Everything I do is driven by love.
The way I interact with the world comes from a place of love and light. I’ve learned not to criticize, get caught up in negative energy, or speak badly about others. On subjects I’m passionate about and involved in, I speak out in a positive way to bring people together to discuss important issues without hatred. And when I feel less informed about a topic, I make sure to educate myself.
When I’m working, I try to bring love and positivity to the set with me every day. I love my craft, and I’m so grateful that I get to follow my passion. I let that love pour out in small ways and big ways: doing nice, thoughtful things for the people I’m working with goes a long way. Early mornings, late nights, and long days are often challenging, but they never get the best of me. I always remember how grateful I am just to be working. It’s all a privilege.
A costar once pointed out to me that every time I interact with someone new on set, I pay them a compliment. At first, I worried it meant I was being a suck-up. But I realized that when I was in a very dark place in my life and someone would compliment me, even if it was about something small like my shoes, it would lift me up. I internalized that lesson, and I look for something to appreciate in another person when we first connect. You never know if someone is having a bad day, and maybe a small compliment will help bring them a smile. It can feel good just to be noticed.
I only want to do kind things because anything else is a waste of time and a waste of energy. Being mean doesn’t improve your state of mind. Why not look for something positive?
Set the same standards for yourself that you would set for your best friend or your sister. Never settle.
I encourage my friends to focus on the personality traits of their crushes, not just looks. Someone who can challenge you intellectually and teach you something new about yourself is someone you can build a friendship with. The best relationships are always built on friendship first. Rather than get carried away by the attention or an initial attraction, I remind myself to really get to know someone. Trustworthiness, optimism, and a good sense of humor are very attractive to me. Life is stressful, so I need someone to help me feel good and see the positive. I also find kindness the most attractive quality in a guy. When I like someone, I want to see how he treats others who have nothing to give him in return, whether he’s kind for the sake of being kind.
I believe that some people are meant to be in your life for a reason. You can have more than one soul mate.
I am lucky to have a group of best friends who have grown up with me. One of my closest girlfriends and I recently connected on a deeper level, with long conversations about the universe, politics and social justice, our futures, and how quickly adulthood is coming upon us. We share opinions about the things that matter, and we have the same dry and sarcastic sense of humor. I feel like I can talk about things with her that I can’t talk about with many other people. She offers me a nonjudgmental place to talk during tough or stressful times. I’m so blessed to have a friend who understands and connects with me so deeply. I truly can’t imagine my life without her. She knows me, sees me, supports and appreciates me, and loves me unconditionally. How else would you describe a soul mate?
Be patient with a broken heart.
When you lose someone you love, it’s hard to separate yourself from the emotions and the memories. Healing is a process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. A relationship is only between you and that other person: nobody else will truly understand what it meant to you, and nobody else can know for sure when it’s time for you to move on.
Just as it’s important to cherish and respect your memories, it’s even more important to remember that you need to go out and make new ones. Continue to live life! When you are too focused on the past, you can get stuck there. Sometimes I’ll see a friend get so wrapped up in grieving the end of a relationship, they forget to go out with friends and make new memories. Try not to hold on to things that keep you stuck in the past. I’m not saying that you have to spend hours scrubbing your Instagram! But don’t clutter your space with mementos or photos, either. Those ties to the past will just hold you back.
You learn as much from the bad relationships as the good ones.
I’m grateful for every relationship in my life, good and bad, because they’ve all contributed to my growth. Sometimes the tough relationships end up teaching you more than the beautiful ones, as difficult as those lessons can be.
There was a girl I became friends with in middle school. She was new in town, so I took her under my wing and introduced her to my friends. She was so sweet at first, but it wasn’t long before she showed her true colors. I was devastated! She caused problems among my closest friendships for no clear reason. Ever since, I’ve been cautious about who I let into my inner social circle, and I’m open and direct if any issues come up with a friend. It’s made me appreciate my true friendships even more.
Never doubt your ability to love others and your ability to be loved.
Everyone has insecurities, and many people have moments when they feel they’re not worthy of love. Believe me, I’ve been there. When I feel really insecure and low, I tend to isolate myself from the people I love most so that I won’t drag them down. My insecurities act as a wall. But then I think about my family and my close friends, about how amazing they are, and wonder what I did to deserve them. And you know what I’ve learned? Those insecure, low moments are exactly when I need them most.
Trust your friends when they tell you what they see in you, and reflect their own goodness back to them.
When I’m feeling overly critical of myself, I trust my friends and family and their love for me. If they care enough to support me and love me, I have to trust there’s something they see in me, even if I can’t see it in myself. You don’t need a ton of people in your world--just a few important ones to reflect your value and give you peace when you can’t find it for yourself.
I don’t believe in love at first sight. I believe in love after building trust and friendship.
Love at first sight sounds so exciting: sweet and innocent and pure. But love, for me, is something you build through trust and connection. It’s a journey you go on with somebody. You don’t start at the finish line. For me, love is knowing someone’s going to be by your side through the ups and downs. It’s built over time, maybe starting with that early infatuation, and then growing a friendship as you get to know each other. That’s what leads to love.
Don’t mistake infatuation for love.
