“I was really shy as a kid.” Hayley Atwell
Many dynamic actors, musicians and other performers report being shy as a child, some even still as an adult.
Some people may call themselves shy – or are labeled that by journalists and others – even though they are really introverted or highly sensitive.
For more about these traits and how they differ from each other, see further down the page.
Being shy or introverted, especially in such an extrovert-oriented culture as ours, can contribute to many creative people feeling like ‘outsiders’ or ‘misfits’ – even those who are actors, musicians or other performers.
This is also something therapist Sharon Barnes says is very common with her teen and adult clients who are creative, highly sensitive and often gifted.
Read about her work and a home-study video program in the article Emotional Health for Creative, Gifted, Highly Sensitive People.
Hayley Atwell comments:
“I was really shy as a kid, but my mum always used to take me to the theatre and I loved it.
“Everyone sitting in a dark room and having the same experience, going on the same journey, and things that weren’t normally said in every day life were being said on stage.
“I didn’t know how to get into it. I didn’t know if I had any talent for it.
“I didn’t even know if I wanted to do anything in front of people, but I just loved that world.
“My parents instilled in me the idea that we can do and be whoever we want to be if we have the right level of awareness.”
From The Interview: Hayley Atwell, hungertv.com.
[Photos: Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter in “Marvel’s Agent Carter” and in “Captain America: The First Avenger.”]
Having the courage to move out of our comfort zone can be more challenging with unhealthy self-esteem, high levels of self-doubt, high sensitivity, or anxiety such as shyness.
Being highly sensitive can add more challenges, especially in such an extroverted profession as performing.
Psychotherapist Mihaela Ivan Holtz works with creative people in TV/Film, performing and fine arts.
She also writes about the emotional and creative pleasures of their inner life – and its challenges – on her site Creative Minds Psychotherapy.
Here is an excerpt from an article on her site:
“You live your life dreaming to be a performer. Your eyes sparkle at the thought of performing, because that is the essence of who you are.
“You dream of those moments when you become one with your performance, flowing smoothly and connecting with your audience.
“That’s what performers do… And, you know you are a performer!”
But, she continues, the performer that you are, can get lost “in those moments you have an opportunity to show who you are.
“An audition lost, a show lost… another opportunity lost. With each missed opportunity, feeling confused about who you are.
“You are now wondering: “Am I really a performer?” Can I do this?
“Self-doubt is creeping in your mind. A part of you knows you are a performer.
“A part of you doubts who you are…”
Read much more in her article:
Highly sensitive people are often artists
Being a highly sensitive person is a personality trait shared by about 20% of us, and perhaps most artists and creative people.
Nicole Kidman thinks “Most actors are highly sensitive people.”
Julie Bjelland, MA, LMFT is a therapist who specializes in helping highly sensitive people – HSPs – and has the trait herself. She writes:
“We experience the world differently than up to 80% of the population.
“Our nervous system is programmed to be so highly in-tune and aware that it often goes into overdrive in the busy, fast-paced current version of our lives.
“Fortunately, there is a way to feel better.”
See article, with video, about one of her books –
Vanessa Hudgens is one of many talented and dynamic actors who have talked about being shy:
“When I was young, I would not talk to anybody if I didn’t know them.
“I’d hide behind my mom if she tried to introduce me to anyone.”
Part of the reason she chose to act in “Sucker Punch” – and wear revealing costumes for the role – was because she found the movie’s underlying message empowering.
She said, “You want to be the best that you can be and be the most ferocious…the costumes gave us a sense of confidence and power.”
Like many actors, she also knows it takes courage for many roles, such as her work in “Gimme Shelter.”
“I don’t like being stagnant. I want to continue to grow and just be better at what I do, and the only way to do that is to keep stepping outside of your comfort zone.”
Clea DuVall has referred to herself as “an only child and I’m just a real loner kind of person, and yeah, kinda dark.
“But I’m happy. Not sad. I’m just shy and nervous.” [imdb.com]
The photo is from an article in which she notes, “I really identify with the feeling of being ‘other.’
“And those are the characters that I’m really drawn towards, because I just think they’re more complicated and they’re more interesting.”
From Clea DuVall Is Finally Playing ‘The Gay That I Feel Like I Am’ by Daniel Reynolds, The Advocate, July 01 2016.
On the tv series “Heroes” she played an assertive FBI agent, and has garnered acclaim for her dynamic acting in the series “Carnivale” and many films including “21 Grams,” “The Laramie Project” and “Girl, Interrupted” – but DuVall has been candid about being introverted and sensitive.
