Jane Fonda: “Acting was the last thing in the world I wanted to do, I was so shy. But I got fired as a secretary and had to earn some money.”
She discovered her passion for acting in the mid-1950s while studying with famed drama coach Lee Strasberg, who told her she was special and had real talent: “It was like the top of my head came off and birds flew out and the sun came out and my life changed.”
But, she admits, “I didn’t get over my shyness until I was about sixty.” ["Private Screenings," Turner Classic Movies interview by Robert Osborne, Mar 29 2007]
Fonda is far from unique in being shy, while still choosing a creative profession that is very public.
In her Psych Central post The Benefits of Being an Introvert, Jane Collingwood provided a summary of the traits:
An extrovert “is one whose mental images, thoughts, and problems find ready expression in overt behavior,” according to the psychologists Allport and Allport in 1921, whereas an introvert “dwells largely in a realm of imagination.” Introverts, given sufficient ability, may become visionary poets or artists, they suggest.
There are many sorts of artists – including performers, who would seem to more likely be extroverted.
But people – especially creative ones – are complex and not accurately classified as either one or the other.
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“I used to not even be able to order pizza on the phone because I was just so shy.”
Evan Rachel Wood [imdb.com]
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In his post After the Show: The Many Faces of the Performer, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. quotes creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the complex personality traits of creative people – such as this comment:
“Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. We’re usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. In fact, in psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliability measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.”
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“It was very natural for me to want to disappear into dark theater, I am really very shy.
“That is something that people never seem to fully grasp because, when you are an actor, you are meant to be an exhibitionist.”
Nicole Kidman [imdb.com]
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Giftedness expert Lesley Sword notes, “Western civilization today is dominated by the extravert viewpoint. This is because extraverts outnumber introverts 3 to 1, are more vocal than introverts and are more understandable than introverts. However, while introverts are a minority group in society, they form the majority of gifted people.” From her article The Gifted Introvert.
For more on sensitivity and the related traits of shyness and introversion – though they are all distinct – see my site Highly Sensitive.
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Last reviewed: 12 Sep 2010