Anxiety is an invisible doubt killer and the phantom momentum blocker. It rears its ugly head when you least expect, as well as when you expect it the most. Fueled by fear and powered by involuntary paralysis, there's almost no stopping anxiety once it revs up unless you've really practiced techniques that can help ease the symptoms of panic and anxiety.
Recently, Zazie Beetz of the Emmy-winning show, Atlanta, revealed her own battles with a severe anxiety disorder. Although her character, Van, is a seemingly level-headed and calm woman, Beetz told The New York Times that in reality, she's been battling anxiety since she was an adolescent.
Anxiety disorder is one of the most common forms of mental illness in America, with some estimates stating that anywhere from 18-30% of the population is struggling with the disorder. For Zazie Beetz, her disorder is complicated by something that many successful women of color also find themselves dealing with: Impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is the overwhelming fear that despite your talents and achievements, you don't truly deserve your success and often feel like a "fraud" when your hard work is acknowledged. When asked about her Emmy nomination, Zazie said:
"It's just a big part of my life. I think this is actually a little bit weird — it's where my not resounding, complete excitement for receiving an Emmy nomination is coming from; a feeling of complete impostor syndrome, and feeling like I don't deserve it. I don't know … I hesitate saying that publicly, because I don't want to come off like I don't appreciate it."
Despite the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, those dealing with any kind of mental health issue don't exactly find the flashing lights as exciting as others might. Beetz says that within her industry, her validation often comes from outside sources. Most women understand that this external validation is never quite sufficient. Zazie shared:
"It's something really hard to deal with, being in an industry where your validation is only from the outside, especially if your confidence isn't high in your work. I just really want to do good work. That's just important to me, and when something is really being publicly lauded, I just really want to feel like I did my best work, and I'm never sure if I do my best work. That's something I've always struggled with within my work and in this industry."
While she has now developed the ability to recognize that she has not only earned but deserves her place as a top-tier actress, it did take her some time to get to that place. She told The New York Times:
"I've gotten much better at feeling like I have found my place, and like I deserve to be in a place. I've gotten much, much better at being able to deal with feeling very insecure or very anxious, or having panic attacks on set. But I think initially for 'Atlanta', it was my biggest opportunity. It was my first time showing my face to the world. So, I was very incredibly terrified of that."
While some of us can relate to Beetz in regards to her fears of not being good enough, while simultaneously battling anxiety, I bet many more of us can relate to the feeling that we might have only been hired for that position in order to fill a quota.
"I worry more that I'm being cast just because they need to fill a brown quota, and because they feel obliged to do that, and not because they actually want me. I feel like, does that mean my work isn't as good? Would I have been cast if there wasn't public pressure now to make sure that one brown face is among the sea of white? So, that's where I believe that comes from, this feeling like I'm not actually maybe wanted, and that they're just feeling pressure to want me. Obviously, I think there is genuine interest and I have genuine relationships with people, but also I just happen to be coming into the industry during a time where this is a huge shift. So it's an adjustment."
When we are able to find worth in ourselves and the value that we provide in the workplace, then and only then will we overcome these lingering feelings of doubt and inadequacy.
To read more of her interview with The New York Times, click here.
Featured image by Maarten de Boer/Getty Images