Helen Mirren has portrayed many confident, even imperious, women in her long and successful career.
But personally, as she commented in a British newspaper interview, she has experienced insecurity throughout her life.
She emphasized that it should be called “experienced” rather than “suffered” – a helpful framing of what is often perceived as a negative feeling.
“I’m beginning to get a bit fed up of all this ‘suffering’. But yes, I have experienced insecurity all my life, and I still do on a daily basis.”
(Helen Mirren: ‘I have experienced insecurity all my life’ By Celia Walden, The Telegraph, 17 FEB 2018.)
Insecurity can be challenging and self-limiting, but if we label it – and other so-called “negative” feelings as an experience we are having, not suffering from, we may shift how those feelings impact us.
(Photo at top from Variety article: ‘F— Netflix’: Helen Mirren Disses Streaming Service at CinemaCon.)
In a trailer for her online course, she says “Acting is all about what’s happening within you.”
See video and more in article: Helen Mirren Teaches Acting – a MasterClass.
Why do such talented and acclaimed artists as Mirren, and so many other creative people, experience insecurity?
Can we learn to feel more confident?
Can we more fully access what is happening within us, to better use our rich emotional landscape and imaginations for creative work?
Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Psy.D., LMFT provides psychotherapy for creative people in TV/Film, performing and fine arts, and writes about confidence and other issues for artists in multiple articles on her site.
Here are excerpts from one:
As the sun rises and the day settles in, you feel a flood of creative ideas flowing through your mind.
All you want to do is to express your creative energy. You just feel compelled to discover what could be revealed.
It might still be unformed and raw, but you already sense the different beautiful threads been uncovered.
You’ll know soon how all these threads come together to become your art.
In this moment, you feel focused and present. And even if you don’t know where your ideas might take you, you have confidence that you’ll get somewhere.
You trust this process of your ideas coming to life.
You love what you create. You know who needs your art and why. You trust it will have an impact.
This is you, feeling confident as an artist.
But, as an artist you don’t always live in this confident, connected, creative space.
Your self-esteem is challenged at every turn.
You don’t always get the audition.
You don’t always get to sell your script.
You don’t always get to be on the stage.
You don’t always get to have your show.
Your creative success depends on you having a strong belief in your own creative ability.
When the time comes to create, promote, and advocate for your work, you need your confidence in order to move forward along your creative journey.
Trust helps you take on your fears and doubts.
It protects your self- worth as you make yourself vulnerable.
It helps you feel safe in the face of rejection, invalidation, and other self-esteem threats that come with an art career.
But how can you stay confident in your art in a career that is filled with obstacles that challenges your self-esteem at every corner?
Ground yourself in reality while you can still live in the realm of your artistic dreams
I know, reality may not sound so appealing sometimes. Especially when it comes to creativity.
Creativity requires living in the dream and fantasy land. It requires passion and imagination. It’s a place where you lead with your heart.
But, you can live in this artistic realm while you maintain your feet grounded in reality.
You don’t have to compromise your creative dream world in order to have strong roots in the here and now.
Continue reading her article for more specific suggestions:
Confidence to speak up
An interviewer asked actor Kristin Kreuk :
“More and more frequently, women in this business seem to feel more confident about taking charge of their career, their projects, their characters, and finding their own voice, as a producer.
“When do you feel like you really found that voice and that confidence to speak up, not just for yourself, but the characters that you’re playing?”
Kristin Kreuk: “I still don’t feel like I’m very good at that and I still have a long way to go.
“I was so scared for so long. On Smallville [her TV Series 2001–2011], there came a point where I finally got the courage to give my opinion on something, and it was so hard.
“I remember being on the phone with the producers and stating my opinion, and then quietly crying. I was so terrified to voice anything.
“And from that point on, it’s been a slow process of becoming more and more confident, speaking up, and having people listen to me.”
She comments about acting in her current series ‘Burden of Truth’ and how it has helped her confidence:
“Before this show, I had gone out and started pitching some of my own ideas, that I brought to eOne, who is akin to the studio on this. I mentioned my own stuff and they were like, ‘Yeah, maybe not. But here are some ideas of ours that we have in development. Do any of these resonate for you?’
