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Metallica’s James Hetfield Discusses Fear and Turning 50

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James Hetfield has triumphed over band turmoil, changing trends and even fire itself, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t afraid of anything. Take responsibility, for instance.

The Metallica frontman opened up on the subject during a recent interview with Road Recovery (which you can watch above), admitting, “I’ve been afraid of responsibility my whole life, not wanting to take responsibility for myself. I remember as a kid in school, there was a summer school for ‘gifted’ kids, which for me was weird already,” he laughed. “Gifted? Yeah.”

Looking back on one particular project, he continued, “It was like, ‘You’re gonna make a film. OK, get into groups, then come together with an idea.'” Hetfield remembered that he contributed the lion’s share of the ideas for the project, but froze when it came time to step up. “Then they said, ‘Now choose your leader, who’s gonna be leading this group and be responsible for stuff.’ And I shrunk, man. I got scared … I bailed on it. I bailed, because I was afraid of responsibility. Afraid of failure, maybe. Afraid I didn’t know what I was really doing.”

It proved a formative experience; as Hetfield went on to point out, his behavior in that moment informs the way he’s dealt with a lot of things — including managing his sobriety. “That’s kind of what it’s like for me in recovery at times,” he admitted. “Afraid to take on the responsibility of sponsees or something, or allowing myself to stand up, you know, and shine in that way.”

While not everyone can understand where Hetfield is coming from in terms of addiction and recovery, pretty much all of us can identify with what he talked about next. “Another fear of mine: turning 50. I’m supposed to know everything, sit down there and be a role model. Teach everybody all this stuff,” he chuckled. “When you think you’re a role model, guess what? You’re not. If you’re trying to be a role model, you’re not. Being yourself and the best self you can be? Then maybe you’ll be a role model to someone.”

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