You may know Mara Wilson as the adorable child star who gave life to one of our favorite Roald Dahl characters, the adorable, precocious, telekinetic Matilda. And in case you need just a brief refresher, Mara also played the youngest child in Mrs. Doubtfire opposite Robin Williams and Sally Field, as well as the cute little girl in Miracle on 34th Street, and has been acting on screen since 1993. These days, Mara spends a little less time in front of the lens and more behind her computer screen. She runs a popular Twitter account with over 299K followers, writes the blog Mara Writes Stuff, and recently authored her first book Where Am I Now?, which will be released by Penguin Random House on September 13.
But growing up on movie sets — especially as a kid who loved school — had its share of difficulties. “Going to school as a child star… everybody knew somebody who was on Seventh Heaven or was on a Disney Channel show, and kids would come to school late because they had an audition. It kind of made sense for a while, but eventually [it got] kind of hard because people started getting jealous and they were getting a little competitive.”
As for the kind of student she was, either in school or on set, Mara says, “I was very much a perfectionist in elementary school. I always tried to go above and beyond in the very beginning, and that quickly became exhausting. I would always read ahead in the books and I actually got in trouble for it sometimes. I definitely did more than I needed to.” When it comes to getting it right, we feel like Matilda could probably relate.
But there is a point when the pursuit of being #flawless can take its toll. “I do think, though, that perfectionism, it’s a problem, and after a while, in middle school and a little bit in high school, there was this attitude I had like, ‘Well, if I can’t do it perfectly, why do it at all?'” Mara tells us. “And that, I think, is a toxic thought and I think that kills creativity and any kind of progress.”
But someone gave her a piece of advice that turned her outlook around: her dad. “My dad is an engineer, and he always says, ‘The perfect is the enemy of the good.’ And you need to remember that. That has helped me a lot,” Mara says. Next time trying to get something perfect — whether it’s as small as your cat eye or as huge as parenting — repeat this mantra to yourself. It’s no use driving yourself up the wall trying to get something perfect, when doing something very well will make you much happier.
“I’ve learned to make mistakes in the past few years,” she tells us with a smile. “And I’m okay with that now.”
Will you be taking Mara’s advice? Tweet us @BritandCo!