The ‘Game of Thrones’ star said that fame and social media throughout her teen years made it hard to love herself
Just weeks ago, the world cheered at Maisie Williams’ Game of Thrones character, Arya Stark, who used her wit, skill, and bravery to murder the Night King and save the world from certain ruin. And today, the star actress is emerging as a favorite for an Emmy for her work.
But behind her amazing successes and lauded career at a very young age, Williams struggled with her mental health and happiness as she navigated her teenaged years amid global fame and constant social media criticism. Now 22, she opened up about her mental health struggles for the first time with radio host Fearne Cotton on the Happy Place podcast.
Like many teens, Williams, who was cast on Game of Thrones when she was just 13, struggled with loving herself in part because of messages she was getting from social media. But instead of just receiving input from friends, she was being inundated with negative information from strangers.
“It got to me a lot, because there’s just a constant feed in your back pocket of what people think of you,” Williams said during the podcast. “It gets to a point where you’re almost craving something negative so you can sit in a hole of sadness, and it’s really bizarre the way it starts to consume you.”
She got to a point where she hated herself, she revealed.
“I went through a huge period of my life where I’d tell myself every day that I hated myself,” she said. “It got to the point where I’d be in a conversation with my friends, and my mind would be like running and running and running and thinking about all the stupid things I said in my life and all of people who looked at me a certain way and it would just race and race and race.”
She started to work through her problems through self-reflection, and what sounds like some good lessons from cognitive behavioral therapy: changing what you feel by understanding what you think.
“I think so many of these problems are linked to things in your past or whatever, and as soon as you start digging and start asking yourself bigger questions than ‘Why do I hate myself?’ It’s more like ‘Why do you make yourself feel this way?’” she explained. “The answers to all of these questions really are within you. It sounds really hippy dippy and like ‘look within you to find peace’, but it is true and at the end of the day you’re making yourself feel this way for a reason.”
Williams isn’t the first actor from the hit HBO show to come forward about her mental health struggles. Sophie Turner, who plays Williams’ sister Sansa Stark, and who is also Williams’ close friend, shared some of the very same feelings just months ago, before the premiere of the last season, when she sat down on Dr. Phil’s podcast, Phil in the Blanks. She also famously clapped back on Twitter when some idiots were saying that celebs were trying to make mental health problems “fashionable.”
“It’s weird,” Turner told Dr. Phil. “I say I wasn’t very depressed when I was younger, but I used to think about suicide a lot when I was younger, I don’t know why though. Maybe it’s just a weird fascination I used to have, but yeah, I used to think about it. I don’t think I ever would have gone through with it. I don’t know.”
Turner also said that being friends with Williams sometimes allowed them to stay in their depressive states, both because of the isolating aspects of the show, and because they were experiencing the same tough times.
“I think being friends with each other was quite destructive because we were going through the same thing,” She said. “We would get home from set, go to a little supermarket across the road and just buy food. We’d go back to our room and eat it in bed. We never socialized for a couple of years.”
While both Turner and Williams say they have grown and processed a lot, they are still on a journey toward better mental health and self-acceptance.
“I still lie in bed at like eleven o’clock at night telling myself all the things I hate about myself,” Williams said on the podcast. “There’s still a journey, I think. But at least dropping the act and just being who you truly are, I think that’s definitely a first step.”
You can listen to the full 55-minute episode of the Happy Place podcast with Maisie Williams here.