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'It's scary to be vulnerable': Celebrities talk conquering fear and finding success

Even some of the most successful stars were afraid to fail at first.
Getty Images/TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Fear is a powerful emotion. At its best, it can protect us from danger and motivate us to do the right thing. But at its worst, fear can hold us back from reaching our full potential.

Fortunately, fear is a universal human emotion that affects everyone from Joanna Gaines to Aidy Bryant.

To help inspire you to take on the things that seem scary, we gathered some of the most compelling stories about feeling and overcoming fear from our favorite stars.

1. Aidy Bryant

The "Saturday Night Live" star was worried she would get fired during her first season on the show.

In an installment of the Sunday Sitdown with Willie Geist, Aidy Bryant opened up about the fear she felt during her first season as a cast member on "Saturday Night Live."

"My whole first season, I was just convinced that I was going to be fired — the whole year," said Bryant. "And was crying all the time being like, 'This is it, it's over now.'"

“I was really scared, but I came to find out that I was really lucky that I had solid years in Chicago doing shows every night of the week for all different kinds of audiences."

Now, after nine seasons on the show, the "SNL" veteran shared that she held onto things she knew were personal strengths to get through the first intimidating year.

"I know what I’m good at and I know how to get an audience on my side or, if I’m losing them, where to push. I felt strong in that area,” she explained.

2. Will Smith

The actor faced his fear head-on during a family skydiving expedition for his 50th birthday.

During an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Will Smith talked about taking his whole family, minus his 19-year old daughter, Willow, who refused, skydiving for his 50th birthday.

"I’m really confronting all the things that I’ve ever been scared of and I’m just finding this really exuberant freedom in life," said Smith.

The "Pursuit of Happyness" actor expressed how profoundly affected he was by the experience of conquering his fear.

“What I discover is how cancerous fear can be," said Smith. "You can’t be happy if you are scared."

Smith shared that facing fear is a "critical" aspect of enjoying the time you are given on earth.

3. Robert Pattinson

The "Twilight" actor learned to channel his crippling anxiety into energy for a scene.

During an interview for Willie Geist's Sunday Sitdown, Pattinson got real about struggling with anxiety before auditioning for new roles.

“I used to get so paralyzed with anxiety before auditions," said Pattinson, "I just couldn’t do anything."

For years, Pattinson said he tried different methods to calm himself before performances but to no avail.

"The only thing that ever worked is just to use that anxiety as a charge," said Pattinson.

The 33-year-old actor learned how to take hold of his fear so that it wouldn't take hold of him. Pattinson said he would "really grip hold of it and use it as energy," which in turn enhanced his ability to perform.

“You build everything from anxiety and fear,” said Pattinson.

4. Bear Grylls

Known thrill-seeker Bear Grylls helped TODAY's Keir Simmons learn how to control his fear response.

"Man vs. Wild" star Bear Grylls is known for his incredible survival skills and ability to solve problems while facing extreme consequences. To do so, Grylls had to find methods for controlling his feelings of fear.

"If you really want to live empowered, you've got to face those fears," said Grylls.

By taking TODAY's Keir Simmons through his high ropes course in Birmingham, England, Grylls gave Simmons the opportunity to control his fear of heights. Grylls encouraged Simmons to breathe through his fear to keep his body from going into panic mode.

"This now is about trying to control that sense of natural panic that always comes," said Grylls. "If you are not used to it, it can overwhelm people so if we breathe it down, we keep calm, focus on what we are doing."

By focusing and using Gryll's techniques, Simmons was able to stay focused and accomplish tasks he didn't believe to be possible.

5. Joanna Gaines

The "Fixer Upper" star feared failure when she flipped her first house

Joanna Gaines, along with husband Chip Gaines, is now a superstar in the world of design and renovation, but when the couple first started out, she was really fearful of failure.

"At the time, choosing the right paint colors seemed to be the scariest decision of an entire renovation. So, of course, I wanted to play it safe," Gaines wrote in an essay for the summer issue of the couple's magazine, Magnolia Journal.

Gaines opened up about her fear, saying that it revealed a much deeper personal issue for her.

"There was this continual, underlying dread that any one of these decisions that I was trying to pull out of thin air could be the one that proved once and for all that I was no good at this work," the former HGTV star wrote.

By putting her fear aside, Gaines has become a legendary force in the world of home design with five successful seasons of their hit reality show, "Fixer Upper," and a thriving Magnolia empire to show for it. Without facing fear, her success wouldn't have been possible.

6. Kevin Love

The basketball star faced his anxiety by being vulnerable about it in public.

In an interview on the 3rd Hour of TODAY, Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love talked about experiencing an anxiety attack during a basketball game. He explained how scary it was to have nowhere to hide in the arena.

"I was out there on the floor. We had just come out of a time out," said Love, "I ran around looking for something that I couldn’t find; I ended up on the floor."

It was an eye-opening experience for Love and caused him to start taking his anxiety more seriously.

"I had an episode that really scared me and I didn’t know what to think of it. I thought, you know, this could be it," said Love.

But Love didn't let a mental health issue end his career. He wants people to know that facing anxiety, while scary, is not uncommon.

"There are so many people that either in the first person or within arms reach deal with mental wellness, mental health, mental illness on an everyday basis," said Love.

Love said he also faced a lot of fear in being open about his mental health concerns, but he believes vulnerability can help others.

"Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say," said Love, "It’s scary to be vulnerable, like I mentioned, so a lot of the time it’s just speaking your truth. It makes you evolved and feel stronger."

7. Kendra Scott

The jewelry designer overcame her fear of rejection when launching her business.

Launching her eponymous jewelry empire was not a walk in the park for founder and CEO Kendra Scott.

“I remember going to the first store and actually being told no and, you know, having the courage to go to another store, finding that inner courage, that perseverance of, 'OK, this one said no, but it’s not the end,'" said Scott.

Today, Kendra Scott Jewelry is sold globally. Her main takeaway from the early days of building her brand was how important it is to ask for help.

“Sometimes, I think, as women especially, we feel like well that’s a sign of weakness if we ask for help and to me, it is the greatest sign of strength,” said Scott.

8. Sheryl Crow

The singer-songwriter faced stage fright early in her career.

It may come as a surprise that Sheryl Crow had stage fright at the beginning of her career.

"The biggest part of my early career, I just didn’t want to see the audience at all," said Crow "I became like a shoegazer."

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Crow was able to see a bigger purpose in her performances.

"There was a moment where I realized that what we do isn’t necessarily all about us: it’s about the eye contact, it’s about the electricity or whatever it is in the room that moves perfect strangers. That is what music does," said Crow.

Seeing the big picture when facing fear in any capacity can help you see things in a new and less terrifying light.