Talented, But Insecure

Taylor SwiftHer fourth album “Red” had opening sales of 1.21 million – the highest recorded in a decade, and Taylor Swift has had two million-plus opening weeks.

But in a taping in front of a college audience for the tv show “VH1 Storytellers”, she responded to a question from a college student, and said:

“I doubt myself 400,000 times per 10-minute interval.

“I have a terrifying long list of fears. Literally everything — diseases, spiders… and people getting tired of me.”

[Hollywood Reporter 10/17/2012]

[Related post: Taylor Swift: precocious talent, homeschooling, gutsy self-determination.]

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Will SmithWill Smith has said, “I still doubt myself every single day. What people believe is my self-confidence is actually my reaction to fear.”

From post: ‘I’m a Fraud’: Gifted and talented but insecure

Here are a few excerpts from my book on these topics of doubt and confidence.

Talented and insecure – gifted adults, self esteem and self doubt

Over the years of reading biographies and interviews with many highly talented and creative people, it has often struck me how many of them talk about being self-critical and having poor self-esteem.

For example, writer Larry Kane commented about his bio on the musician, “People would be surprised at how insecure John Lennon was, and his lack of self esteem. Throughout his life, even during the height of Beatle mania, he had poor self esteem, even though he exuded confidence.”

Lennon reportedly said about his conflicted feelings:

“I’m not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I’ve always been a freak…all my life and I have to live with that, you know…Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.”

Self esteem is basically positive self-regard, a realistic acknowledgment of our talents and value as a person. It is not the absurd and trivializing efforts over recent years to make all children in school feel they are “special” and have high [often meaning bloated] self-esteem, as in: “We don’t want anyone to feel left out, so everyone wins a spelling bee award” or “The valedictorian will be chosen by lottery.”

Continued in my Creative Mind post Creative But Insecure.

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Is there a need for relationships to be creative?

Psychologist Anne Paris, PhD explains in her article A New Approach to Igniting and Sustaining Creativity, “Contrary to how we’ve been taught to value independence and autonomy, this new scientific evidence is showing that we are at our best when we are connected with others.”

She details some of the potential reasons that may work for people:

“When we are feeling frightened or are lacking self-confidence and vitality, we need to look at the state of our relationships, rather than to blame ourselves for being weak and inadequate, or to think that we must somehow find strength and courage from deep within ourselves. We cannot create in a vacuum of isolation: we are helped along in the creative process by certain kinds of emotional support from others that help us to be at our best and to realize our full potentials.”

Loren Long

In her article The Need for Others, Dr. Paris quotes Loren Long, an accomplished artist who has illustrated many books, including “Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna,” “I Dream of Trains” by Angela Johnson and others.

“My wife is not an artist, but she has great taste,” Long said. “I run everything by her, sometimes daily as I’m working on a project. She is my first level of screening. If she likes it, then I feel the confidence to proceed.

“My publishers’ opinions are also very important to me. Not just because they determine if my work is adequate. I admire and respect them a lot. I want them to like what I’ve done.

“I guess that, in general, I always need someone to like my work. If they don’t, my self-doubts come to the surface. You know, like I’m not living up to the grand fantasies I have about myself or about what my work should look like.”

[Photo from interview: Loren Long, Author/Illustrator, Picture Book Reviews.]

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Patterns of thinking and behavior that hold us back

Kenneth W. ChristianIn his book Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement, psychologist Kenneth W. Christian, PhD talks about styles or patterns of thinking and behavior that we probably developed in school and early in life, and that solidify into ruts that can limit our fulfillment, achievement and creativity.

One pattern and group, related to perfectionism for some people, is Self-Doubters / Self-Attackers – who “block their success by holding high standards they feel they can never possibly meet and for which they therefore seldom strive.”

[Photo from article: Living Up to the “Gifted” Label – Or Not.]

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Most of the above text [without photos] is from my book “Developing Multiple Talents” - read About the book.

