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‘That Bleeds Into Everything’: Will Smith Says Seeking Perfection Proved to Be a Disservice When Parenting His Three Children

For Will Smith, hindsight is proving to be 20/20.

The blockbuster film star has publicly peeled back layer after layer of his life, revealing almost everything from childhood trauma to the toll his damning coping mechanism of perfectionism has had on his successful career and personal life. Many of those stories and memories are being revealed in his explosive memoir, “Will,” and media interviews where Smith has allowed conversation to delve into even more crevices devoid of ego. 

Will Smith and his children Trey, Jaden and Willow Photo: @willsmith/Instagram

In one of those spaces lay Smith’s revelation of how his personal need for validation and to be liked by the world showed up when parenting his three children — Trey, 29, Jaden, 23, and Willow Smith, 21. In part, the “Collateral Beauty” actor can pinpoint his knack for performance as being to blame.

“There was a part of me, when I first started, that desperately craved the approval of the world. That bleeds into everything,” said Smith to the New York Times. The rapper-actor continued, “I wanted my children to align themselves to obtain the approval of the world.”

In the past, Smith has openly spoken about the ways his two youngest children felt he failed them. With Willow, at only the age of nine, she had a Billboard hit, “Whip My Hair,” but wanted to nothing to do with the pressures and confinement of stardom. In an act of rebellion, Smith said, his only daughter shaved her hair off to send a clear message that what she wanted for her life mattered, even if it differed from what her father saw for her. 

Similarly, there was Smith’s attempt at catapulting Jaden into movie success with their 2013 father-son feature film “After Earth.” The movie failed to impress audiences and thrust the rising actor into the gauntlet of criticism. In his memoir, Smith revealed his son sought to be emancipated when he could no longer trust his father’s leadership. 

With those failures and missteps behind him, Smith is now less focused on crafting the perfect picture. In a way, his memoir represents a symbolic undoing of the perfect facade he spent his entire career crafting. “At this point in my life, I’m comfortable in my body. I’m OK with things not being perfect,” explained the actor whose latest movie, “King Richard,” is already receiving Oscar buzz. “My mind isn’t drifting to what people are thinking when I walk inanymore. It’s much less performative and conscious.”


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