“I was able to select from a bunch of shows that they had and find something that really moved me, and then go from there with them. That felt like a huge step forward. I obviously have a long way to go, but this is a really good step for me, in the right direction.”
From article : “Kristin Kreuk on ‘Burden of Truth’ and the Challenges of Playing a High-Powered Lawyer” By Christina Radish, Collider July 25, 2018.
Feeling self-doubt around confident people
Natalie Portman graduated from Harvard University in 2003, and gave a commencement speech to the Harvard graduating class of 2015.
(See video in article Do Creative People Feel More Insecure?)
She has talked about dealing with the intense confidence of many of the students at Harvard and feeling as though she could never measure up.
“I believed every one of them,” she said of students who aspired to be president. “Their…self-confidence alone seemed proof of their prophecy, where I couldn’t shake my self-doubt.
“I got in only because I was famous; this is how others saw me; it was how I saw myself.”
From article Natalie Portman got super-real about facing “dark times” during her college years By Sammy Nickalls May 28, 2015.
(Photo: Natalie Portman from video for her online class – See article: Natalie Portman Teaches Acting.)
Self-esteem – what is it?
Julie Bjelland, LMFT is a psychotherapist and author who provides resources to understand the trait and live better as a Highly Sensitive Person.
Many, if not most, artists and creative people have this personality trait.
On her site, she explains:
Self-esteem is your evaluation of your own worth and how you feel about your SELF.
This attitude toward your self affects every decision you make and everything you do.
Low self-esteem is a negative self-evaluation and can create self-defeating behaviors. You may become blocked emotionally and have a hard time creating and meeting goals.
Do you wish your confidence and self-esteem could be higher? One of the many benefits to working together is that once you start working on your sense of self you start increasing your self-esteem.
When you increase the way you feel about yourself, you also have more access to your inner resources and navigation tools.
You feel more empowered to make the best choices for yourself and pick the path that’s right for you rather than accidentally walking on a path that’s not right.
When you are empowered, you choose the path in front of you, your journey is the one you want, and you feel happier inside, and life is so much better!
The image above is from one of her articles (“The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) Make up to 50% of Our Clients” from 2017).
See many articles in the Blog section, and learn about her online course, and books, at her site:
Julie on Self Compassion – one of the practices that help us experience healthy confidence and self-esteem.
Michelle Rodriguez on loving yourself – not narcissism
“I don’t think it’s narcissistic at all to love yourself and believe in yourself.
“I think some people are really scared to do that.
“I have to. If I don’t, I would not succeed in what I do.”
Another thoughtful quote of hers:
“My favorite part of my body is my brain. I think no matter what my body looks like, I won’t be satisfied unless I know how to use it.” (Quotes from her imdb section.)
Social systems can support and empower – or limit us
Actor Elizabeth Debicki commented, upon accepting the Max Mara Face of the Future award:
“I was taught by a system that tells women that they should achieve with a kind of humility, and with a kind of silent gratitude, for what we’re given.
“Which actually stung me a bit and made me realize how important it is for me to personally work at shirking that off.”
From article “At Women in Film gala, Issa Rae is loud and proud of her success” By Ashley Lee, Los Angeles Times JUN 13, 2019.
(Photo from article “Elizabeth Debicki is ready to be unlikable,” Financial Review.)
Unconditional Confidence: Instructions for Meeting Any Experience with Trust and Courage – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged by Pema Chödrön .
From Amazon summary:
Pema Chödrön is one of today’s leading meditation teachers. With more than one million books sold to date, she draws sold-out crowds across the U.S.and Canada.
On Unconditional Confidence she offers two accessible sessions to help anyone find courage in times of challenge and change.
Featuring a three-step method for learning to work with uncertainty and fear and an exclusive interview, this liberating program offers practical tools and teachings that explore:
- True confidence―and how to cultivate the trust that makes it possible
• “Shaky tenderness,” the first step to developing strong and consistent bravery
• Practical steps to “leap into, smile at, and experience all of life”―even when fear is present
“For us to be of benefit to each other―in times of challenge or any other―we need to be able to tap into genuine confidence,” teaches Pema.
A few related pages to help support healthy confidence:
How to build self-confidence – includes links to programs by Mel Robbins, The Lefkoe Institute, and more.