Here is some related material [not necessarily in book] :

Emily Mortimer, Alison PillEmily Mortimer recalls being at a party in Los Angeles when she was still new there, and developing her career: “Someone asked me, ‘You’re an actress?’ and I said, ‘Yes, but not a very good one,’ because I felt embarrassed. I hadn’t done anything, really. But he looked so totally horrified, it was as though I’d said, ‘I eat babies’ or something.”

Now an established actress, especially on account of her role in the hit TV show The Newsroom, she still doubts her abilities: “I’m probably far too self-conscious to be an actress.”

She says she spends most of her working days “just saying the f—ing lines over and over, and walking out of the trailer just hoping it’s going to stay in your head until you get to the set, and you almost [think that] if you move your head a little bit it might fall out of one ear.

“So you just walk very straight and hope that no one talks to you until you get there and you say it.”

[From article: “The Newsroom’s very British girl” www.thetimes.co.uk via theweek.com (September 19, 2013).]

Photo: Mortimer (at left) in The Newsroom, with Alison Pill – who also has commented about this kind of insecurity, which can apply to many kinds of public presentation, like making speeches:

“The only way to deal with nerves is by focusing on whatever you have to do and forgetting about the number of people watching and everything that depends on you. Sometimes, I get so incredibly nervous before a take that I forget lines or I mess them up.”

Pill added, “When that happens, I know that I am not a part of the scene since the character isn’t nervous. It’s a matter of aligning your own feelings with what the scene is about… if the character isn’t uncomfortable then I can’t be.”

From article: Celebrities with anxiety and panic attacks.

Emily Mortimer is also a screenwriter and producer, but, like many talented people, experiences impostor feelings. She admits:

Emily Mortimer in The Newsroom“I’m always paranoid and completely stressed out about any job I do. I’m convinced I’m terrible and I’m going to get fired.”

Part of her insecurity may relate to her admission to the prestigious St Paul’s Girls’ School in west London, she notes:

“I remember someone at school saying: ‘You only got in because your dad’s John Mortimer’, and a part of that may be true. I was on the waiting list and my dad took the headmistress – the high mistress, as she was called – out to lunch to tell her how much he wanted me to go there.

“I’m sure he probably told her what an attractive, wonderful woman she was, and I’m sure he put his hand on her knee, or something, and then I got in.

“So, part of you always thinks, f—, maybe I did only get in because my dad’s John Mortimer.”

[He was a barrister, playwright and creator of “Rumpole of the Bailey.”]

From article: Emily Mortimer: ‘In England people think my success is down to my famous father’ By Jane Mulkerrins, The Telegraph 18 Feb 2014.

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Jack Lemmon“Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure.” ― Jack Lemmon

> Quote also used in my article: Living and Creating: Fear Is Not A Disease.

Fear of failure may be part of the dynamic of perfectionism – which impacts many talented people.


Colin-Firth-and-Meryl-StreepPhoto: Colin Firth and Meryl Streep – from article: ‘I’m a Fraud’: Gifted and talented but insecure.

Even people with exceptional talents can feel insecure and struggle with low or unhealthy self-esteem.

Meryl Streep, for example, has said,

“I have varying degrees of confidence and self-loathing … You can have a perfectly horrible day where you doubt your talent… Or that you’re boring and they’re going to find out that you don’t know what you’re doing.”

This is not an isolated feeling or an issue for only a few talented people.

Over the many years of researching creative people and reading many interviews with high ability people, I have seen quotes like Streep’s showing up often.

 Here is another example – from one of my favorite actors:

Amy AdamsAmy Adams says, “Being an actress hasn’t made me insecure. I was insecure long before I declared I was an actress.”

She talks about having an “existential crisis” at the Oscars, sitting next to Sean Penn and Meryl Streep and thinking, “What am I doing here? I don’t belong here. I felt like it could all be taken away.”

Acting was not deep calling for her as a child, as it is for many actors.

She says, “I graduated high school and I didn’t have a skill set and I didn’t want to go to college. I needed a job. This is what I could do. And I like it, but it can be very painful. You feel so vulnerable all the time on set, so exposed.