I do believe in infatuation at first sight--infatuation is so powerful! It can cloud your judgment and lead you to trust someone more than you should. I’m a sucker for a good sense of humor and guys who are passionate about their talents. I respect someone who works on their craft, whatever it is. While those qualities are really attractive to me and get my attention right away, I’ve had to learn the difference between love and infatuation.
I’ve taught myself how to slow down that initial attraction and really get to know someone before jumping in. It’s easy to meet someone and dive into the fantasy of being with them. I try to limit how much I think about someone new, to stay firmly rooted in reality. I don’t check out his social media to learn more about him. I have the discipline to back off and let whatever is going to happen happen. It might take a few tries, but you can do the same thing. I also focus on the love I have for my family and my friends, and I compare that to my feelings for a guy to remind myself that dating is not as intense as it may seem.
If you look for the negative, that’s what you’re going to find. Seek out the positive and let yourself be amazed.
As somebody who’s dealt with a lot of disappointing people and situations, I am working on this every day. I got to a point where I built a wall to protect myself. But when you build walls, you block out the good along with the bad. I think it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt, to give them the chance to show you who they are and what they’re about. That doesn’t mean opening up to a new person right away and divulging your deepest, darkest secrets--it means being receptive to the idea that somebody else could understand you. I’ll always be a little cautious and protective, but I want to be open to new people and new friendships. I want to let myself be pleasantly surprised by new friendships and interesting perspectives.
I try to keep the word hate out of my vocabulary.
I can’t tell you how much I dislike the word hate. When I was in a dark place and feeling really down on myself, it was a word I used often. I didn’t like the way I felt, and I would act downright mean toward other people.
Thankfully I’ve realized that wallowing in self-doubt wasn’t good for me. I actually started to change for the better when I told myself never to use the word hate again. What we say to others, and especially what we say to ourselves, affects our emotional state and our energy. Now I try to stick to lighter words and lighter ways of being because I want to surround myself with light and positivity and love. I believe that you manifest what you put into the world.
In the last few years, I’ve learned to reframe my negative thoughts into positive ones, or at least less negative ones. If I am looking in the mirror and feel myself about to pick out a flaw, I replace that thought with one rooted in appreciation or neutrality. Or if I’m going to an audition or an event, or even a workout class, that I’m dreading, I remind myself why I signed up--I trust that my past self knew what she was doing and jump into whatever I’m doing with confidence.
Even your strongest opinions and views may change over time.
Life is constantly evolving, and your view of the world will change as you get older. You should embrace this process rather than fight it. People change, and it’s only natural that your take on certain things will change with you. We should all continue to educate ourselves, talk to new people, and seek out new information. Let’s embrace the idea that the day we stop learning, we stop growing. And I want to be continually learning, growing, and improving. Each of our perspectives is based on our memories and ideas and conversations. It’s important that you have an open mind and know there’s so much more to experience and learn.
Keep the Faith
Whatever you call your higher power, whatever type of prayer or practice inspires you, we are connected in our faith.
Faith is unique to each person, but it provides a great connection to the world and the universe around us. Faith is not necessarily the same as religion, although they’re often used interchangeably. If you don’t have a strong religious practice or an affiliation with a certain religious sect, you can still be faithful. Faith is also belief, and that belief can be in God, or in the goodness of the universe around you, or maybe even in yourself. It’s a foundation to stand on when things get hard.
My faith gave me something to believe in when I didn’t believe in myself.
What I’ve learned on Sunday mornings inspires me in everything I do. My faith inspires me to believe in myself when I feel doubts and insecurities creeping in. When I pray, I’m reminded of the strength of my family and our shared convictions, and how much they love and support me. I’ve grown so much within the context of my faith, and it’s been a source of encouragement and inspiration that I’ve relied on all my life. When I’m feeling down or frustrated about not getting a role, messing up my lines while filming, or a misunderstanding with my friends, I remember to pray to reconnect to God and remind myself there’s a greater plan at work. Prayer has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and it helps me feel secure when I’m uneasy. I’m the most inspired when I’m connected with my faith. My faith is the root of my love for, and belief in, myself.
Prayer is a mantra and a way of centering yourself, regardless of what you believe in.
I stay connected to my faith by praying. I love that prayer can happen wherever you are, whenever you have a spare moment. The more I pray, the less I feel that the universe is against me. You don’t have to be religious or believe in one spiritual practice over another. Prayer is a way to slow down and sit quietly with your thoughts. It allows you to connect to yourself and what you’re feeling, and to consider what’s troubling you, stressing you, or, yes, exciting you. You can offer up your gratitude for your family and friends, or anything you’re appreciative of in your life.
Open your arms in acceptance of others.
The principles of my faith inform who I am every day, especially the way I treat others. The idea of “love thy neighbor as thyself” is important to me and something I try to live by. Right now, everything is so divided in our country. Prejudices against different groups of people for their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation are tearing us apart. My faith and my religion have given me the mindset of acceptance, and I’m not going to look at anybody else differently because of their belief, their background, or the way they live their life. My faith has helped me stay open-minded, accepting others and treating them with respect even if they’ve made different choices.
Copyright © 2021 by Jenna Ortega. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.