Claire Foy recently won the Emmy for Lead Actress in a Drama for her role as young Queen Elizabeth on The Crown, but even royalty gets anxiety. In a new interview with the Guardian Weekend magazine published Friday, Foy revealed she has struggled with anxiety her entire life, and that it's only worsened as she rose to fame. But the 34-year-old actor also has a message of hope for fans struggling with debilitating anxiety or impostor syndrome: She's learned to manage the condition by not letting it define her.
During the interview, Foy told the publication her severe anxiety was tied to "lots of thoughts of how sh*t I am." This is also known as imposter syndrome, a phenomenon that causes people to feel like “frauds,” especially in regard to professional and personal achievements, giving them a feeling that they didn’t properly “earn” their success.
Foy discussed that feeling when she auditioned for both The Crown and her earlier role of Anne Boleyn in the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall:
"I'd read Hilary Mantel's novel. And I just thought: 'I’m not [Anne Boleyn]. Not in any way, shape or form.' Anne was so intelligent, so alluring, so able to be mysterious and have people be fascinated with her. Anne knew she was special. She spoke five languages. I just didn’t see it."
Foy might not have seen it, but the rest of the world did: She was praised for her performance, with the Guardian calling her "perfectly complex." There's that pesky impostor syndrome creeping in.
Foy explained that she's been dealing with her anxiety from quite a young age, stemming from when her parents separated when she was only 8. She would try to "make everyone happy. Never be angry. Be really sweet and well-behaved. I didn’t want to upset people," she told the magazine.
She went on to say that she used her anxiety as a coping mechanism, which will sound familiar to anyone who deals with those feelings themselves. But what she gets really, really right is the way she describes how anxiety can be illogical, and that's why it is so hard to control. Foy said,
"When you have anxiety, you have anxiety about — I don’t know — crossing the road. The thing is, it’s not related to anything that would seem logical. It’s purely about that feeling in the pit of your stomach, and the feeling that you can’t, because you’re ‘this’ or you’re ‘that’. It’s my mind working at a thousand beats a second, and running away with a thought."
But Foy did learn to control her anxiety more after seeing a therapist. She also offered this hopeful note about shifting her perspective and how it can be a great equalizer:
"All your sh*t — and everybody has sh*t — it doesn’t go away. It’s still there. But I guess I don’t believe it so much any more. I used to think that this was my lot in life, to be anxious... But now I’m able to disassociate myself from it more."
Foy went on, "I know that it’s just something I have — and that I can take care of myself." Her anxiety doesn't define her, and it's not who she is, it's just something she deals with. And if you are struggling with anxiety too, know that it doesn't define you either.