‘Gravity,’ Sandra Bullock, fear & getting what you want

betty ming liu Inspiration, Money, Relationships 16 Comments

Sandra Bullock knows about fear. She’s had to deal with a cheating husband, divorce, single motherhood, aging, adoption. I’m not sure how losing out on the 2014 Oscar for Best Actress impacts the mix, but I’ll bet she’ll be fine. 

I’m a fan because she is such a survivor. Recently, she amazed me during a pre-Oscars interview that she did on “CBS This Morning” with her director, Alfonso Cuaron. As Oscar nominees (I’m glad that he managed to win Best Director!), they were promoting “Gravity.” 

Of course, as the whole world knows, their super-exciting movie is about astronauts lost in space. During the interview, Cuaron praised Bullock’s “fearlessness” and strength in carrying the picture.

Then she spoke a truth that has stayed with me. This is what she said about starring in “Gravity:”

I learned how to get in touch with something I had no idea existed still. And that was this inner life, and to trust it and to dig deep for it — and, fear got you there.

Imagine — at 49 years old, Sandra Bullock had already made 40 films. Even so, she went into “Gravity” ready to keep growing. She looked inward and reinvented her long career at an age when most actresses are weeping over their Botox and wrinkles. Now that’s my idea of living in the moment.

It’s not the first time she’s been brave. In 2010, she adopted a baby boy and became a single mom, which was also notable because she crossed racial lines as a white mother who is now raising a black son. Their bond began soon after Jesse James, her husband of five years, made headlines for having an affair with a tattoo model. Oh, the humiliation! But when she talked about her kid during the CBS interview, she was positively beatific.

After seeing her on that segment, I had to catch “Gravity.” Watching it in an IMAX theater had my every nerve ending screaming. Of course, the 3D venue was expensive — 18 bucks per ticket. But for that price, I received 90 minutes of practice in facing fear, with Sandra Bullock at my side.

Then, I went home and reflected on my own fear: I’m afraid to stay happy.

As a single mom, I got happy after I built a financially stable, safe, comfy home for my daughter and me. I’m finally in a strong, romantic relationship too. Yet, unhappy feels more familiar. It’s part of my old pattern of perpetual self-criticism and anxiety.

There’s a related issue that sometimes bothers me more than I want to admit. It has to do with a fear of success. As you know, I’m working on a book project that has recently led to a terrifying thought. What if my book is actually quite good? Could I handle positive feedback? If I get my dream, what will I have left to whine about?

Culturally speaking — as a woman, the daughter of immigrants and a person of Asian heritage — I’ve been raised to not draw attention to myself. So having the life that I want feels like climbing onto the center of a very big stage. Very big. The challenge is to stay there. Don’t leave. Don’t get scared and walk away.

Let go, girl, let go of fear!

Like this:

Letting go!

If you’ve got a fear or two, I hope you’ll share and keep me company. Throw it right up there, onto the center of the stage. Do it nice and loud and proud. Get the round of applause that you want and deserve. Let fear get us to our inner life.   xo

Comments 16

  1. Great piece Betty. I love Sandra Bullock. And I think its true. Unless you face fear, and are willing to occasionally fail, you don’t get what you want in this world.


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  3. Having followed Sandra Bullock’s career for many, many years, I thought I’d stick in my 2 cents. She has said in previous interviews, before she got her Oscar in 2010, that she got a late start as an actress and was going to be damned if her age, into her 40’s and 50’s was going to stop her from working on movies, even if she had to produce them herself. Fortunately, she became successful enough to do just that, such as being a contributing producer wit the Blind Side for which she won her Oscar. That was her first serious dramatic role which she consciously chose to take, as she had predominantly done romantic comedies her entire career.

    But Hollywood has not been kind to female actors. With few exceptions, such as Meryl Streep, Dame Helen Mirren, Dame Judy Dench and hopefully Cate Blanchett, going forward, it is crucial that women be given opportunities behind the scenes in order for film careers to continue for women and prosper. We as women are witnessing going backwards in many fields, in which we had made progress in terms of females’ opportunities, and unfortunately, the feminists from the 60’s lost. Looks, lack of modesty, strip poles and “getting a man” unfortunately is now beholden for the young generation, and let’s hope that role models such as Sandra Bullock came remain relevant as long as possible, or women might as well go back to the kitchen!

