Okay. I’ll admit it. I didn’t see BLACK SWAN on the big screen. For some reason the trailer always made me laugh. Every time I saw the part where Natalie Portman as the character Nina turned her back to the mirror and pulled the swan feather out of her shoulder blade and her eyeballs turned red I would whisper to Alan, “God, I HATE when that happens!” Then we would giggle uncontrollably.
But then when Natalie Portman won so many accolades, including The Academy Award, I kept thinking, “I have to see this – I am sure that there is something there I need to write about for the blog!” Of course, I had no idea that it would be PERFECTIONISM. Nina’s character is driven to extremes by her perfectionism. And I certainly recognized myself in her.
I am such a perfectionist. It is a horrible quality to have – especially if it overcomes what you are doing well and starts your wheels turning backward so that you start doing poorly by getting in your own way. But I have picked up on the fact that the character of Nina I are not the only ones. There are lots of people in the theater who are perfectionists as well. There are show business jokes about it. “A doctor loses a patient on the table, sighs and says, ‘At least I didn’t screw up something important – like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy!’”
I can’t help noticing – it seems that many of the cases I work on and many of the workshops I teach have perfectionists as well. Lawyers driven to perfection. When you see BLACK SWAN and ortman’s fascinating portrayal, you may very well see yourself. The tricky part is, of course, attorneys are caught up in a serious business. Lives and fortunes are saved and lost with your cases. The importance of what you do can’t be compared to blowing an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
You know that whenever I work on a case or teach a workshop you hear me quoting Anne Lamott’s words from BIRD BY BIRD, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” That crazy voice inside of you that says to an actress or a lawyer, “You aren’t doing it perfectly so you’d better tighten up.” The character of Thomas Leroy, played by the wonderful Vincent Cassell voices the theme of perfectionism as the oppressor again and again in the film. Just as the need to be perfect makes the character of Nina’s performance stiff, forced and inauthentic, so does perfectionism for the attorney. If you are stiff, mannered, flat and act like a robot because you are trying to hard to be perfect in your delivery of your case you will surely fail. You will get in your own way. You won’t remember what comes next. You will alienate the jurors, mediator, arbitrators, judge – whomever you are trying to convince.
When you see BLACK SWAN and see yourself as I saw myself – Hey. Lighten up. If you don’t think that you deserve it, believe me – your clients do.
TIP: Trust yourself. You know this case really well. Let go and fly.