The One Thing That Held Kristen Bell Back

photo credit: Brian Bowen Smith 

photo credit: Brian Bowen Smith 

Despite the unfolding drama over a Lazy Boy in the Bell/Shepard household, Kristen Bell's life in Hollywood is refreshingly not dramatic. 

Sure, she can play a woman who accidentally winds up in a heaven-like afterlife, a cut-throat emotionally stunted employee, voice a Gossip Girl and a princess Frozen into our hearts, and find time to work alongside her hubby in the soon-to-be-released CHIPS, but she's also the woman who surprises her older sister, Sara (+ fam), with a basement renovation, has everlasting and true love for sloths, fiercely protects her daughters' privacy, and dedicates her time to organizations like This Bar Saves Lives. She's the kind of woman you want to grab fro-yo with and then let in on your plans to take over the world. She's the kind of woman you'd want around in a crisis. And you know what? She'd probably show up with a pickaxe, extra batteries, and some space blankets. 

We caught up with the actress and activist to chat aging in Hollywood, dealing with the girth and grit of social media, and what she's so damn excited about.

Social media wasn’t around when you were a kid, but you definitely seem to have a healthy relationship to it now. What advice to you have for young girls dealing with the pressures of social?

My hope for young girls in regards to social media is that they are able to discern the difference between actual reality and presentational reality. Once you acknowledge that everything you see is precisely curated and tailored to perfection, you are freed of the futile need to “keep up”. Social media can be super fun, but when taken too seriously, it breeds feelings of false inadequacy. It makes people, young and old, feel as if their life isn’t show worthy enough. And conversely, while you shouldn’t feel less than because of social media, you also shouldn’t feel more than. Don’t let your feelings of self-worth come from detached clicks. My fear is that young people conflate Facebook likes with human affection. They confuse the heart on Instagram for a beating one. My advice is to let social media be fun. Don’t let it be important.   

"Let social media be fun. Don’t let it be important."

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Who are some women you admire either in your professional or personal life? And why?

There are many women in my life I look to as examples of good, but one that stands apart is Shannon Sedgwick Davis. She is an attorney, a philanthropist, and is currently the CEO of the Bridgeway Foundation, an organization devoted to ending atrocities around the world.  I am in constant admiration of her ability to balance humanitarian and for-profit work, and her unwavering commitment to kindness. She is a model of compassion and my personal yardstick for righteous human conduct. She rules. 

How, as a woman have you thought about growing older and is that any different than how you’ve thought about it as an actress?

As I’ve gotten older, my life experiences have only gotten better. Age has brought me a newfound confidence, appreciation and peace that were previously missing. In regards to work experiences, I think the common sentiment is true: work becomes more challenging as an actress as you grow older. I have been very lucky in my career opportunities, but objectively age limits the roles you play. I can no longer play a 20 year old. It’s not ageism; it just wouldn’t reflect reality, and the entire profession is predicated on creating convincing realities. So, yes, I think there are professional challenges that come with age, but I also believe thoughts control your language and your language controls your life. Negative thoughts attract and self-fulfill a negative outcome, so I do my best to re-frame the picture and not allow future limitations to become my present ones. 

You’ve said that you “shatter” a little bit when people don’t like you. How have you balanced this feeling with a career where, at least initially, you’re hearing “no" a lot?

I, often find that many of the people pleasers I know are artists in some capacity. Yet, there is no other industry more fraught with no’s; death to someone who is always searching for a yes. When I was younger, I found this juxtaposition very hard to reconcile. But, I reached a point where I learned, out of necessity, to divorce my need to please from my career. It was the only way to survive the rejection and ultimately it was the key to success. There is a lot of excess noise that comes with allowing everyone to have a say in your self-worth. Once you shed that, you instantly become (ironically) a more likeable version of yourself. 

Plates are spinning around you all the time: actress, activist, mom, wife, friend. What’s your strategy for when you drop one? 

Gentleness. It’s impossible to complete life’s balancing act with a perfect record. You are bound to wobble or misstep or even fall. It’s just part of the game. But dwelling in temporary defeat is what causes more permanent ones. So, it’s very important to be kind to yourself, shake it off and move forward. 

"It’s impossible to complete life’s balancing act with a perfect record."

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What are you most excited about?

I’m excited about the near future when today’s girls are running the show. I attended the Women’s March in Los Angeles and was in awe of how many young faces were amongst the crowd. It was inspiring to see youth in action; 5th grade faces demanding equality and showing a mental strength beyond their years. When I was young, society asked its children to be polite, to follow the rules, and to stay in line. This new group has thrown all of those commandments away. Young girls are now being raised to ask questions, they are being taught to know the difference between “what is” and “what should be,” and they are learning how to demand fairness at a very young age. It brings me peace to know our future lies in these hands.  

Join us and Kristen Bell at SXSW where she'll be joining us on stage as our featured speakers. RSVP here. First come, first serve.