Last night, I had the pleasure of finally seeing Black Swan, the somewhat new indie flick starring Natalie Portman. I may do a review of the film, but for now, I want to discuss one theme that was prevalent throughout the movie—perfection. The need for most of us to be perfect and applauded for our perfect work, despite the costs associated with always being “on”.
I have discussed this before on my blog, but the movie dug up old wounds. I have been a perfectionist for the majority of my life, mostly because it is in my nature as a Virgo to be one. But as I get older, I find myself shedding my perfectionist standard for being real. In my opinion, real trumps perfection because some of the time, perfection isn’t always being true to one self.
In the film Black Swan, the lead character Nina, played by Natalie Portman, is on a quest for perfection. In doing so, her art suffers—because being a good artist (in this case dancer) is not about being perfect; it’s about being vulnerable, authentic, true. In being perfect, she hits her marks each time, but doesn’t do so with artistic grace that is called on to be the black swan. In order for her to truly succeed, she must let go of her inhibitions and feel what is real. Only when she does this does she impress the other company of dancers. It’s a very tragic and grotesque film, but it does show that sometimes people will do anything and pay any price for perfection.
I thought about this theme and how it pertains to real life. In our quest to be perfect, the art truly suffers. Take music for instance. In order to have a “perfect” sound, people result to using Pro Tools and studio equipment for the perfect song for an album. And when you hear it live, no matter how good the artist is performing, it never lives up to the album because it is so perfect. Every note, every vocal, every sound is put through a machine so it sounds perfect.
Back in the day, that wasn’t the case. You could often hear feedback in artist’s songs and it was okay. We loved the authentic vibe of the music because it made you feel something—it wasn’t a perfectly constructed piece of art but it was heart felt and real and true. And although it could never be duplicated live, we embraced the live performances as yet another version of the songs we loved.
We don’t do that now. Because after perfection, there is nowhere to go but down.
I don’t want to lose my heart, my soul, my realness for the sake of being perfect. I want people to see me stumble sometimes so they know I am real. I don’t want to be on all the time or look perfect all the time or play by the rules all the time because that is boring. Boring can be perfect but it’s not very entertaining, that is for sure.
I would rather people be real than be perfect.
In the film Black Swan, Nina paid the ultimate price for what she wanted. Only when she let go of her inhibitions did she realize the true beauty in her dance. But by that time, it was too late. She was damaged.
Black Swan was not only a dreary, yet solemn film about perfection. It was a lesson of what happens when we strive for perfection instead of showing soul. It can be used as a cautionary tale that those who seek perfection all the time are weak, because making mistakes and admitting them take someone who is strong and sure of oneself.
What do you think of the price of perfection? What have been your challenges with striving for this nearly impossible feat? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.
I also went to see this movie and I went alone so that I could truly pay attention. And after reading your blog, I would have to say that I agree with being real over being perfect. It’s fine and dandy to have all of the steps down, or all of the notes perfected in your head, but if your soul is not in it; it just falls flat. It is your life and your soul that brings whatever you are doing to life. My motto is to strive for excellence, not perfection.
The Cubicle Chick says
@Thesinglesista is it safe to say that her perfection drove her insane? It began to blur her reality and her sanity.
Terri K (@tkharmonic) says
I’d say our music suffers even more because of the pressure to be visually perfect, some of the greatest singers of all time couldn’t get signed today because they don’t have the right appearance.
I’ve never put much personal pressure on myself to be perfect, too many others have done that for me since I was a child and I learned early on to my best and that’s all I ask of myself. Other members of my family are miserable in their doomed to failure quest for the perfect life and I’m happy to accept myself as I am and teach my child to do the same.
The Cubicle Chick says
@TKHarmonic- Striving for perfection can indeed drive one insane or leave them unhappy and unstable. That is such a load for one to carry on a day to day basis. Sad when you think of it, really.
Raven M. says
Perfectionism is a HUGE problem for me. I get better day by day but I haven’t fully given myself permission to be imperfect.
I am so bad about being “ON” all the time but for me. Is that bad? I am a perfectionist and I know what it stems from..my need to make right having my son and not being married but I’m praying about it and working on it. This is a film I gotta see.
Robyn Wright says
I have that perfectionist tendency also and have passed it along to T as well. As I’ve gotten older it has been much easier to let go of and be more accepting of myself.
It was funny as I read your post that I was thinking that it applies to blogging/social media even. There are some that think you have to do it “this way” and do step 1, then 2, then 3, etc., but often those folks may build numbers, but not a true audience. It is the folks who take the time to enjoy the process, be genuine, and learn as they go who will get the most out of it and build a real audience at the same time and in the long run be more successful.
Wow. I just watched this film and it’s so odd. Bit of an old movie at this point but kinda scary with the timing. I don’t want to get deep into my life and all in it but I’m a super hard-core artist. I love juggling so much and it’s the one thing I do that keeps my heart alive. For a long time I tried so hard to get as good as I could and it was so unhealthy. I could never share it with anyone because I was always too busy trying to improve my skill rather than share my knowledge and help others. Deep down I was self conscious about my skill, but it wasn’t about that. I was a shitty person deep down inside. I cared about myself only and it showed all too much for far too long. It’s a long story but I’ve spent the past almost 2 years of my life fixing myself. Getting over all this greed and pain I’ve had built up due to my horrible choices i couldn’t even make consciously. It’s a lot to get into, but it’s finally over. I even recently had to quit my job and get a new one because I one day woke up and realized I was working for a very greedy company. I love juggling with all my heart, but just as equally, I hate money. My goal to make lots of money juggling for so many years literally almost got me killed. Now I just do it for fun and I stick by that. Not that I wouldn’t be down to make a few bucks doing it but it’s not everything to me. A true artist uses their heart and shares it to share it. Thus why they call us starving artists. And one last thing. You CANNOT be everything. Being caught in between good and evil will only piss the evil off and make them drag you down. Namaste 🙏