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Shy or Introverted or Highly Sensitive in the Arts – Part 2

[Continued from Part 1.]

Ang Lee - Sigourney Weaver“I remember when I met director Ang Lee and we were left alone. I was so shy and he was so shy neither of us said anything to each other for about 20 minutes.”

Actor Sigourney Weaver – From post: Director Ang Lee: The Artist, The Introvert.

One of the things I find really fascinating about a number of dynamic actors who have such power and presence in movies and on television, is they identify themselves as shy or introverted.

Here are a few more comments by well-known actors and other artists:

Evan Rachel Wood: “I used to not even be able to order pizza on the phone because I was just so shy. I think that’s why so much comes out on-screen, because that’s my time to let go in a safe place.”

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.”

Nicole Kidman: “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.”

Above quotes are from post: Gifted and shy – Jane Fonda, Evan Rachel Wood, Nicole Kidman.

Viola Davis in The HelpViola Davis has commented about how her work as an actor has helped her find more confidence, especially being nominated for an Oscar for her role in “The Help”:

“It was so important because I felt like I found myself. I’m so shy. I spent so many years in insecurity but for some reason because maybe that movie was so controversial and I had to find my voice in order to defend my choices.

“And then it culminated with me actually taking my wig off, that within all of that I kind of found who I was and stopped apologising for that. It was a huge emotional growth for me.” [Viola Davis ‘so shy’,]

Claire Danes as Temple GrandinIn an interview when she was about 15, actor Claire Danes said, “I never thought of myself as shy, and then I realized I am kind of shy; I’ve just built defenses to hide it.”

She has also commented, “I did not perform well socially in junior high. I was a strange girl and I was in a lot of pain because of that, like most teenagers.”

Maybe part of this kind of pain is because in this culture, especially as a teen, we who are shy or introverted have been seen as “abnormal” – especially with statistics or at least presumptions from earlier eras that introverts were only about a quarter of the population.

And aren’t we supposed to be “outgoing” and active members of some groups, if we are socially and psychologically healthy?

Elmore LeonardAnother comment on distress was made by the late novelist Elmore Leonard who once said, “I got into drinking because I was shy, somewhat introverted, self-conscious, and it brought me out.

“It was the macho thing to do. I drank from the time I was 16 until I quit when I was 52. And I had more fun when I was drinking than at any other time.”

[From “Elmore Leonard, master of the hard-boiled crime novel, dies at 87” By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2013.]

His perspectives may fit for other creative people who use drugs and alcohol – see my article Gifted, Talented, Addicted.

Introversion and Shyness Qualities

Psychologist Elaine Aron, in her book The Highly Sensitive Person, notes this term shy “has some very negative connotations. It does not have to; shy can also be equated with words such as discreet, self-controlled, thoughtful, and sensitive.”

She also notes: “Because HSPs (highly sensitive persons) prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called ‘shy.’

“But shyness is learned, not innate.

“In fact, 30% of HSPs are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion. It has also been called inhibitedness, fearfulness, or neuroticism. Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do so and not the basic trait.”

From post Creative and Shy.

Jonathan RauchIn his essay in The Atlantic: Caring for Your Introvert, Jonathan Rauch described a number of characteristics shared by many of us introverts:

“Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk?

“Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

“For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.”

Dr. Linda Silverman, director of the Gifted Development Center, explains “Introverts are wired differently from extraverts and they have different needs. Extraverts get their energy from interaction with people and the external world. Introverts get their energy from within themselves; too much interaction drains their energy and they need to retreat from the world to recharge their batteries.”

From my post Creative Introverts – which also has this:

Steve Jobs-Steve Wozniak“Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me. They’re shy and they live in their heads. The very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone…”

Steve Wozniak (at far right), who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs.

In his article “The Creative Personality: Ten paradoxical traits of the creative personality,” creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, PhD (pronounced me-high chick-sent-me-high) writes that “Creative people trend 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 current psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliably measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.”

(Article is from his book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention.)

More of his quotes, and perspectives by others on introversion, are in my book “Developing Multiple Talents: The personal side of creative expression” (Link goes to book site with reviews, excerpts).

Musician Jewel“We can’t underestimate the value of silence. We need to create ourselves, need to spend time alone.

“If you don’t, you risk not knowing yourself and not realizing your dreams.”

Musician Jewel

From 35 Quotes For Introverts By Christopher Hudspeth.

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> Concluded in Part 3.


Shy or Introverted or Highly Sensitive in the Arts – Part 2

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2013). Shy or Introverted or Highly Sensitive in the Arts – Part 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Aug 2013
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