded Edition” ed. Helen Tierney, 1999From article The Imposter Phenomenon – By Emily RothmanAlso seeThe Impostor Syndrome, by Valerie Young, PhD

Feeling like an impostor, by Douglas Eby


Nicole KidmanShyness / Introversion

“I am very shy – really shy – I even had a stutter as a kid, which I slowly got over, but I still regress into that shyness. So I don’t like walking into a crowded restaurant by myself; I don’t like going to a party by myself.”     Nicole Kidman  [Talk mag., Sept.2000]

Like many performers, Kidman considers herself shy.

Being a global celebrity, appearing in magazines, tv commercials and movies, does not mean someone is necessarily an extrovert.

Shyness and introversion can overlap, and we may have both traits – but they are not the same thing. And they are not the same as the trait of high sensitivity – also part of the complex personality of many artists.

For more, see my article Shyness, Introversion, Sensitivity – What’s the Difference?

Introverts are wired differently from extraverts and they have different needs. Extraverts get their energy from interaction with people and the external world. Introverts get their energy from within themselves; too much interaction drains their energy and they need to retreat from the world to recharge their batteries.Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., Gifted Development CenterRelated page: Introversion / shyness


Intensity / Complex emotions

“You live with a lot of complicated emotions as an actor, and they whirl around you and create havoc at times. And yet, as an actor you’re consciously and unconsciously allowing that to happen. ….

“It’s my choice, and I would rather do it this way than live to be 100. .. Or rather than choosing not to exist within life’s extremities.

“I’m willing to fly close to the flame.”

Nicole Kidman     [Interview mag., Oct 2003]

When you’re doing an intense film the boundaries blur, but at the same time I don’t have people calling me the character’s name. I think I do exist in some sort of limbo state myself so that I can access very raw, deep emotions – it’s just how I work.”

– On her acting process. Quotes and photo July 2012 from official Facebook page.


“Creatively gifted children and adults are emotionally intense and have rich inner lives. An enhanced capacity for feeling is essential to the production of great art, moving music, high drama, memorable prose and poetry, exquisite performances….“Emotional intensity is one of the personality concomitants of giftedness…. It is natural for the gifted to feel deeply and to experience a broad range of emotions.”

Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., director of the Gifted Development Center – Institute for the Study of Advanced Development.
More on Emotional intensity and excitabilities on the pages
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“When others complain that we are ‘too dramatic’ they are suggesting we are too expressive, too passionate, too conncected to our emotions, and that our inviting them into the deeper realm of life frightens them. Gifted adults are often dubbed dramatic or crazy when they confront others with their intensity.

“The role of emotion is an integral part of our creative nature, and a gift to be treasured. It might even be said that we think with our feelings and feel our way through our thoughts. In other words, our intuitive, feeling mind and our logical mind work in concert. As one might guess, passion and the willingness to feel the highest crescendo and deepest decrescendo is the realm of the artist.”

> From book: The Gifted Adult, by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PsyD.

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‘She clearly has a strong conscience, and it’s not for nothing that her gang calls her Church Lady. As she puts it, “My mom’s always saying, ‘You shouldn’t put so much emphasis on being good.’ ”

‘I notice her eyes filling up as she says this. “It makes me cry.” she acknowledges. “Because the weight of one’s conscience can be so debilitating, you know? I really want to die without having done things that I deeply regret…

I was quite appropriate as a child. I didn’t let my mother down. I could be very good. But I also wanted to experience things…

“I can be led astray. I find it tempting, enticing, and I’m pretty much up for anything… [but] the guilt, if I do something, weighs me down… Some people can live the other way. They have some sort of latch that locks the stuff in. I don’t.”

From article: Spellbound, by Ingrid Sischy, Vanity Fair July 2005


“The most creative and morally advanced people are typically not models of high self-esteem. Their inner lives are often plagued by self-doubt, worries, fears, and feelings of inferiority. “One reason for this chronic insecurity is that they base their self-evaluations on very high personal standards, and thus their own behavior seems inadequate and far from ideal in comparison. But this insecurity is usually a sign of an active conscience at work.”

From article What Is Wrong With Feeling Good? by Elizabeth Mika

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Nicole Kidman
     “The Hours”

Kidman came to Woolf and “The Hours” at a suitably dark time in her own life, after a miscarriage and amid the breakup of her marriage to Tom Cruise…

“I was pretty nihilistic in terms of my view of what it was all about,” she said. “Where we were going. Why I was existing in the world, really. Why, was the big question.

“So it was sort of the perfect time to encounter Mrs. Woolf. Because you’re raw, emotionally raw. Your ability to understand with compassion somebody else’s struggle is just there. … It’s cathartic, because it means you’re not alone.” ……[ Dec 30, 2002; photo as Virginia Woolf.]

> An interesting story about the movie: “She loved wearing the prosthetic nose, that she originally used in The Hours and wore it in private too, mainly as she was undergoing a divorce from Tom Cruise at the time and was attracting a lot of paparazzi interest. Much to her delight, by wearing her fake nose out and about, she found she could easily evade the paparazzi as they didn’t recognize her.” []


Nicole Kidman told Vanity Fair magazine that her desire to be seen as a serious actress led to the demise of her marriage [to Tom Cruise]. … She says, “I felt I didn’t deserve to be there in my own right, and throughout I wasn’t there as Nicole, I was there as Tom’s wife. 

