I was scrolling through Instagram on May 26th and I came across a beautiful 10 second video portrait of Gina Rodriguez, best known for her role as Jane Villanueva in the show Jane the Virgin. Her caption stated, “My beautiful friend @antonsoggiu came to visit from Norway and included me in his magical art. Ten second portraits. It’s always great to be in front of his lens but this time it was just me. Bare and exposed in the streets of la. No makeup. No styling. Just me. I suffer from anxiety. And watching this clip I could see how anxious I was but I empathize with myself. I wanted to protect her and tell her it’s ok to be anxious, there is nothing different or strange about having anxiety and I will prevail. I like watching this video. It makes me uncomfortable but there is a freedom I feel maybe even an acceptance. This is me. Puro Gina.” After reading this, I scrolled back up to watch the clip of Gina and then I scrolled back down to reread the caption and the way she captured these anxious feelings teaches us some important things about mental illness.
The first thing that stood out to me was Gina’s ability to look inside herself and recognize her own anxiety. That’s the thing with anxiety, it’s internal and only obvious to the person experiencing it. Many of us would be completely unaware that someone like Gina would struggle with anxiety and by sharing her personal struggles, she is able to capture the fact that the people we are watching on TV or the people we are just walking by on a daily basis may be struggling with a mental illness like anxiety to varying degrees without our awareness.
Gina goes on to share the importance of validation by explaining her empathy with herself and showing that being anxious is okay. It’s easy to invalidate emotions because we can’t see them. We can’t see the mental illness. With the stigma surrounding mental health, It’s important to remind ourselves and the people around us that it’s okay to be anxious and it’s okay to struggle with mental illness. Validation of our own emotions as well as others around us struggling is so important because ultimately mental illness only represents a part of us, which brings me to the last idea Gina brought up.
Mental illness is not a defining characteristic. Gina writes in the last few sentences of her post that “there is nothing different or strange about having anxiety and [she] will prevail. [She] likes watching this video. It makes [her] uncomfortable but there is a freedom [she] feels maybe even an acceptance. This is [her].” She touches on an important point. Anxiety can be debilitating and it can inhibit functioning, but anxiety and mental illness in general do not define someone. Mental illness is a part of someone and it is something that people may have to struggle with on a daily basis, but Gina accepts this about herself. She is still more than capable of success and the acceptance she portrays is truly powerful.
Gina does a great job simply explaining the internalizing factor of anxiety, the importance of validation, the idea that mental illness does not define someone and that it’s not something we should be ashamed of. Many people, including celebrities and well known figures, struggle with mental illness and Gina Rodriguez did a great job of capturing and sharing that in her Instagram post about her personal struggles.