    Keep it up, Betty!

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      Diane G, your two cents is priceless! Thanks for the background. “Blind Side” was the first film of hers that I really liked. In her CBS interview, she projected such honesty and warmth as she talked about The Reality of Hollywood, haha! She made it clear, but in a quite tactful way, that a lot of roles she would’ve loved just never came her way.

      I am inspired to have you say that she is a late bloomer. There is continued hope for us all!! Thanks for stopping by and if you have more SB tidbits, please feel free to add more here, any time. :)

  4. Wow, Betty. Reading this actually brought tears to my eyes! I too have had a lifelong fear of success. As an African-American woman who was identified by elementary school as being “intellectually gifted” I went through Hunter College High School with Elena Kagan, won a scholarship to the Medill School fo Journalism, worked on the Gannet owned Herald Dispatch newspaper in Huntington, W.Va., as an intern, graduated, returned to New York City and entered the world of trade and consumer journalism, and still felt that like I was unworthy of praise. I married, had children, was a 100 percent stay at home mom, orchestrating an incredibly culturally rich beginning for my two children. Went back to school to get a master’s in education, became a teacher, then decided that my writing life was still there. Left full time teaching, and ever since, I have bridged the worlds of teaching and writing, often afraid, but still inching along. My late mother was a trailblazer in many ways, and she always told me, “you can do it.” While supportive, my father on the other hand, divorced my mother, so in some ways he divorced me, too. I think some of my accomplishments were my way of proving to him how “special” and worthy I was. Now both of my parents are gone, and for the first time in my life, I know that I want to succeed for me. Of course I want my kids and husband to be proud of me, but in many ways they’ve already showed me that they are. Being proud of myself had been my biggest fear. Wanting more has been a fear for me, but I keep inching closer to what comes next. And for the first time in my life, I believe that I deserve it, whatever it turns out to be!

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  6. Betty Ming Liu, you are an inspiration and a breath of fresh air. I am ecstatic to have discovered your blog. Blessings and love going forward with your book. You will be successful in whatever you do!

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  7. Too true, Betty! “If I leave my comfort zone, what will I have to complain about?” I also loved this film. About 15 minutes in, I worried seeing it in 3D was a bad decision. That feeling passed quickly, and I walked out ready to come back to earth, struggle out of the stuff that weighs me down and learn to walk again.

    Warning: Shameless work plug follows
    If you want to see another fascinating interview, check out Sandra Bullock and Alfonso Cuarón’s interview with Charlie Rose at

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      Plug away, Laura! And yeah, the 3D version really was fun. It’s the first IMAX I’ve seen in a couple of years. The technology has improved immensely. I also like the fact that our glasses were recycled. Those disposable 3D specs from the olden days were so wasteful!Thanks for dropping by and hope you have fun exploring your personal outer space. :)

  8. I was raised on the fear-based form of sexual education of all the heartbreak, disease and pregnancy that happen (from school and the media, not my folks who were more open-minded.) Which made it hard in relationships when I knew that would eventually come up. I had major sexual anxieties for a long time and stopped relationships because of that.But now I’m getting better and trying to go on.

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      Keep on going on, Carrie! A healthy relationship is healing and wonderful. It’s taken me a long time to work out my issues but the effort has always been worth it. The issue isn’t the guy. The issue is just feeling good about ourselves. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Here goes…
    I’ve had issues of not being good enough for some time.
    And if I actually knew that I was good enough, I feared it wouldn’t last and I wouldn’t be good enough for too long. I feared I might be “caught in the act,” a la Wizard of Oz.

    That fear has lessened a lot, but now I’m trying to repair the numbing effects of what thinking/living like that did.

    Feels good to get that out. Thanks, everyone, for sharing.

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      Skye — atta, girl! Just get it out of your system. Holding onto my confidence is a daily practice, especially as I struggle to develop my creative side. I also think that self-doubt is a somewhat natural part of the creative process. We just have to work through it. We can do it!

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