In an interview [in 2000] about doing publicity for her films “But I’m A Cheerleader” and “Committed,” Clea DuVall admitted,
“That was my first photo shoot and I was so nervous. I was just nervous and shy and Matthew Lillard and Mary McCormick are just so outgoing and Brad Rowe and everybody else was getting along so well and I was just shy.
“I was just watching. I feel like I’ve gotten better and I’m not as in my shell as I used to be. I’ve gotten better at not making people feel uncomfortable with my shyness.” [28th Street, January 2000, posted on CleaDuVall.net]
And she has also said, “I was a loner in high school. I keep to myself, but I love life.” [tv.gen interview, unknown date]
“I walked around with a constant fear that I’d say something stupid and be laughed at, or that people were looking at me and thinking I wasn’t pretty enough, interesting enough, smart enough.
“When I discovered acting, I felt an immense freedom.
“I felt like I could explore different aspects of myself without fear of judgement.
“I was able to be brave in a way that was really hard for me in real life.” (imdb)
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Maybe acting – playing other people – is a way to use shyness or introversion, or deal with it, for many artists.
Mischa Barton said she was always called “the shy one” and “got so much more confident as I realized acting was what I really wanted to do.”
Kim Basinger has said, “As a child, I was very shy. Painfully, excruciatingly shy. I hid a lot in my room. I was so terrified to read out loud in school that I had to have my mother ask my reading teacher not to call on me in class.”
Nicole Kidman has said, “I am very shy – really shy – I even had a stutter as a kid, which I slowly got over, but I still regress into that shyness. So I don’t like walking into a crowded restaurant by myself; I don’t like going to a party by myself.”
Taye Diggs says he has been acting for as long as he has been shy, and has an interesting perspective on using acting:
“I wouldn’t say my insecurities and shyness have lessened just because of expressing myself through acting, but what has a role in my becoming more confident is the kind of false sense of adoration you get from the business… because I was so insecure, it gives me a reason to be a little more confident.”
[From my interview with him years ago.]
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Introversion, high sensitivity
Shyness is a form of social anxiety and can be related to low confidence, but it may be confused with introversion or high sensitivity – which are two common personality traits of many creative and talented people.
While acting may be a way to gain confidence, some people find it helpful to get counseling, or explore if they have social phobia or some other kind of anxiety that may keep them from being authentic and freely expressive on stage or on camera.
See article: Performers With Stage Fright and Anxiety.
A program to relieve anxiety
“We experience persistent fear and worry when our natural coping mechanisms for stress get overloaded,” Lisa Wimberger teaches.
She adds, “The good news is we can use self-directed brain change to bring our nervous system back into balance.”
by Lisa Wimberger
The site notes:
With Neurosculpting for Anxiety, Lisa Wimberger presents a proven method for addressing anxiety at its neurological roots.
See video and more in my article:
How to Reduce Anxiety With Neurosculpting
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Mark Ruffalo :
“What is happiness other than a negotiation between reality and your dreams?
“It’s understanding that you give up something for something else. I feel like that’s been how I’ve been trying to be happy, although in my DNA there’s more of a depressed person.
“That’s when I feel like I’ve been the happiest, when I can make that negotiation happen and keep things balanced.
“Whether it’s between work and family, between activism and family, between activism and work, and whatever little time as an introvert I can carve out for myself to recharge my batteries.”
From post: Mark Ruffalo on the Secret to Happiness in Hollywood By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire June 16, 2015.
In another interview, Ruffalo comments:
“Oddly enough, though I don’t identify as a Christian, I was raised with the teachings of Christ. Take away all of the dogma and all of the noise that we hear surrounding religion, and those teachings, by themselves—being loving, kind, tolerant, and considerate—every prophet lectured about.
“I was an outsider, an introvert, and could relate to people who were struggling and I just had a sensitivity to people who were not being treated well.”
Mark Ruffalo Cover Story, May 9, 2014 by Dann Dulin, Art & Understanding Magazine.
Photo from his Facebook page – caption: “This shirt I’m wearing was created in partnership with American muralist Zio Ziegler to capture the spirit of 100%. These limited edition tees are printed on 100% certified organic supima cotton tees and made in the US. Get yours for a $50 donation.”
See more quotes by and about Amy Adams, Rebel Wilson, Gwen Stefani, Nicole Kidman, Kim Basinger, Clea DuVall, Taye Diggs, Audrey Hepburn, Jessica Chastain, Emma Watson, Claire Danes, Julie Christie, Chris Cooper, Kate Mara – and other artists such as J.K. Rowling, Tom Ford, Tory Burch in the articles:
Shyness may be a form of anxiety and impact both social interactions and creative work.
Here is a related post on my Anxiety Relief Solutions site: