As we all know, the nature of the celebrity is that they are put on pedestals to the point of almost losing their human, more relatable qualities. Yet we also simultaneously acknowledge that celebrities are not immune to various ills, including that of self-consciousness. By self-consciousness, we mean that self-awareness that becomes almost crippling, making people uncomfortable in social situations — the type of self-consciousness that can be a symptom of more pressing mental health issues, like social anxiety, the third largest mental health problem facing people today.
This article is a call to celebrities everywhere to talk about their self-consciousness, their awkwardness, their anxiety. This would make mental health issues less taboo, less of a stigma, even less “weird.” Indeed, many other celebrities are already using their platform to discuss these topics, whether it is Lena Dunham, Beyonce or Jared Padalecki discussing depression, or Demi Lovato discussing bulimia. We salute these celebrities who have used their place in pop culture in a way that is meaningful.
Here are 15 of the best candidates who would potentially speak about their anxiety. (Of course, let us be clear: we do not mean to say that everyone on this list is suffering from mental illness — some may only be a little shy).
15. Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence has created a brand around her own awkwardness, establishing her as one of the most popular and sought out actresses in Hollywood. She is perpetually falling at award shows, bumbling about and, as she recalls, spilling yogurt all over the inside of planes, making her perhaps one of the most relatable people in Hollywood. In interviews, she manages to laugh it all off, in the most self-deprecating of ways. She certainly embraces her awkwardness publicly. Deep down, though, Lawrence has spoken about her various insecurities, from her appearance to her inability to say anything “normal”. Despite reservations about her own appearance, Lawrence still promotes body positivity and self-acceptance. We commend Lawrence being a real-life example of how to embrace your inner awkwardness (fine, we apologize for the cheesiness). In a world that is not entirely kind, we could use a few more Jennifer Lawrences.
14. Ryan Reynolds
If a successful career, a beautiful partner and a child are measures of success in our world today, it would appear that Ryan Reynolds has it all. However, on the inside, Reynolds feels a bit differently, even acknowledging his own self-consciousness regarding his appearance. He said, “I feel like an overweight, pimply faced kid a lot of the time.” Although Ryan Reynold’s himself hasn’t spoken in depth about the topic and his self-consciousness appears rather mild, Reynold’s ex-wife Scarlett Johansson, has also hinted about Reynolds’ insecurity when they were together and that the relationship actually ended because of it. Reynolds was particularly self-conscious about her success, with Johansson saying, “There’s always going to be the more successful person. It’s related to rejection. Because actors, if they’re not having success, connect it directly to unpopularity — to the fact that nobody wants them… [Marriage] takes a lot of work. It takes a man who’s not only confident in the love that you have for one another, but confident in what he has going on in his own career.” Reynolds has yet to comment.
13. Larry David
The brilliant Larry David, co-creator and co-writer of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, makes some astute social observations about social norms and the way humans interact with each other, observations that are the center of the each hilarious episode. Perhaps it is Larry’s very own awareness of others, however, that makes him uncomfortable with others, fearing that they, too, might be looking at little too closely at him.
The real-life Larry David is very similar to the self-conscious Larry David on Curb. The fictionalized version of Larry David perpetually finds himself in situations where he is misinterpreted and goes out of his way to convince others that their perceptions of him are wrong. Take the episode where Wanda Sykes accuses Larry of being an “ass man” or when Susie accuses him of being obsessed with breasts. The real-life Larry David is also self-conscious; interviews with him are few and far between. He sees small talk as being the equivalent of hell. He is unable to go up to a bar and say hello to a woman. It would seem that Larry David is very uncomfortable with being observed. But, that is prett-ay, prett-ay, prett-ay, okay.
12. Jim Parsons
Jim Parsons isn’t entirely unlike the socially inept scientist Sheldon Cooper that he plays on The Big Bang Theory, a role that has earned him numerous Emmys. Of course, in real life, Parsons is charming, pleasant and much more socially aware. But, he has admitted to his own self-consciousness during interviews. Indeed, he has a bit of a slightly nervous energy about him, a touch of uncomfortableness that lies just beneath the surface. In some ways, it seems that Parsons feels the need to be entertaining and witty but that it just exhausts him. This might be the exact reason why he admits to not being a huge fan of interviews. He has also admitted to being quite shy as a child, which probably explains why he is uncomfortable with all of the attention being on him.
11. Megan Fox
As of one of the sex symbols of our generation and with all of the accompanying attention that Megan Fox (used) to get, it is difficult to believe that she would be in any way self-conscious – especially when it comes to her career for which has basically been built upon her good looks. Surprisingly, Fox says, “In terms of how I look, I’m hysterically insecure.” In an interview for the Rolling Stone back in 2009, she said, “I see what I look like, but there are things that I like and things that I dislike. My hair is good. The color of my eyes is good, obviously. I’m too short. But overall, I’m not super excited about the whole thing… I have a lot of self-loathing.” She also describes herself as “introverted and neurotic.” It is clear that Fox is very hyper-aware of herself and her (perceived) flaws, something that will surely come as a surprise to most.
10. Joaquin Phoenix
The sphinx-like Joaquin Phoenix is one of few Hollywood celebrities to retreat from its very own alluring world. He rejects, in the nicest way possible, celebrity culture, denouncing award shows and self-promotion and when he does appear in the rare interview, if he does them at all, he often pulls some sort of stunt or prank, like telling people he is engaged (when he is not). It is clear that he would rather keep his personal life close to him and is uncomfortable when he is on the receiving end of attention. Part of this is likely due to his reserved, maybe even shy, nature.
As you may recall, he created a media frenzy when he told the world he was retiring from acting to begin a career as a rapper. His infamous appearance on David Letterman in 2009 where he wore sunglasses and refused to an answer any of Dave’s questions was shocking at the time (although it was later revealed that he was promoting the mockumentary, I’m Still Here). All of these instances are evidence that Phoenix was not made for celebrityhood, much preferring to be at home with his dogs instead of in a hotel promoting his movies. Not that it is a bad thing; in fact, it is a very fresh approach.
9. Jesse Eisenberg
If you are in search of an awkward twenty/thirty something to cast in your next film, Jesse Eisenberg is basically acknowledged to be that guy (he seems to have taken the place of Arrested Development’s Michael Cera). Indeed, Eisenberg is basically known for playing the socially anxious nerd. His reputation in recent years is that of an awkward, jittery and yet simultaneously arrogant.
Even before becoming a movie star, though, Eisenberg has always been self-conscious and that it is deeply rooted in who he is as a person, saying, “I feel self-conscious going out in the street prior to even being in a movie. That’s just me.” He would rather just rehearse plays over and over again instead, saying that, “I wish we didn’t have to then show it to an audience.” He is acutely aware of those who try to take his picture in secret and that he views it as an “attack.” Indeed, his anxiety is so prevalent that he sees a psychiatrist over it. After taking on different roles like the maniacal Lex Luthor in 2015’s Batman v Superman, it will be interesting to see if Eisenberg can break out of the anxious, nerdy mold that her is so deeply intertwined in.
8. Aubrey Plaza
Fun fact: did you know that the role of April on the beloved Parks and Recreation was specifically created for Aubrey Plaza? Indeed, April’s character and her deadpan style of comedy that made her so popular is actually how she is in real life. This will not be a surprise if you’ve ever caught an interview of Plaza on late-night television. It will also not come as a surprise to see Plaza on a list of “most self-conscious celebs.” The interesting thing is that her personality has really worked in her favour. When Plaza first met the casting director for Parks and Rec, the casting director was so uncomfortable due to Plaza’s quietness and lack of emotion that she actually felt so compelled to contact the co-creator of the show to tell him that she had just met “the weirdest girl I’ve ever met in my life. You have to meet her and put her on your show.”
As we know, Plaza certainly has had her fair share of awkward, albeit endearing, interviews. The reason for this, according to Plaza herself, is her shyness. She said, “I was really shy. I’m actually a shy person, but not, or something—I don’t know. I think that’s why I’m so awkward in interviews and on late night TV shows or whatever, because I don’t really love being myself in those situations. So, I tend to play a different character or make some weird performance out of it, because that’s more fun for me.” We hope Plaza never changes.
7. Kristen Stewart
The Internet has not been kind to Kristen Stewart. Indeed, she has landed her fair share of “socially awkward celebs” lists that would make anyone want to hide in bed all day. Take just about any interview featuring Stewart and it is clear she is nervous, shy, and some even say awkward. Her infamous interview with David Letterman in 2008 when she was promoting Twilight, landed her a spot on Time’s list of “Most Disastrous, Yet Memorable, Late Show Interviews.” Ouch.
Stewart has said in the past that, as a former child actor, she was unprepared for the attention she would get when she was thrust into the role of the iconic Bella in Twilight. Stewart is so uncomfortable with any attention on her that she even has trouble dancing in front of others. She is also envious of people that aren’t self-conscious. The fact that she was destroyed by the media (and even denounced by Donald Trump himself!) when news of her affair with director Rupert Sanders broke out in July of 2012 (and her awareness of public scrutiny), has probably only made matters worse for Stewart.
6. Kanye West
When we dissect Kanye West, it becomes clear that beneath his arrogance is a man who doesn’t truly feel like God, Shakespeare or Steve Jobs. Kanye is actually very self-conscious. He is deeply concerned with the public’s perception of him and goes to great lengths to convince us that he is brilliant, highbrow, that he matters. In interviews, however, when he is not ranting, he actually comes off as very uncomfortable and even shy. He can barely even smile. Kanye has commented on his self-consciousness himself, but even that particular statement was cloaked in insecurity, saying, “We all self-conscious. I’m just the first to admit it.”
