Zazie Beetz of "Atlanta" Reveals Anxiety Struggles In New Essay

By David Konow 03/27/18

"I remind myself that, though there was a time anxiety might have stopped me, today is not that day.”

Zazie Beetz

At 26, Zazie Beetz is the rising star of the FX series Atlanta. Playing the role of Vanessa, Beetz has earned great acclaim as one of the highlights of the show, and she also has a featured role in the anticipated sequel to Deadpool, which hits theaters in May.

Recently, Beetz was asked to write a personal essay for Glamour about dealing with anxiety, a request that left the actress both flattered and terrified.

As Beetz relates, when she saw the deadline for the essay, “I thought of college and all of the papers that I couldn’t manage to hand in because I felt so overwhelmed by the process and the blank page... Maybe this blur of thoughts and tightening of my throat is indicative of what I need to confess.”

Finally her confession started spilling out: “Despite my career, so much of my life has been dictated by what I’m afraid of: fear that I am not talented. Fear that people will finally realize that I am a boring individual who doesn’t have many ambitions beyond starting a family ‘at a good time’ in life.”

Before becoming a star on Atlanta, Beetz was a server at a restaurant. “I’d work 10 or 11 hours at a time and felt like I couldn’t keep up. During a particularly busy shift, I was reprimanded for something I’d done wrong. I left feeling so depleted that I completely lost my shit in the bathroom.”

Then when working on the set of Atlanta, the same thoughts that haunted her when she waited tables would return. "I could just walk away; this is too much."

Sometimes she would find a corner where she could have a good cry. “Then I stand up, brush my tears away, tell myself, ‘You worked hard to get here,’ and get back to it. What I’ve learned is that bailing would mean giving in to anxiety, fear, and the myth that those things have any right to dictate my life. I remind myself that, though there was a time anxiety might have stopped me, today is not that day.”

Like many who suffer from anxiety, Beetz takes pride in the small things she’s able to do even when she’s overwhelmed. “By checking in with myself, minute by minute, I push myself through. I recognize the achievement: Maybe I didn’t clean my apartment, but I made it through work. And that’s enough.”

Having to write about her personal anxiety was hard for Beetz (“This essay has had me in shambles,” she wrote), but today she relates overcoming everyday anxiety to overcoming her fear of flying.

“I used to cry on planes,” Beetz says. “I don’t anymore. It probably took almost a hundred agonizing flights to get there. Now, when I take off, a smile quivers on the corner of my lips. A new adventure is coming. How terrifying. How exhilarating.” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.