“I didn’t have to have this huge career. And this makes me sad, but I would probably choose a marriage and an intact family over my career. But I think I had to choose. I think (the marriage) would have come down to it. I suppose it wasn’t meant to be.”
[ People News Nov 6 2002]

          “Relationships for gifted / talented peopleGifted children and adults often try to repress the real needs of the Self in order to maintain connections with others (Lovecky, 1993). They feel they must choose between loneliness and the negation of the Self.”From article Different Worlds at the Extremes – by Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., Gifted Development Center. [reference: Deirdre Lovecky (1993). Creative connections: Perspectives on female giftedness]~ ~ ~ ~Another issue related to being exceptional may be social isolation: true peer relationships are rare and demanding. Hypersensitivity to destructive influences from others may demand protective isolation, even from family members.

– From my article: Gifted Women: Identity and Expression.

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“Most people don’t know that what is considered normal for the gifted is most often labeled as neurosis in the general population and as a result, the gifted are personally and emotionally vulnerable to a variety of unique relationship difficulties at home, work, school and in the community.”

– From article Misdiagnosis of the Gifted by Lynne Azpeitia and Mary Rocamora


Nicole Kidman“She can be quite murderously challenging in her perfectionism.
Take Twenty: ‘Are you sure that’s good enough?’ [Kidman says.]

“We’re going, [wearily] ‘Yeah.’ ”

Director Jane Campion about working with Nicole Kidman on “Portrait of a Lady”

Campion also said of her: “She gets a bee in her bonnet, and she’s off. She’s excited. And the passion and the feeling is stronger than any sense of censorship, and I like that.”


“The pursuit of excellence is a personal journey into higher realms of existence, a journey that enriches the self and the world through its bounty. It is the crucible that purifies the spirit – the manifestation of life’s longing for evolution. A cherished goal for only a small portion of the population, excellence is the hard-won prize of those whose zeal and dedication are fueled by the drive to attain perfection, as they envision it. … Chiefly an affliction of the gifted.. perfectionism is not a malady; it is a tool of self-development.”

Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., the Gifted Development Center.

> Related page: Perfectionism


Social Activism

Nicole Kidman is new U.N. goodwill ambassador for women. After a call from her mother about a BBC program on UNIFEM, Kidman contacted the executive director, Noeleen Heyzer, PhD, and offered to help.

They plan to travel to Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Afghanistan and Cambodia this year.

“I have a lot of friends who say to me: ‘That’s so bleak, why would you take that?’ … I do believe there is enormous possibility to change this world,” Kidman said.

“You have to be careful what you choose, [and make sure your] “heart and your passion” are in it. She said it had taken many years to find an issue she was prepared to give such a commitment.”That’s my personality. It takes me a long time to make a decision. Once I’ve done it, I don’t move off it,” she said.

[From “Goodwill, good childhood prepare Kidman for UN role” – By Mark Coultan, January 28, 2006]

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Kidman publicly supports a variety of charities and causes. She has been a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF Australia since 1994. She has worked to help raise money for and draw attention to the plight of the most disadvantaged children in Australia and around the world. In 2004, she was honoured as a “Citizen of the World” by the United Nations.

Nicole KidmanOn January 26, 2006 Kidman received Australia’s highest civilian honour when she was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, for “service to the performing arts as an acclaimed motion picture performer, to health care through contributions to improve medical treatment for women and children and advocacy for cancer research, to youth as a principal supporter of young performing artists, and to humanitarian causes in Australia and internationally.” … She was also nominated goodwill ambassador for UNIFEM.

Kidman joined the ‘Little Tee Campaign’ for Breast Cancer Care to design T-shirts or vests to raise money for breast cancer. Kidman’s mother, Janelle, is a breast cancer survivor.

From Wikipedia profile.


“Synthesis on Giftedness in Women” by Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., director of the Gifted Development Center and the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development; author of Counseling the Gifted and Talented

  Unique perception and awareness

Global view – respect for all human beings

A greater capacity for empathy (concern for others, especially children; sensitivity and warmth)Intense moral commitment (seeing injustice and doing something about it; willingness to stand up for one’s beliefs)

Questioning, searching for truth; Intuitiveness; insightfulness

Creativity – the gifted woman as artist

Multipotentiality (having capabilities in many areas and domains of talent)

Ability to juggle many things at once

Similar to most women in concerns, but there is a qualitative difference in degree of commitment

DreamingNicole Kidman

“The things that go on in my head are far more interesting than what actually happens. My fantasies are still very, very strong. … You live a third of your life when you dream.

“So you may as well live in your dreams — the way you want to be living. The way you want to be. I love lying in darkness.”

   Nicole Kidman  [Vanity Fair July 2005]

Related page: Dreamwork

Early Life

“My parents thought it was nice to develop my imagination, but they never seriously thought that anything would ever come of it,” says Nicole Kidman.

“By the time I was a teenager, I had developed skills as a writer, and my father encouraged me to think about a career in journalism. I began keeping a diary, which I maintain to this day.”

By puberty, she towered above most of the other girls and boys in her class and thought of herself as “the ugliest person alive on earth.”

She found release in acting class, pretending to be other people. On weekends, when most kids were at the beach, Kidman was often alone on the stage of the school theater.

“I would just lock myself in there,” she says. “I thought it was fantastic having that stage all to myself. I’d be teased about going off to the theater instead of the beach with everyone else.

I felt like an outsider, but it is character building not to be a pretty child who just bats her eyes and gets her way.”

At fourteen, she landed her first professional role… by the time she turned seventeen, she had left school to spend seven months on a film for Disney called Five Mile Creek.


Thanks to Nicole Kidman for being willing to “fly close to the flame” and – like so many other artists – to make the world richer and more meaningful.



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