From a psychological perspective of Kanye offered in a paper for Shrink Tank, one psychologist has speculated that his issues may go beyond mere self-consciousness. It would appear that he may have either narcissistic or histrionic personality disorder, which involves spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about one’s own adequacy. People with this personality disorder have a deep need to be admired by others and because of their strong need for attention, they often try to get it in inappropriate ways. Although we are not making an official psychological diagnosis here, these points seem to closely resemble Kanye himself. The interesting part is used to protect the person against feelings of inferiority and/or not feeling accepted. It would seem that underneath Kanye’s tough public persona is a frail man who dreams of acceptance.
5. Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp couldn’t be more different than the larger-than-life roles that he plays on the big screen. Interestingly, he is one celebrity whose level of self-conscious might arguably surpass everyone on this list. He has made it public knowledge that he hates interviews and comes across as very nervous when doing them. Part of this might have something to do with this shyness, which he has also spoken out.
Depp is so self-conscious (perhaps insecure is the more appropriate term here) that he not only feels uncomfortable looking into a mirror, but goes out of his way to avoid looking into them at all. He said, “If I can avoid the mirror when I brush my teeth in the morning I will. I find security and safety in the most profound degree of ignorance. If you can just stay ignorant about just about anything you will be OK. Just keep walking forward. It is OK to notice things, but to judge things will bog you down.” It is for this same reason that Depp doesn’t ever watch his own movies.
4. Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain: lead singer of Nirvana, one of the most influential artists of the grunge era, but took his own life when he was only 27 years old. Cobain was a complex individual, plagued by a deep discomfort of being in the spotlight. His introverted nature and shyness didn’t suit him well to being in the public eye, a fact very evident his performances. His MTV unplugged performance is a particularly good example of this. Cobain’s voice is powerful but yet lacking emotion; he stares at the ground without making eye contact with his audience. He also had a great disdain for the press’ constant criticism of his relationship with Courtney Love. He was even self-conscious about his own appearance, his personal style of flannel shirts and layers only constructed because he was self-conscious about his thin frame. Cobain felt the media’s microscope very troubling.
In the end, his own crippling self-consciousness may have been a contributing factor to his depression and eventual death. In his suicide letter, Cobain wrote, “when we’re back stage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowds begins, it doesn’t affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love, relish in the love and adoration from the crowd which is something I totally admire and envy.” Cobain’s self-consciousness is, without a doubt, one of the most tragic on this list.
3. Harrison Ford
Perhaps Harrison Ford is a little self-conscious over his most recent role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens – after all, the film didn’t receive the greatest reviews. Or, perhaps he simply suffers from anxiety, which makes him deeply uncomfortable when doing interviews. If you caught him on late night TV, he shifts uncomfortably in his seat, rubs the chair, stutters. This is something that a lot of people don’t understand. Because of this, Harrison is often misunderstood, perceived as a “grumpy” man. Some even think that he may be on drugs. In actuality, “It’s people I’m afraid of”, he says. He has a particular social phobia of public speaking, so don’t be too hard on him. Ford could actually normalize mental illness and anxiety by discussing it in interviews or perhaps writing about it, a topic very seldom, if ever, discussed by one of the biggest action stars in Hollywood.
2. Donald Trump
If self-consciousness involves a degree of self-awareness, it would appear that this trait is not as developed in Trump as it is in other humans, particularly when we consider his appalling remarks about an entire country being r*pists and murderers (of course, he does assume that some are good people). Trump may not be self-conscious about anything that comes out of his mouth, but he is self-conscious about one little thing — some might say very tiny things: his hands.
You are most likely familiar with Trump’s steadfast efforts to prove that he doesn’t actually have stumpy fingers — so much so that he sent a picture of himself to the very editor who pointed out his tiny hands nearly 30 years ago, circling them in gold sharpie. On another picture, he even wrote, “See, not so short!” Of course, Trump isn’t only self-conscious about his hands. We can see this when we take a look at his dyed blonde hair and his faux-tanned skin. What we mean to say is that Donald Trump is just as afraid of illegal immigrants and of America not being as great anymore as he is of losing his looks.
1. Ben Affleck
We may not initially think of big movie star Ben Affleck as self-conscious. But if you’ve watched interviews with him, what emerges is that of a very self-conscious and highly critical individual, particularly about his career choices. In 2006, in an interview with USA Today, Affleck said “I’ve been in movies that earned a lot of money that … I wish I wasn’t in, honestly.” When he eventually landed a role in Hollywoodland, he was happy that “I don’t have to feel, like, embarrassed anymore.” Affleck is deeply self-conscious about the public’s perception of him: he laments about taking less than respectable roles, about always being in Matt Damon’s shadow or being perceived as boring. This self-consciousness about his career has extended to a self-consciousness about his very own being; his high-profile relationships (particularly his relationship with low-brow Jennifer Lopez), his lack of education, his drinking and more. The now viral GIF of Affleck’s deeply melancholic face while listening poor reviews of Batman v Superman is perhaps a symbol of his very own life.