When I was 15 years old, my dad got into a terrible car accident. During his recovery, he got into a self-help book kick and basically forced a motto on me: “I can and I will.” What I realized—and what made me keep saying it on my own—is that it encouraged me to decide how I wanted my day to go and how I wanted to attack my goals and my dreams. I’m 31, and “I can and I will” still helps remind me that I’m capable of anything and that the only person who can stop me is me.
Take, for example, when I was at a photo shoot for the cover of a magazine recently. I feel very, very blessed to have been doing it, but when the shoot began, the people running it started saying things like, “Stand more this way,” and “Move your body like this.” And right away, I heard that voice in my head saying, “Oh, no—you don’t look pretty.” So I stopped and said, “No, not today. You’re not winning today, ego. I can get through this. I will get through this—triumphantly. I will believe the body I’ve been given is perfect because it is what it is.”
And I kept saying those same types of things to myself: “I’ll choose to accept the body I have, I’ll choose not to turn that sword on myself. I’m wearing clothing that I’m not necessarily comfortable in because I don’t look like the cookie-cutter model, but I can’t all of a sudden become someone else—and why would I want that?”
What is it about our industry, our society that we look at ourselves in the mirror and we go straight to the flaws? We look at our careers and look straight to the flaws instead of saying, “I am enough, right now. I can do this, and I will do this if that is what I choose for myself today.”
Let me tell you: When I got done with that photo shoot, I felt so strong and empowered. “I can and I will” helped me get through it, and at the end of the photo shoot, I felt freaking phenomenal. And who cares if I don’t look like the next swimsuit model? I look like me, and that’s good enough. That’s beautiful in my own right and my own uniqueness.
My dad—inspired by the self-help books he read and his own positive nature—gave me the tools I needed to be able to do this, but I want every girl and woman to be able to find the strength within herself to say “I can and I will” every day.
That’s why I’m writing a book inspired by the lessons my dad taught me: So I can give more girls the tools I was given when I was younger. So I can tell them it’s about doing what you’re capable of—and not feeling like you need to do or be anything more.
Gina Rodriguez is a Golden Globe award-winning actress known for her role as Jane Villanueva in Jane the Virgin, which airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CW. Her upcoming book doesn’t have a publish date yet.