Self-discovery. It's an age-old quest that all of us embark on, whether consciously or not, in life. The process of learning about our own motivations, preferences, and how we relate to each other and the world is endless and vast.
Case in point? Jane Fonda, who, at 78-years-old, revealed recently that the demands of filming Grace and Frankie for Netflix last year prompted her to seek out not only an acting coach, but therapy as well. “It was really hard for me the first season. I kind of fell apart,” said the actress, who became a household name in the 1960s, going on to earn two Best Actress Oscars in the 1970s.
What Fonda reminds us is that there's never a right or wrong time to work on ourselves. At any point in life, we can find a challenge that forces us to reevaluate. And Fonda isn't alone. While any person can benefit from a little introspection, Hollywood has given us some other good examples of late.
Taylor Swift, Emma Watson, and Jessica Biel have all made headlines lately for the same reason as Fonda: they need a minute to recalibrate. No matter how much success they’ve achieved, or how perfect their lives may seem, they know they have to continue to strive for balance if they want to keep moving forward.
Swift's confidant and fellow songstress, Lorde, told Vogue last month: “[Swift and I] talk about this—in order to do good work, write these deeply personal records, we’re constantly in a place of metacognition. Sometimes it can feel like you’re a scholar writing a thesis about your own brain.”
Swift went on to declare that she’d “really like to take a little time to learn things,” adding, “I have lots of short-term goals.” While the goals she mentions seem quirky and irrelevant to her career—make a good cocktail, take a CPR course, learn how to change a tire—these are all experiences that add to our larger understanding of the world and how we operate in it.
Emma Watson also says she's taking a break from the spotlight for a year to enrich her personal life, according to an interview with Paper Magazine. “My own personal task is to read a book a week, and also to read a book a month as part of my book club,” she says. “I’m reading so much and exposing myself to so many new ideas. It almost feels like the chemistry and the structure of my brain is changing so rapidly sometimes. It feels as if sometimes I'm struggling to keep up with myself. It's a really cool period of time for me.”
Jessica Biel, who’s been noticeably absent from the big screen blockbuster scene lately, has been busy with some personal pursuits of her own. Aside from becoming a mother in April 2015, Biel has also partnered with several famous foodies to open Au Fudge, a restaurant in West Hollywood that serves seasonal, organic food and cocktails to parents while also offering a supervised playhouse area for kids. Her critics, however, warn that if she wants to keep a spot on the actress A-List that she "should get an acting coach and do an independent film or two that would show off her talent, not her beauty.”
“We’re supposed to be complete and whole,” says Fonda, “and you can’t be whole if you’re trying to be perfect. It took me a long time to learn that.” Young entertainers like Swift, Watson, and Biel appear to have heeded that wisdom, as evidenced by their respective quests for growth and balance in their professional and personal lives.
According to Polly Campbell, author and speaker on positive psychology, "When you know yourself, really know yourself, you can live according to your values and passions, make a positive contribution to the world and simply have more fun."
It would be easy for any of these women to think "I've already arrived" and shun the need for more development. But taking time to devote to enrichment and side projects seems like something we all can benefit from pursuing, no matter how busy or #blessed our lives are.
Taylor, Jessica, Emma, and Jane are all proving that trying new things is a positive (and fun!) way to lead a more fulfilling life. Because even for them, the Hollywood glamour and youthful good looks will fade—and that was never what life was all about anyway.