The ladies of the Facebook talk show, “Red Table Talk,” have opened their seats to host a timely conversation around the impact of generational anxiety.
During the episode, Willow Smith joined in conversation with Ireland Baldwin, the daughter of Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin, where the two connected on their shared journey with anxiety, panic attacks, and the pressures of growing up in the public eye.
Willow drew from her past experiences to share the challenges she faced when seeking support from her mother, Jada Pinkett Smith, in managing her anxiety, “It was rough. I feel like when I was growing up, she didn’t understand my anxiety. Because she, growing up, had seen her friends die — she had been through so much stuff that my issues, to her, kind of felt like…[smaller].”
“And that was very frustrating for me as a child,” Willow added. “Because I was like, ‘How can you not see my internal and emotional struggle?’”
The “Transparent Soul” artist went on to reveal how empathizing with her mother’s suppressed anxieties allowed her the space to forgive Jada for downplaying Willow’s mental health struggles growing up, “Recently, we had a talk, and she was like, ‘I never knew that I actually experienced anxiety,’” Willow shared. “And she was pushing it down for so many years, like she had no idea. So, I had to forgive her a little bit for being like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah… I get it, but it’s really not that bad.’”
The illuminating conversation continued with the two daughters joining their mothers and Willow’s grandmother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, for a discussion that bridged the generational gap between their shared mental health struggles and varied coping methods.
Jada shared, “It’s so beautiful being able to watch two young people sit together and have a conversation like that — just as a mom, because we didn’t get to do that.”
“I didn’t come up in a time where that kind of conversation was even allowed,” Jada continued.
Reflectively, Jada opened up about the difficulties in facing Willow’s anxieties and the reasons behind the disconnect, “It took me a long time to understand Willow… just her anxiety. I had a very difficult time relating because two things: her lifestyle and how she was brought up was very different than mine.” She added, “I don’t know what it’s like to be a child under hot lights.”
“And then just really not knowing how to comfort her, not knowing what help she needed, not understanding the behavior,” Jada says.
The “Set It Off” actress went on to share her own signs of anxiety growing up, “Even though I used to chew my fingernails… I’ll still go at them a little bit, but they didn’t say that was anxiety. I was a ‘nail-bitter,’ that’s it.”
For Jada, Willow’s mental health struggles served as a mirror to her own anxieties, explaining, “One thing about having to deal with and learn about [Willow’s] anxiety, I’ve had to look at some of my own behaviors, and the behaviors of my mother and then go, ‘Of course I would have some anxiety in regards to how I grew up.’”
Willowed affirmed the statement adding, “I think my anxiety used to trigger you. And you would just be like, ‘no,’” with Jada agreeing to the revelation.
Jada’s mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, known by her maternal moniker, Gammy, went on to point out how much the conversation around mental health has evolved, especially within her lifetime, “I think in our world, I saw it as a weakness.” Adding, “We just couldn’t afford to be anxious.”
Gammy, who celebrated 31 years of sobriety back in December of 2021, opened up about how her past struggles with drug abuse were a means of escapism that, in turn, numbed her from addressing the anxieties with her daughter, Jada.
The revealing and necessary conversation is an example of what healing can look like when mental health and wellness dialogue is normalized among family and loved ones.
The discussion closed with Jada punctuating, “I guess what I’m seeing is this cycle of generational anxiety.”