“But I had that same feeling of being exposed when I was a waitress, I have it at parties…I’d love to be a diva. But I’d then have to send so many apology notes for my abhorrent behaviour.”

She added, “I like not being noticed. It has been a struggle because I love performing, but if I’m in a group of people and someone has a bigger personality I’m like ‘Go ahead, and have fun!’ It looks like a lotta work.”

– See more in article: Shyness and High Sensitivity – On Stage or Off.

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Bill NighyBill Nighy is “so self-deprecating” he can’t name one thing he likes about himself, “nor can he name a single performance he’s happy with” according to an interviewer.

“He’s been plagued with self-doubt, anxiety, and panic attacks since childhood” and was nicknamed “Nerv” for “nervous.”

Nighy says he still expects “the worst” whenever he’s hired for a new acting job, and explained: “It’s the usual things: ‘This time they’ll bust me. No, they won’t. Shut up. Go to sleep. Can’t.’”

[The Sunday Times (UK) article by Tanya Gold via The Week March 12, 2014 theweek.com]

Nighy has also commented that maybe at least some of this negative feeling about himself could be wrong:

“You come to realise there is this huge disparity between what you think about yourself and your work and what other people think about you and your work, at first you either think they’re insane or that it’s a conspiracy to make you look stupid.

“Or maybe, just maybe, they’re right, and you’re sometimes quite good at what you do.”

– From article: Actors and self esteem.

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What to do about insecurity and fraud feelings?

In my book and on various sites, I have mentioned Valerie Young, Ed.D. a number of times in connection with her programs and articles for entrepreneurs, and for personal development.

Overcome the Impostor Syndrome

Learn more at her site Overcome the Impostor Syndrome, and sign up for free “Impostor Buster” Words of the Week.

Dr. Young notes on her site that this is not an issue for only one gender: “Men are attending my seminars in increasing numbers, and among graduate students the male-female ratio is roughly fifty-fifty.

“I’ve heard from or worked with countless men who suffer terribly from their fraud fears, including a member of the Canadian mounted police, an attorney who’d argued before the Supreme Court, a corporate CEO, and an entire team of aerospace engineers, one of whom spoke of the “sheer terror” he feels when handed a major assignment.”

Referring to her book, she says “Despite the title you will find male voices reflected in the book. Once you read the book it will be clear why, in the end, there were more reasons than not to focus more so on women.”

Book: The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, by Valerie Young, Ed.D.

Also see article: Dealing with self sabotage: Getting beyond impostor feelings.

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Jack Canfield testimonial for The Lefkoe MethodBelief change educator and author Morty Lefkoe notes,

“The way to improve our internal level of confidence that we apply to life in general is to eliminate our limiting beliefs.

“Every negative belief we have lowers our internal level of self-confidence – beliefs such as I’m not good enough, I’m inadequate, I’m powerless, I’m not capable, Nothing I do is good enough, and I’m not worthy.”

You can try The Lefkoe Method for free to eliminate one limiting belief at his site ReCreate Your Life.

The Lefkoe Method

Also read about his Natural Confidence Program [see video testimonials by Jack Canfield and others]


Undo Public Speaking Fear – The Lefkoe Method.

Go to the Undo Public Speaking Fear site to learn more this program.

How To Change “Human Nature” By Morty Lefkoe

See list of articles by Morty Lefkoe – A profile by the Institute of Noetic Sciences notes that he “made a series of discoveries that allowed him to help people make permanent changes in their emotions and behavior.”

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DIY Self-Esteem course“Sometimes it feels like everyone else is in on some big secret that you weren’t told about.

“It’s like, how is everyone doing that? How is everyone just so OK?

“Was I off school on the day they handed out the self-esteem manuals?

“Because, for you, feeling normal, feeling comfortable, just doesn’t come all that naturally.

“You’re always just a little bit on edge.”

From site for self-guided course: DIY Self-Esteem by Joanna Moore.


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