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Ryan Reynolds Talks the Connection Between Anxiety and Success: It’s a “Dangerous Tightrope Walk”


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Ryan Reynolds has opened up about the connection between his anxiety and success, sharing on the SmartLess podcast that while it can be “useful” creatively in his professional life, it comes with a “shroud of darkness.”

The Free Guy star appeared on the podcast’s latest episode, where he spoke at length about his mental health experiences and how his childhood played a role in cementing his anxiety. The discussion was prompted by co-host Sean Hayes, who read part of a message the actor posted to his Instagram in May for Mental Health Awareness month.

After sharing that he related to Reynolds’ post, Hayes asked if Reynolds associated anxiety with success and if he did, “isn’t it scary to get rid of it?”

“That’s the dangerous tightrope walk I think a lot of people are on, right?” Reynolds responded. “I see anxiety as sort of an engine in a way, sometimes for creativity, but it’s got its own sort of cloud and shroud of darkness.”

The actor went on to say that he was “grateful” for his anxiety because it “allowed me to kind of transmute it a little bit and make it useful, which I think is always great.” But Reynolds also noted several of its negative effects, before explaining what he does to help manage his own.

“There’s a lot of insomnia associated, a lot of sleepless nights where you’re laying awake over-analyzing everything, and it’s very hard to turn one’s brain off,” he said. “So that’s where you start to rely on meditation and all kinds of other things just to kind of get yourself back to a centered place.”

Reynolds went on to discuss with SmartLess podcast co-hosts Hayes, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett how his anxiety — which he said has “been with me my whole life” — developed, pointing back to his childhood and relationship with his father.

“It started as a kid,” Reynolds began. “My household that I grew up in wasn’t overly awful in the grand scheme of things, certainly as compared to some people, but my dad was never an easy person to be around. He was like a skin-covered landmine. Like you just never knew when you’re gonna step on the wrong spot, and he was just going to explode.”

That created a situation for Reynolds where he said he started trying to predict the future as a kid. “I think predicting the future is a big brick in a wall of anxiety. We cannot predict the future, so you’re constantly living in this thing that may or may not happen, this place-based scenario.”

The Deadpool actor then made the direct connection between that anxiety and his work in Hollywood. “In this business, we all kind of tend to do that, where we project into the future. ‘What’s it like to be this person?’” Reynolds said. “Comedy is a little bit like that. You’re thinking, ‘How do I come 90 degrees to expectation in this moment.’ It’s all kind of born of that same thing with wheels that sort of don’t shut off.”

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