Ian McKellen admits that it has taken time and life experience to develop the self-confidence that now helps fuel his dynamic roles.
“Suppose it had been me who played Tom Jones , not Albert Finney?” he said.
“There was never any question of me playing those sorts of parts. I was a frightened little gay boy [he publicly came out in 1988] who was putting his liberty in jeopardy every time he made love because it was against the law at the time.
“I wasn’t ready to be a big anything… I’ve got the self-confidence now, nothing frightens me.” [Entertainment Weekly May 19 2006]
Will Patton said in a 1997 interview, “I think it’s been helpful to me, being who I am, to have moved at things the way I have. I think that if things [like stardom] came upon me too fast – I think I’ve needed to take my time. I think there’re things about me that are still too delicate for an extreme kind of thing like that.”
Sometimes an external aspect of a role can fuel confidence.
“Every time I put on that suit I felt a sense of surreal power,” said Halle Berry of her leather costume for “Catwoman.”
But self-assurance may not be an enduring experience, even for someone with strong talents.
Nicolas Cage has admitted, “I beat myself up every time I start a film but that’s certainly not unique. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t beat themselves up at one time or another. I think that’s human nature…”
He said that doing Adaptation “literally rejuvenated me. Seeing the kind of chances Spike [Jonze] and Charlie [Kaufman] take made me want to do the same. That’s why I decided to direct.. [which] was an exhilarating experience because it proved I’m still pushing my limits.
“It’s so exciting for me to be creatively naked. That’s how I felt when I first started out.”
Competing with celebrity
Actors – like anyone else – may measure self worth and confidence by comparing themselves to the lives of celebrities.
Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein notes in her article Practical Steps to Enchantment: Improving Your Self Esteem that we “can end up feeling that if we are not part of the rich and famous, our lives are insignificant.
“Our society also sends a message of competition and achievement. The result often is that we are taught to see how well we are doing, in terms of how pretty we are, how bright we are, what kind of house we have, what rewards we receive.”
But, she adds, “these are external measures. Each of us needs to develop a sense of self-worth, a capacity for positive self-regard that comes from within.”
Self-critical in spite of success
Even gaining success and acclaim as an actor may not insure against feeling you are “less than.”
Kate Winslet, for example has admitted that before going off to a movie shoot, she sometimes thinks, “I’m a fraud, and they’re going to fire me… I’m fat; I’m ugly.”
[Also quoted in my article Actors and self esteem.]
Positive self-regard can be nurtured with awareness of what helps you feel it more, and what actions you can take to gain more confidence.
And there are a number of self-help programs to enhance confidence.
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