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Viola Davis on Health, Love, and Resilience

The actress reflects on her latest role (in "Won't Back Down"), the importance of self care, and the joys of becoming a mom later in life.

Viola Davis' Lessons in Self-Confidence continued...

But even as Davis achieved stardom, confidence remained elusive. Even now, she says, "I definitely don't think I'm great at what I do. There are times when I don't even feel competent."

She has come far though, she says. Her father's death in 2006 particularly helped her focus on the things that truly matter. "Once my husband and I were evacuated from our home in California because of fires, and they tell you to take the most important things in life and get out," she remembers. "My husband and I took some hummus and a can of sardines and some chocolate, and I said to him, ‘Should we get the insurance papers?' And he said, ‘No, take the food and get out.' If you knew you had only five minutes left, you learn what's important. It was like that when my dad passed. Anything you thought was important fades away. Anything that angered you or destroyed you is forgotten, and the only thing that is left is pure, pure love. Because at the end of the day, nothing else matters."

It's a lesson that Davis has continued to learn with the adoption of her daughter. While she acknowledges there are downsides to being a parent later in life -- "I'm convinced my exhaustion has pushed me into early menopause!" -- she says the positives far outweigh the negatives. "I definitely understand why people do it when they're younger," she says. "But the good thing about having a child at this age is I've been doing what I've been doing for 23 years, so I'm on the downward swing of things professionally. I don't mean that negatively, but I'm at a precipice. That's why my husband and I have started a production company, because I'm opening my life to a whole new arena of passion."

Davis also has a new capacity for empathy and compassion. "I'm more forgiving of people," she says. "I've never been a gossipy woman, but I find that I don't go there at all anymore. Part of it is that I'm tired all the time," she laughs. "But the real reason I can't gossip anymore is I'm so aware of the person we're talking about being someone else's child."

By clearing out the emotional and social clutter, "I'm living my life with purpose, and I think when you do that things fall in line, and they fall in line in the exact order they should," she says. "I now understand the importance of love. And for me, the most important things are my husband and my daughter. Because they make me feel needed. They make me feel like the space I'm taking up on this earth is important. That I'm important."

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