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The Yin-Yang of Perfectionism and the Black Swan
by Crystal O'Gorman

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Check out Natalie Portman's award-winning performance as Nina.

Check out Natalie Portman's award-winning performance as Nina.
I watched Black Swan on my return flight from South Africa and it really hit home. I must admit ladies and gents, I am a perfectionist and I need help! Maybe I am not as bad as Nina Sayers, played by Natalie Portman, but I can definitely relate to the associated psychosis of it.

When you're a perfectionist, you are both the white swan and the black swan as literally and symbolically portrayed by Nina in her lead/dual role in the ballet classic simply known as Black Swan. Just as depicted in the ballet performance and dually in the movie, you either perceive yourself as fully dedicated to whatever priority you've set or you're completely rebelling against the idea of committing to it. I've been on both sides so many times that eventually you don't know one from the other and that's exactly what happens to Nina Sayers.

Let's start by focusing on the white swan. The white swan is symbolically noted as the innocent and pure one. In this frame of mind you are always working towards the positive side of your goal. You start out with a plan and a go-getter attitude. You put 110 percent into that goal and continue to push yourself closer
This depicts the self destruction of the white swan.

This depicts the self destruction of the white swan.
and closer to your idea of perfection.

At this point an outsider may think, "Wow! That is a really dedicated person." However, the perfectionist is actually completely dissatisfied, unable to see any progress, and only views their so-called achievements by its faults. Then, time and situation are re-evaluated until a new, probably completely unrealistic plan is created. Finally, the white swan dedicates all of his or her energy into completing this goal—well, perfectly. In the end, the perfectionist is never satisfied with the output and constantly devalues his or her self and their ability based on a preconceived notion of impossible success.

This negativity energy is what turns the white swan into the black swan. Now drained of energy and self esteem the only thing left to do is escape. What better way to escape than overboard by acting exactly the opposite of who you are and doing the exact opposite of what you would do to achieve the unaccomplished goal. You party, you quit your job, you change your major, you eat, you turn into a coach potato and etc...Whatever the situation calls for or whatever employs the exact opposite in
Here the white swan faces the black swan before merging into one.

Here the white swan faces the black swan before merging into one.
characteristic and action as that unaccomplished goal that is what you do. And let me tell you it is quite miserable to be around the black swan. It may seem fun and care free in the beginning, but in the end it is always about control: controlling the steps to complete the goal and controlling the opposite steps to rebel against the goal.

As you've probably heard there are two sides to every situation, but I like to believe there are three. In regards to perfectionism, you've now read about the extremes of the supposedly positive and pure white swan and the supposedly rebellious and wild black swan. These are two very different sides that lead to the same issues: excessiveness and failure. That is what leads me to the third side and my new aim for success: balance. I want to say this is the gray swan because it's in the middle of the other options, but gray symbolizes confusion and that is the exact opposite of what balance is all about. Instead of gray, we will say this swan is clear like a crystal, which may at first sight seem absent of color when it actually reflects every color in the rainbow.

Balance means finding the middle
To thy own self be true. ~William Shakespeare

To thy own self be true. ~William Shakespeare
road and that middle road leads to happiness. Perfectionism like any disorder involves an attachment to something whether it's tangible or not. On the outside it presents itself as a fixation to that attachment, but on the inside it's the other side of the coin and that is the real problem. The real problem is the outer fixation is overshadowing the inner issue which is one's inability to attach to his or her self. The only way to resolve perfectionism or any emotionally charged (or equally unemotionally charged) symptom is self love.

It's unfortunate that Black Swan does not resolve this conflict of heart. Death by a delusional suicide only provides the audience with the problem and not a solution. That is why I feel like it is important to put myself out here and say...

Yes, I have perfectionist tendencies but I know one's true self does not live in perfection. One's true self lives in happiness and balance; therefore, the truth is in love which can only start within you. It's an everyday battle not just for perfectionist but for everyone. It may sound silly but for today love you and everything else will work itself out, guaranteed.

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The Big Picture
Every other Thursday

Using the Big Pictures as a bigger picture into the world around us, follow me as I explore this window of opportunity into other perspectives on life, love, and happiness. I will peel back the layers of fiction and movie making magic to show you the truth within. Sat Nam.

Other Columns
Other columns by Crystal O'Gorman:

Lessons Learned from Movies

Without Conventions in Waiting for Forever

127 Hours

Kid Movies

Children of Men...'Nuff Said!

All Columns

Crystal O'Gorman
I am a big dreamer from a small town searching for the meaning of life and using movies as a window of opportunity to understand the world around me. I remember working at the local, family-operated movie store as a teenager and being completely fascinated by the way movies bring the rest of the world to your finger tips.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Crystal O'Gorman by clicking here.

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