The entertainment business can be a pretty cruel and competitive enterprise. Opportunities are limited, and Hollywood’s starring roles often go to the most-popular, best-looking types. What are acting-loving nerds to do? Instead of building resentment or a sense of inadequacy (probably not the best approach to the next 30 years or so), build your career in your own way.

A great example of this is Wil Wheaton who gained international fame when he starred in the comedy-drama film Stand by Me as a child. He later played the role of Wesley Crusher on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, and has played a fictionalized version of himself on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. “I am a huge geek. And ‘Star Trek’ was a haven for geeks,” he once said in an interview. Regarding his teenage years he has said, “I was such a geek that if I could go back in time, I would kick my own ass.” He has also admitted to spending a lot of his childhood “not fitting in, in a lot of different ways.” But regardless, Wil has managed to have a terrifically prolific career.

In fact, as an adult Wil seems to have taken on the cause of nerds, welcoming all young nerds to the unlimited possibilities of a great life. At the 2013 Comic-Con event, Wil Wheaton had some incredibly moving advice for a little girl who asked, “When you were a kid, were you called a nerd, and if so how did you deal with it?” The video of Wil’s response has recently resurfaced and gone viral.

“When I was a little boy I was called a nerd all the time because I didn’t like sports, I loved to read, I liked math and science, and I thought school was really cool,” Wil said. He continued, talking more intimately about his own feelings saying, “It hurt a lot, because it’s never okay when a person makes fun of you for something that you didn’t choose. We didn’t choose to be nerds. We can’t help it that we like these things, and we shouldn’t apologize for liking these things.”

Wil’s defense of nerds is really a defense of being your authentic self. And the beautiful thing about this business is that there really is a place for everyone. You don’t have to be the prom queen or the big man on campus to succeed in film and television. You can be a nerd or a freak or a loner or a gamer or a cowboy or a jock or a musician or a bookworm or skinny or heavy or plain-looking or a fashionista or a city dweller or a country bumpkin or … you get the picture. The point is to celebrate what makes you different and to capitalize on your strengths, be they physical, emotional, psychological, artistic, scientific, whathaveyou. There is plenty of room for everyone in this business, including you. And if you’re going through a hard time just being who you are, well, just listen to one of Wil’s parting remarks to the questioning little girl, “It absolutely gets better as you get older.”

He speaks from experience. As he’s gotten older, Wheaton has gone on to do commercials, movies, television, loads of voice work, comedy improv shows, hosting, writes his own blog, is author of several books (one entitled Just a Geek), has recorded several audiobooks, is a poker champion, brews his own beer at home, and in fact, helped create a geek-themed stout beer. And Wil is certainly not the only actor who has embraced his inner nerd and succeeded brilliantly. Click here to see a list of some other “nerd” actors. And certainly this list will continue to grow every year!