Sara Waisglass plays the spunky, charismatic Maxine "Max" Baker in the Netflix hit "Ginny & Georgia", but now the Canadian actor is opening up about the struggle of social media-driven perfectionism in an Unsinkable Blue Monday public service announcement.
"I find that I'm now so afraid to fail, I feel like I'm not allowed to fail anymore," Waisglass says in the PSA. "Any win I have just feels like a reprieve from failure."
Unsinkable, founded by Olympic rower Silken Laumann, uses storytelling as a way to normalize discussions around mental health, including youth-led initiatives that help young people recognize that others, including celebrities like Waisglass, are experiencing the same things. The goal is to help them move into a path to mental well-being.
"I remember being a kid and I actually looked everywhere to have something like that, because I didn't hide much, I did want to talk about what life was actually like and how we were all struggling, and how it wasn't easy for everyone," Waisglass told Yahoo Canada. "I never found a place to do that."
"So I feel like the fact that Unsinkable exists is pretty unbelievable. I just want to do my part to get the message out there, because I think it can help a lot of people. I'm just really honoured to be part of it."
"I think that recognition from someone who has that platform and who is in a role where they are showing up with this big, beautiful energy to say, 'You know what, I also experienced tough times. I also have been through challenges. I can have the best day out in the world, and then next day is not so great.' I think that's such an important message for young people to hear," Hailey Hechtman, executive director of Unsinkable, added.
"There's a lot of pressure for us to show up as our best selves online, and through storytelling and through the work that we do, I think having someone who really speaks to that and is able to share, ... it's something that really resonates and connects. I think that's really powerful for a lot of young people across Canada."
While Waisglass was shot into international fame and recognition because of Ginny & Georgia (one of the most-watched shows on Netflix last year), she started acting when she was just a young child, appearing in shows like "Overruled!," "Degrassi: The Next Generation" and "Degrassi: Next Class."
If she could give her younger self a piece of advice, Waisglass said it would be to be "proud" of herself.
"It's very scary to be in an adult industry when you're a child and I think people treat you like a kid, but expect you to work like an adult," the actor said. "That can be really tough and kind of confusing."
"So I think I would tell myself, you're doing something very mature and you're killing it. And even if you don't book roles, the fact that you're trying is enough, and the fact that you love what you do is enough."
'Social media is a scary place to exist'
With Waisglass's fame also comes increased attention, not just in-person but online as well, specifically on social media.
"Social media is a scary place to exist and it's not just like a 10 minute thing in someone's day, it usually is hours, without even realizing it," Waisglass said. "While you are talking to your friends you're also being bombarded with a lot of unrealistic kind of energies."
"We see the models and we see the celebs, and we see people achieving their dreams, and it's like, maybe you woke up crying today. It just makes you feel so much worse. ... When people comment mean things, it's not great. It's not fun. I don't like to read it. So I don't read it. At the end of the day for me, specifically, I just love the work. I love the creation and I love a bunch of people coming together to tell a story, that is what's most meaningful to me. ... When audiences have strong reactions, it just means you're doing your job. It just means that they see it and they feel like it's real, and that is what you're supposed to do."
That's why Waisglass is particularly supportive of Unsinkable. She identified that the format allows people to highlight that the steps in everyone's mental health journey can be different, and it can take a long time.
"Everybody struggles, and everybody has good days and bad days, and I feel like if we all talk about that more," Waisglass said. "And if we all really drive that point home, maybe we'll be a little more understanding and compassionate with one another."
Hechtman shared that from Unsinkable's perspective, it's about harnessing the "power of storytelling."
"We know that there's so much information out there around mental health however, if I don't see anyone who looks like me, has similar experiences to me, who I can relate to in some way, reaching out and saying, 'I've struggled and I've reached out for help,' it's easy to feel alone," Hechtman said.
For anyone, a young person or an adult, interested in sharing their story, Hechtman stressed that "there's no right or wrong time."
"I think we want to really capture that mental health, in particular, it's not linear, people go up and down," Hechtman said.
"So I think at any point, when you're willing to share something that's real and honest and vulnerable, you will help someone who is one step behind you in this process. ... Or maybe there's something in your story that they can really relate to, and that's going to encourage them to share."