In this On Purpose episode, Jay Shetty welcomes Reneé Rapp, known for her childhood passion for performing. She achieved fame as Regina George in the Tony-nominated Mean Girls musical on Broadway. Subsequently, she gained acclaim for her role in the HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls. Rapp then ventured into music, openly addressing her vulnerabilities in her debut single, Tattoos. This episode revolves around the artist's latest work. 

Living with Anxiety in the Spotlight

Rapp shares that she often experiences waves of change and new levels of visibility. While it used to feel good in the past, she now feels a sense of fear and heightened self-awareness, particularly regarding how people perceive her.

There is the misconception that career advancements appear orchestrated and manufactured from the outside when they are often more organic and natural. Rapp acknowledges her struggle with reading everything online about herself and the impact of public opinion on her.

The artist opens up to Jay Shetty about a disturbing incident where a stalker approached her on stage, leaving her feeling vulnerable and apprehensive. She shares how the incident deeply affected her despite understanding that it may sound trivial.

Relatably, Jay Shetty mentions a study suggesting that humans prefer knowing when something terrible will happen over living with uncertainty1. Rapp admits her continued struggle to fully enjoy moments due to her fear of self-celebration and disappointment. She emphasizes her heightened awareness of how others perceive her as a critical factor in her evolving anxieties.

The Voices

Rapp discloses to Jay Shetty that her primary focus is delivering her best in the creative zone. She becomes so absorbed in her work that she doesn't have the mental bandwidth to worry about others' opinions. However, this intense self-criticism often leads her to believe she may never write another good song again.he also doubts the authenticity of those who support her creative journey.

Moreover, Rapp reveals to Jay Shetty the persistent thoughts of fear and failure that plague her mind. Despite her achievements and the trust and dedication of her collaborators, she sometimes convinces herself that they are all making colossal mistakes by investing in her. This self-doubt can persist for extended periods.

Rapp explained to Jay Shetty the various characters and voices in her head, which are all different versions of herself. These voices stem from her childhood and the audacious goals she set for herself, such as aspiring to be like Beyoncé before the age of 18. Even today, she continues to repeat these ambitious aspirations daily.

The Mindset Makes or Breaks it

Rapp shares with Jay Shetty how her upbringing shaped her tendency to hyper-criticize herself. It is an attitude often reinforced by well-meaning adults who constantly encourage her to seek improvement. While driving her to achieve excellence, this self-critical perspective also leaves Rapp in a perpetual cycle of questioning and self-doubt. She reveals how, for years, she couldn't even acknowledge something she liked about herself or express pride in her accomplishments. 

Jay Shetty suggests that reframing the initial question from "What did you do great?" followed by "What could you have done better?" might create a healthier balance between self-appreciation and self-improvement.

Anxiety and Self-Worth

Jay Shetty and Rapp analyze a lyric from one of Rapp's songs that encapsulates her journey: "I'll make it through the winter if it kills me." Rapp defines the winter as moments of panic and self-doubt regarding her career, relationships, and self-worth. In these challenging times, her resilience shines through, propelling her forward even when she feels the coldest.

Rapp reveals to Jay Shetty that she often derives her sense of worth from the happiness and pride of those around her. She feels worthy when the people in her life are content and proud of her accomplishments. This external validation serves as a driving force for her self-worth.

Building Resilience After Trauma

Reneé Rapp attributes her sense of worthiness to the happiness and pride of the people around her. Jay Shetty points out that what makes her worthy is that those she cares about choose to be in her life.

Jay and Rapp discuss the events in the artist's life that have shaped her resilience. Rapp shares a deeply personal and traumatic experience she endured, where she believes she was drugged and left alone for hours during a night out with friends. This traumatic incident left her disconnected and unable to recall what had happened. She exhibited immense resilience throughout this ordeal, from breaking ties with the group of friends involved to finally addressing the experience through her music.

Rapp's song Snow Angel became her way of processing the trauma, even though she initially felt numb while writing it. She recalls the challenges of explaining such a complex and sensitive situation to others and the fear of being judged. 

