The Game of Thrones star has revealed that, thanks to social media, she was led to believe that she was worthless for years.
At 12, Williams’ life changed overnight. Suddenly, she was a fan favourite character and the star of the world’s biggest television show. The highs were particularly high: Williams was doing the job that she loved with a cast and crew that grew to become a surrogate family. But there were lows too, fuelled by the realities of fame as well as getting older, including the damaging impact of social media that led to Williams developing a crippling and debilitating sense of self-hatred.
“I went through a huge period of my life where I’d tell myself every day that I hated myself,” Williams said. “It got to a point where I’d be in a conversation with my friends and my mind would be running and running, and I’d be thinking about all the stupid things I’ve said in my life and it would just race and race. We’d be talking and I’d be like, ‘I hate myself.’”
She continued: “It got so bad. We can all relate to that, telling ourselves awful things.”
Williams puts most of the blame on the insidious nature of social media criticism and trolling. “It got to me a lot because there’s just a constant feed in your back pocket of what people think of you,” Williams explained. “It’s impossible to turn a blind eye.”
“When people are on social media they feel like whatever they write, no one’s gonna see it, no one’s gonna read it, but they do. And it will affect them for a long time. When I do feel myself going down a rabbit hole, it gets to a point where you’re almost craving something negative so you can sit in a hole of sadness. It’s really bizarre the way that it starts to consume you.”
For Williams, breaking the cycle of self-hatred meant breaking the consuming way that she used social media. “It’s something I’m really trying to break free from at the moment,” she said on the podcast.
When she started to interrogate why she felt the way that she did, she realised that “it was nothing to do with myself.”
Williams explained: “So many of these problems are really linked to things in your past, as soon as you start digging and start asking yourself bigger questions than: why do I hate myself? It’s more ‘Why do you make yourself feel this way?’”
Ensuring that she doesn’t let herself slip back into this negative thought cycle is something Williams works on every single day. “[I am] definitely really struggling to let sadness wash over me without it consuming me,” she explained. “There was a period of time that I was really sad and then I sort of came out of that. It’s now really terrifying [thinking] that you’re ever gonna slip back into it and I think that’s something that I’m really working on.”