Although creative people who become actors or other performers early in life may go on to successful and healthy creative lives as adults, many suffer problems with self-esteem, identity, even addictions.
Jodie Foster started working as an actor at the age of three, “parented by indomitable single mother Brandy,” an article notes.
“I was bred to be her partner,” Foster says.
“My whole life was with my mom, traveling on the road together, going to see French movies and German movies, talking about why they worked and why they didn’t.
“She made me do the things she couldn’t do well. It was an interesting relationship that was fraught – wonderful but painful, too.”
She says “I prioritize my self-worth and psychological HEALTH above all. If NOT, I don’t know where I would be today. I mean, there is a carpet of ex-CHILD actors who did not make it”
The article writer asks “if being an established child performer with an industry-savvy mother helped insulate her from sexual abuse on set.”
“The weird cauldron that made me – working from the time I was three years old, supporting my family by the time that I was seven, super-strong mom, over-confident personality, celebrity young enough that I learned to be stand-offish…
“I think there’s a whole bunch of reasons why I didn’t have the same path as someone who came to Hollywood at 22 with two cents in her pocket and just wanted more than anything else to be an actor. It’s just a different life.”
From cover story interview Leading Light with Jodie Foster, by Sarah Bailey, Porter mag., July 2018.
Video interview – one of the aspects of her life as a child actor she mentions:
“There’s a lot of pressure that comes with being a breadwinner in your family.”
[Full video click YouTube icon or go to https://youtu.be/8VM9myTzkzA ]
Evan Rachel Wood notes, “If you push somebody out on the spotlight too early and they don’t know who they are and they’re a kid, then they’re going to be told what to do and who to be.
“There’s a reason why so many child stars have these little breakdowns.”
She was cast in a movie of the week at age five and at 14 co-starred in Thirteen (2003).
She said of herself as a child, “I was shy and insecure.
“Any child actor will tell you that you don’t have a lot of the tools or the experience to combat a lot of the criticism or very adult situations being thrown at you.”
“I mean, your demons never fully leave,” Wood says.
“But when you’re using them to create something else, it almost gives them a purpose and feels like none of it was in vain.
“I think that’s how I make peace with it.
“Westworld? Good God. I left so much in that first season and never looked back.”
From Evan Rachel Wood: How Wild Past, Personal Demons Prepped Her for ‘Westworld’ By Alex Morris, Rolling Stone, Nov 17, 2016.
Psychologist Mihaela Ivan Holtz works with creative people in TV/Film, performing and fine arts.
She writes about the emotional and creative pleasures of artists’ inner lives and challenges on her site Creative Minds Psychotherapy.
Here is part of an article of hers on this topic of child actors:
For some, their lifelong artistic endeavor took them on a path of self-discovery and self-creating.
They have been an active participant of their own artistic path, supported and encouraged to be their own person and artist.
For others, self-discovery and being an active participant in their artistic life was not an option….
Are you the artist whose self-discovery and active participation in your artistic pursuit was not an option?
You’ve lived just about your entire life as a performer.
Somehow, somewhere in your childhood it was very apparent that you had an innate talent and that it could be channeled into a widely recognized success.
This is how it all started…
You were taken away from your childhood life and began performing and training for hours and hours a day.
Your time with friends? Gone.
Your time to play with your toys? Gone.
Your time to run freely in the park? Gone.
Your choices gone… Your needs gone… Your wishes and fears unseen…
Everyone around you was dedicated to what it would take for you to become an “image,” the influential performer.
They took you to every practice and made sure you aligned with all the demands.
And things seemed to work well because all the efforts and sacrifices turned you into a success.
But here you are after so many years of lost childhood, being told how to act, what to wear, and what to be, and you don’t know who you are anymore.
You were trained, groomed, and made into what you are supposed to be for to “your” audience.
Discovering who you really are was never an option.
Despite your talent and success, you now live in a emotional prison.
And, when you get in touch with a little freedom, you feel confused, lost, and alone.
You don’t know what you want, need, feel, or even how to make small decisions for yourself and you’re scared of the very freedom you crave.
You are now asking yourself: can I escape this emotional prison and still be successful?
Perhaps a part of you wants out of this cage while another part of you finds comfort in how things are.
A part of you is scared to continue this way and another part of you is scared to change. You simply feel trapped.
You are wondering: “Will I always be trapped? Who do I really want to be? What makes me happy?”
All these are valid questions! And they’re so hard to answer…
In truth, the people who turned you into who you are will not help you become your own person.
They are there to make sure you continue to be what “your” audience needs, not to help you be the real you.
Deep down inside, you want to start a journey of self-discovery, but, you don’t even know where to start and you can’t see any options.
You do have options, however.
You may not be able to see them, yet.
As you embark on your journey of self-discovery, you will see new opportunities with new ways of expressing your creativity. …
And yes, it may be challenging to let go of just about everything you have known and start a new journey, but think about it:
Is it really worth living your life in an emotional prison?
Only you can decide to make this change, the change from being successful in an emotional prison to being successful with emotional freedom.
Continued in her article Healing an Artist’s Lost Childhood.
Follow link to see many other articles on her site.
Jackie Earle Haley achieved an Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Todd Field’s “Little Children.”
He has commented about being a child actor:
“I started acting when I was 5 years old.
“And I was pretty well known for a while.
“Your self-esteem and your identity start to become wrapped up in that celebrity, and when that starts to fade away, your self-esteem and your identity start to fade away with it.”
From my article Self-esteem and Identity and Being an Actor.
Pressuring a prodigy to perform and excel
Pianist Lang Lang comments:
“If my father had pressured me like this and I had not done well, it would have been child abuse, and I would be traumatized, maybe destroyed.
“He could have been less extreme and we probably would have made it to the same place; you don’t have to sacrifice everything to be a musician.
“But we had the same goal.
“So since all the pressure helped me become a world-famous star musician, which I love being, I would say that, for me, it was in the end a wonderful way to grow up.”
From Chapter VIII of Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon.
Read more in my High Ability site article
Lang Lang: “Pressure…but a wonderful way to grow up”