How can being emotionally vulnerable help you be more creative as an actor or other artist?
Kerry Washington on acting and being vulnerable.
“Acting was about really the escapism – it was about loving the idea of being somebody else in some other place and being able to forget about my real life and be something else.
“And the more that I’ve worked the more I realized that you actually don’t get to escape your stuff – you actually have to deal with your stuff in very concrete ways if you want to do this job well.
“And that has been interesting because then you realize the more that you’re willing to confront your stuff and be really vulnerable…the more people identify with it because you get to that human stuff that is the stuff that binds us all to each other.”
(From video interview below.)
Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Psy.D., LMFT provides psychotherapy for creative people in TV/Film, performing and fine arts, and writes about the emotional and creative pleasures of their inner life as artists – and its challenges.
She writes about vulnerability:
As an artist, you live in a very unique world. You get to express the fullness of who you are.
You have the opportunity to leave something meaningful behind that will impact generations.
It’s a privilege to bring value to the world simply by expressing and living your passion.
At the same time, you take on unique challenges.
Your artistic life is filled with pressure, rejection, competition, and unknowns. You have to have courage, show up, and take risks…
You also have to know when to say “no” or “yes” and know how to protect yourself from mistreatment or abuse.
Whether you’re still developing your career or you’re an established artist, it’s a lot to take on…
You live in a big, complicated, unpredictable world, and that places great demands on you as an artist.
It can feel like a constant balancing act.
You have to be emotionally open and vulnerable, yet also brave, strong, and daring in the face of fear and doubt.
You need to be emotionally in touch with your creative reservoir and your unconscious mind, yet you also need to be grounded and present enough so that the deep feelings don’t take over.
You need to be emotionally connected and inspired by relationships, and yet you also have to be careful not to lose yourself.
So, how do you walk that fine line of being emotionally in touch with all you need as an artist while taking on the challenges that come with the artistic world?
The answer is in establishing your emotional boundaries, healing old emotional pain, and building emotional resilience.
There is an art to creating and maintaining emotional boundaries when you’re an artist.
Strong yet flexible boundaries allow you to be intimately connected to your creative energy, but also enable you to keep your emotional “cool” when things get rough.
Good emotional boundaries help you keep going even when you feel rejected or criticized. They help you show up and connect with your audience, regardless of their response.
Emotional boundaries allow you to feel confident and protected, even in the face of the unexpected – especially when you’re auditioning or pitching an idea.
- Read much more in her Stage 32 article:
Vulnerability, Strength, and Resilience in the Life of the Artist
Also see more Creative Mind articles with excerpts of articles by Dr. Holtz.
Lena Headey and Terrence Howard on being vulnerable as an artist.
Lena Headey said:
“There’s nothing more exciting for an actor than a chance to lose, to be someone who has lost – especially if it’s someone who starts off with a veneer of control.
“To be broken is wonderful.”
Acting mentor and coach Amy Jo Berman commented on her Facebook page about that quote:
“Breaking a veneer of control and being willing to lose…what a unique and interesting definition of a willingness to be completely vulnerable as an actor…to be ALL IN. I think this really shows in her character on “Game of Thrones”. Are you ALL IN?”
[Photo above with Terrence Howard is from a Vulture article: Lena Headey Is Ready To Give Up Her Game of ThronesWig.]
Terrence Howard talked about his role alongside Channing Tatum in Fighting (2009):
(What was it like to act with Channing?)
Terrence Howard: “His character is right there in front of you.
“He will go through the transition eye to eye and he searches you out and you are forced to search out yourself inside of his own eyes.
“That’s a great gift to be that vulnerable and share what you are feeling.
“The fighting scenes seem so much more powerful because he was so vulnerable when we were just talking.”
[From indielondon interview.]
Jessica Chastain has said:
“I’m inspired by people who are so sensitive and vulnerable that they try to cover it up.
“I don’t work for awards but when you receive support and encouragement, it opens me up more, it helps me be vulnerable.
“When you’re doing a play, it’s basically saying, “Here I am.” It’s a very vulnerable thing. On film, it’s vulnerable, but there’s a time delay.” [Quotes from imdb.]
Being more creative out of our comfort zone
Many people – maybe most of us – want to avoid anxiety, fear and other “stressful” feelings.
Except for the occasional roller coaster ride or horror movie, if you enjoy those.
But many actors and other artists often use “challenging” kinds of feelings to guide and energize their work.
Julia Stiles says she chooses projects based on “ways I need to be stretched as an actor.
“I wouldn’t want to keep doing the same thing over and over again, which is one reason I wanted to do this play [Fran’s Bed].
“I wanted go back onstage in a way that’s different from anything I’ve ever experienced before.
“That’s the way I look at movies, too. I think you can get into a comfort zone as an actor and I try to break out of that.”
From article: Embracing fear and discomfort as an artist.
Video: Annette Benning, Naomie Harris on the Intimacy of Acting
Naomie Harris comments about working as an actor:
“You know as an actor you have to let your guard down and you have to let someone in to that most vulnerable of places which you let very few people in, and connect on a really soulful level.
“And that’s very rare that you do that with anybody and to do that with a stranger I think is such an extraordinary thing.”
Don Cheadle and Kerry Washington Talk Life in Hollywood
In addition to her comments about vulnerability in this video, Kerry Washington has commented about Alicia Keys:
“Alicia doesn’t hide her truth, her flaws, her dreams or her journey.
“It is that authenticity and vulnerability that endear her to us.
“We are drawn to her honesty, we respect and adore her, and in doing so we move closer to embracing our own true selves.
“In the entertainment industry there is intense pressure to conform, in order to create an easily marketable product.
“But if you listen to Alicia’s music, learn about her Keep a Child Alive foundation or witness her life, you know that she is not a product of anyone but God, her family and her truth.” [imdb]
(Photo of Alicia Keys is used in my article Thriving as an independent thinking creative maverick.)
Brené Brown, a professor and researcher, notes “In our culture, we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty.”
But, she adds, “we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.”
See article with information about her course, and more of her quotes, plus videos: The Power of Vulnerability – Brené Brown.
Self-Compassion author and researcher Kristin Neff, PhD says about being vulnerable:
“The very definition of being “human” means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect.
“Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.”
Dr. Neff also notes: “We often become our own worst critic because we believe it’s necessary to keep ourselves motivated.
“But the research shows that healthy self-compassion increases our inner drive, our resilience, and our ability to excel.
“Self-criticism does not build self-esteem by constantly measuring ourselves against everyone else. A strong sense of self-compassion is an essential ingredient for success.”
See more including videos in my article The Self-Acceptance Summit.