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Will Smith's determination to "overachieve" was sparked by his dad's abusive behaviour.
The 53-year-old actor was just nine years old when he helplessly watched on as his father beat his mother, and Will admits that the experience has shaped his life.
He shared: "I couldn't shake the idea that I had failed my mother and I was somehow unworthy of love and care because of my cowardice.
"And that [was] the beginnings of wanting to overachieve and wanting to create and wanting to win and wanting to build an external life that could somehow and hopefully cover the pain."
Will shot to stardom on 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'.
And the Hollywood actor admits that his on-screen persona was markedly different to his real-life self at the time.
He said: "That buoyant, happy, joyful image was painted over a core of a real lack of self-esteem and self-respect."
Will's dad passed away in 2016, and he waited until his death before writing his new memoir.
The actor - who is married to fellow movie star Jada Pinkett Smith - explained to NPR: "I saw my father beat up my mother, and that narrative didn't fit into the image that I was crafting. It was embarrassing.
"There was a person I wanted to be, or a person I thought I had to be, to be able to create the life that I wanted to create, and I just never could have said that out loud while my father was alive. Because at the same time, my father was my hero, and my father is largely responsible for all of the blessings and the things that I've been able to go on and create and build, so that internal conflict was dissolved when my father passed in 2016."