Natalie Portman Reveals Self-Doubt and Depression in Harvard Commencement Speech

"I felt like every time I opened my mouth, I would have to prove that I wasn't just a dumb actress."

Camera, Cameras & optics, Photographer, Digital camera, Lens, camera, Camera operator, Model, Makeover, Video camera,
(Image credit: Getty)

Sometimes when we look at celebrities, we only see what they've achieved, not how they got there. But in a candid speech at her alma mater Harvard's Class Day ceremony Wednesday, Natalie "Voted Most Likely to Be a Jeopardy! Contestant" Portman laid it all out there, from her struggles with imposter syndrome to dealing with "dark times" her sophomore year.

"When I got to Harvard just after the release of Star Wars: Episode 1, I feared people would assume I had gotten in just for being famous, and not worthy of the intellectual rigor here," the Jackie actress said. "I wasn't smart enough to be in this company, that every time I opened my mouth, I would have to prove that I wasn't just a dumb actress."

So in the pursuit of "being taken seriously," she studied neurobiology and advanced modern Hebrew literature, which ultimately made her realize her true calling.

"It's easy now to romanticize my time here, but I had some very difficult times here too. Some combination of being 19, dealing with my first heart break, taking birth control pills that have since been taken off the market for their depressive side effects, and spending too much time missing daylight during winter months led me to some pretty dark moments. There were several occasions I started crying in meetings with professors, overwhelmed with what I was supposed to pull off, when I could barely get myself out of bed in the morning." But, she went on, "I admitted to myself I couldn't wait to go back and make more films. I had reclaimed my reason."

"You can never be the best," she told the students. "The only thing you can be the best at is developing your own self. Make use of the fact that you don't doubt yourself too much right now. As we get older we get more realistic, and that realism does us no favors." Watch the full speech below.

Chelsea Peng
Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.