Impostor Syndrome and Self-doubt

Natalie Portman Harvard Speech on 5/27/2015

In her moving address, she paints a picture with broad brushstrokes from all stages of her life — her time as a teenage actress, her experiences as a mother, her own days at Harvard, and the highlights of her incredible career, from V For Vendetta to Black Swan. Natalie talks a lot about how she found a way to stay true to herself and how she pushed herself fearlessly forward in every new and challenging situation.

“So I have to admitted that today, even 12 years after graduation I’m still insecure about my own worthiness and I have to remind myself today you’re here for a reason. “

“You are here for a reason. Sometimes your insecurities and inexperience may lead you, too, to embrace other people’s expectations, standards or values. But you can harness that inexperience to carve out your own path, one that is free of the burden of knowing how things are supposed to be, a path that is defined by its own particular set of reasons.”

“Prizes serve as false idols everywhere. Prestige, wealth, fame, power, you will be exposed to many of them, if not all.”

“So we bump up against the common troll I think of the commencement address people who achieved a lot telling you that the fruits of the achievement are not always to be trusted. But I think that contradiction can be reconciled and is in fact instructive. Achievement is wonderful if you know why you’re doing it. And when you don’t know, it can be a terrible trap.”

“I realized that seriousness for seriousness’ sake was its own kind of trophy and a dubious one, a pose I sought to counter some half-imagined argument about who I was. There was a reason that I was an actor. I love what I do. And I saw from my peers and my mentors that it was not only an acceptable reason, it was the best reason.”

“And it’s not about quantity. It’s about taking pleasure in the perfection and beauty of the particular. I’m still learning now that it’s about good and maybe never done, that the joy and work ethic and virtuosity we bring to the particular can impart a singular of enjoyment to those we give to and of course, to ourselves.”

“I feel lucky that my first experience of releasing a film was initially such a disaster by all standards and measures. I learned early that my meaning had to be from the experience of making the film and possibility of connecting with individuals rather than the foremost trophies in my industry: financial and critical success. And also those initial reactions could be false predicators of your works’ ultimate legacy.”

“You can never be the best, technically. Some will always have a higher jump or a more beautiful line. The only thing you can be the best at is developing your own self. “

“People told me that Black Swan was an artistic risk. A scary challenge to try to portray a professional ballet dancer. But it didn’t feel like courage or daring that drove me to it. I was so oblivious to my own limits that I did things I was woefully unprepared to do. And so the very inexperience that in college had made me feel insecure and made me want to play by other’s rules now is making me actually take risks I didn’t even realized were risks.”

“Your inexperience is an asset, and will allow you to think in original and unconventional ways. Accept your lack of knowledge and use it as your asset.”

“Each time you set out to do something new, your inexperience can either lead you down a path where you will confirm to someone else’s values or you can forge your own path even though you don’t realize that’s what you’re doing. If your reasons are your own, your path, even if it’s a strange and clumsy path, will be wholly yours. And you will control the rewards of what you do by making your internal life fulfilling.”

  • Not having any clue what you’re doing can be a blessing in disguise.
  • Inexperience can be as good as courage.
  • Making time to do good works is worth it.