Jay Shetty offers empathy and understanding, creating a safe space for the artist to share her story. Rapp's resilience journey highlights the importance of facing traumatic experiences head-on, seeking closure, and channeling those emotions into creative expression.

Fresh Start

After a breakup, Rapp's desire for fun and escapism led her to join a new circle of friends who were all about partying. She longed for a carefree experience, away from the expectations and responsibilities she had been dealing with. However, she soon realized that these new friendships were built on shallow grounds, centered solely around partying.

The turning point came when Rapp found herself in a frightening situation, possibly drugged and left alone for hours without any recollection of what happened. Despite her initial numbness, Rapp decided to disconnect from this group of friends, emphasizing the importance of valuing her well-being and safety above all else.

Reflecting on the aftermath, Rapp acknowledged her quickness to trust people and tendency to let go when she senses distrust. This experience made her more honest about her feelings and trust her intuition. Rapp no longer needs everyone's approval, having learned valuable lessons about self-worth and authenticity.

Shared Experiences

Reneé Rapp opens up to Jay Shetty about her experience releasing the song Snow Angel and how sharing such a personal story with the world felt. She initially wanted the music to stand alone without her personal experience attached to it so listeners could form their interpretations. However, an internal struggle existed between keeping the song's meaning private and wanting to talk about it openly. Rapp's emotions fluctuated between wanting to keep the incident confidential and seeking revenge through humor.

Despite the complexity of emotions surrounding the song, Rapp is grateful that people had the opportunity to connect with it in their own way. She mentions to Jay Shetty that while she hasn't received direct messages from others who've experienced similar situations, she's had conversations with people who've indirectly shared their stories, creating a sense of understanding and camaraderie.

Jay Shetty acknowledges the sadness of connecting over such experiences. However, he highlights the importance of feeling understood during challenging times when control and consciousness are compromised.

The Joys of Life

Reneé Rapp shares with Jay Shetty the things that bring her joy. She highlights her love for connecting with people and her pleasure in relating to others. Rapp describes herself as an "extroverted introvert" and cherishes moments when people feel understood, whether through relating or empathizing.

Rapp's greatest passion is songwriting, which she describes as her most potent tool in life. She expresses her love for her younger brother and her joy in witnessing his growth despite being only a few years apart. She experienced a unique bond with her siblings and the pride of watching them mature.

Rapp mentions her struggles with self-criticism and perfectionism to Jay Shetty, revealing that these intensified as her music career took off. However, she values her team's support and their belief in her. She describes her transformation from an environment where she didn't feel understood to one where she felt supported and uplifted.

Hopeful Outlook

Reneé Rapp expresses her desire to unlearn certain habits and embrace new learnings as she continues to evolve. She intends to learn not to interfere in conversations, especially when her friends share grievances. She acknowledges to Jay Shetty the tendency to relate their experiences to her actions, which can detract from their vulnerability. Rapp strives to become a better listener, allowing her friends to speak without overshadowing their feelings.

Furthermore, Rapp emphasizes the importance of cultivating internal patience. She recognizes her impatience with herself and her desire for personal growth. She wants to develop a sense of patience in her journey. Moreover, Rapp acknowledges the need for external judgment regarding people who have hurt her. She aims to be more discerning in her relationships and not give those who have wronged her too much leeway.

The conversation also touches on Rapp's history with an eating disorder and her journey towards self-acceptance in her gray areas, particularly her sexuality. She shares that eating disorders are a constant struggle because they revolve around a necessity like eating, making it an ongoing challenge. Regarding her sexuality, she has learned to embrace the gray areas and accept that labels may change over time. Rapp views these uncertainties as "pink areas," an accepting and fluid space where she doesn't need to fit into rigid categories.

Rapp chose to open up and show her vulnerable side by sharing her ongoing journey towards self-acceptance and growth. She hopes to inspire self-reflection and understanding for those who resonate with her experiences.

More From Jay Shetty

Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “Reneé Rapp ON How to Break the Patterns of Negative Self-Talk & Ways to Stop Using External Judgment to Measure Your Achievement” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at

1de Berker, A., Rutledge, R., Mathys, C. et al. Computations of uncertainty mediate acute stress responses in humans. Nat Commun 7, 10996 (2016).
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