He’s the Hollywood star known for drawing audiences to the theatre in droves, and when it comes to his social media presence, followers can expect heavy sarcasm, quick wit, and the kind of tongue-in-cheek trolling of famous friends that goes viral upon publishing. But in recent years, Ryan Reynolds has used his platform to share his own struggles with anxiety, facilitating conversations around mental health that have been instrumental in removing the stigma that continues to surround such topics – particularly for men.
In a recent interview with Sunday Morning on CBS, Reynolds revealed that his “lifelong pal” anxiety has seen him develop a number of coping mechanisms, including the ability to access a different part of his persona while battling with it. When experiencing anxiety as a result of performing or public speaking, Reynolds said he’s often able to access a much more smooth and confident version of himself. “I’ve had anxiety my whole life, really,” Reynolds said. “I feel like I have two parts of my personality. One takes over when that happens.”
Before film shoots or public appearances, it’s often this other version of Reynolds that the public is granted access to. “When I would go out on, like, Letterman, back in the day, I would always be nervous,” he recalled. “I remember I’d be standing backstage before the curtain would open, and I would think to myself, ‘I’m gonna die. I’m literally gonna die here. The curtain’s gonna open and I’m just gonna be a symphony of vomit.’ Just, like, something horrible’s gonna happen!”
But soon a calm version of Reynolds emerges. “As soon as that curtain opens – and this happens in my work a lot too – it’s like this little guy takes over,” he explained. “I feel, like, my heart rate drop, and my breathing calm, and I just sort of go out and I’m this different person. And I leave that interview going, ‘God, I’d love to be that guy!’”
According to the BBC, those who experience anxiety might often develop psychological tools to cope, one of which might be embodying an alternate version of yourself. In doing so, you’re essentially enacting a form of self-distancing from your current subjective experience, allowing you to feel more calm, objective, and in control of what would otherwise be a stressful situation. Other coping mechanisms include talking to yourself in the second or third person. The benefits of self-distancing were studied in the journal Frontiers in Psychology in 2021 where it was found it could help athletes with emotional regulation.
Studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2014 also found that talking to yourself in second- or third-person also helped individuals regulate their stress levels, thoughts, feelings and behaviour when feeling anxious.