Newly Engaged Gina Rodriguez Shares 5 Life Lessons for Her Younger Self

The actress shares what she wishes she knew growing up and why she wants to #EndPeriodPoverty.

Gina Rodriguez

Gina Rodriguez may be best known for her role as Jane Villanueva, a passionate young woman on the Netflix show Jane The Virgin, but the 34-year-old actress is also a passionate advocate for girls’ education. That’s why she’s joined forces with Always for the #EndPeriodPoverty campaign to help give young girls access to period products so that they don’t miss out on their education. We chatted with the actress about her new partnership and to find out exactly what she wishes she knew growing up.

Learn to be alone

While Rodriguez has found love with fiancé Joe LoCicero (she confirmed her engagement to People after sharing the following photo on Instagram), self-love and learning to be comfortable on her own came first. “Start working on being alone, and to get to love yourself… alone,” she tells us over the phone from NYC when asked if she had any advice for her younger self. “I’m the youngest of three, so I was never alone. I think that there’s an importance of knowing how to be by yourself, talk to yourself and take care of yourself,” she says. “Self-love is something I started way later in life.” Here are 10 ways to show yourself some love, because you deserve it.

Stop being so hard on yourself

According to a survey by Always, a girl’s confidence plummets at puberty, with the onset of menstruation marking the lowest moment for many girls. Rodriguez was a late bloomer (16-years-old to be exact) when she finally got her period and remembers how stressful those years were. “I’m still hard on myself, but I would definitely love to tell my younger self not to be.”

Don’t take anything for granted

Astonishingly, nearly one in seven Canadian girls have missed school due to a lack of period protection. Known as period poverty, this lack of access to menstrual products due to economic factors isn’t something you would expect to be a problem in North America. “For years I’ve taken period products for granted. I never even fathomed that this is actually a problem happening in our society today,” says Rodriguez. That’s one of the reasons she felt it was important to support the #EndPeriodPoverty campaign and spread awareness. “It is something every young girl should have access to,” she says. “It shouldn’t be something that prevents someone from getting an education. Period.”

Education creates opportunity

It’s simple: Without access to period products, girls are missing out on their education. Rodriguez says she couldn’t imagine growing up afraid of that time of the month because she didn’t have anything to protect her clothes or help her avoid an embarrassing situation. “Being able to speak up for yourself, being educated on a subject so that you can contribute to a conversation, feeling like a present participant in any circumstance you’re in or any situation you walk into creates a confidence in any human being,” she says of the importance of education for creating opportunity and building confidence. (These 4 habits can help you develop killer confidence.) “You’re missing out on conversation, you’re missing out on opportunity, you’re missing out on important milestones in your life because of a natural occurrence.”

Rodriguez wants to make sure more girls get their education. “Always has a goal this year, to donate over 1.5 million period products to schools that support the Always Puberty and Confidence Education Program,” she says. “Ideally, I’d love to hit that goal and surpass it — and make it so that this conversation is never-ending.”

Stay present and enjoy the moment

With a busy acting schedule, directing, and ongoing philanthropy, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush. But Rodriguez makes sure to stay present as much as possible thanks to some advice she herself received a few years ago. During the first season of Jane The Virgin, the president of The CW, Mark Pedowitz, said something that forever changed her experience on-set: ‘Remember to enjoy it because everything comes to a close; every chapter ends.’

“For some reason those words profoundly struck a cord with me and I always make sure to be super present,” she says. “I have been present for the past four years.”

And with Rodriguez directing the season premiere of Jane The Virgin‘s fifth and final season (reportedly airing January 2019), she can’t help but feel that this chapter is going to be an accomplished and memorable experience.

To join the conversation and make a donation to support the cause, follow Rodriguez’s footsteps by posting a throwback picture of yourself on social media with the #EndPeriodPoverty

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