This week, Jennifer Aniston did women of all ages a massive favour by showing us how to be happy when life goes wrong.
In an astonishingly honest interview with Allure magazine she generously opens up about how she struggled for years trying to have a baby through IVF – and how, finally, she is happy now without one.
Jen’s influence is twofold: not only does she give hope to any woman who has given up their baby dreams; but her candour and the lessons she learned will help all women: from teens to those who are post-menopause.
This might sound exaggerated, but I reckon Jen has emerged as a modern-day philosopher, rivalling the likes of Lucius Annaeus Seneca. After all, the first-century Roman philosopher said, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.” Jen embodies this sentiment.
Let me walk you through the interview, and then read it yourself and check out how incredible this 53-year-old lady is looking. But while lingering on how sexy she looks at 53 may seem shallow; it is her inner world that’s most attractive.
Courtesy of the interview, we meet the actress in her large, “comfortable art gallery” house in LA. She is barefoot, in ripped jeans, making a healthy “shake” for writer Danielle Pergament, her dogs Clyde and Chesterfield bouncing around. So far, so breezy.
And then out of the blue, she hands us an important life lesson: social media will never make you feel good.
She confesses she hates it, she is “not good at it”. Every teenage girl with an Instagram account needs to hear this – for Jen is someone who gets millions of likes. She goes on to say how happy she was that she grew up without the internet and all the “compare and despair”.
We can learn a lot, here: for this, to me, is confirmation that nobody will ever feel satisfied on social media. Here is one of the most beautiful women in the world – she currently has 40 million followers – and still she feels she is not doing it right.
The lesson? Never again let social media get you down.
Life lesson number two is to do with how outrageously good she looks – and not only for her age. There are few women of any age who could climb into a Gucci G-string and look that fabulous, but it’s not just the aesthetics: her emotional state is what jumps out from the page. She feels good about herself and she no longer gives a hoot what people think.
After all, she says she knows when she is in her sixties she will look back – and she wants to enjoy it now. How many of us look at younger pictures of ourselves and wish we had realised how lovely we were; but instead told ourselves we weren’t good enough? We should do as she does and tell our inner critic to sod off.
But it’s when it comes to talking openly about fertility that Jen is mindblowing. She reveals that in her thirties and forties, she went through some “really hard s***”. And it is here that she goes one step further than the ancient philosophers.
Epictetus was one of the Stoic philosophers, who believed happiness comes from accepting one’s fate. Jen exemplifies this belief: she explains that she can not only accept she will never be a mother, but that her struggles have made her more of a whole person.
She goes on to say if she did not have to go through all that hardship (and how difficult all those years of speculation must have been, I feel dreadful now for buying all those magazines that screamed “Jen’s baby bump”) – she would never have become the person she was meant to be. She would have “stayed fearful, nervous and unsure of who she was”.
When you think back to how perfect her life looked in those pictures and now we learn she felt like this? Well, it teaches us never to assume how happy other people are.
When you are trying unsuccessfully for a baby, it can be all-consuming: a burning urge, impossible to forget. Jen went through so many years of feeling like this, but now she says she has zero regrets at how things turned out. In fact, she actually feels relief because there is no more “maybe”.
I understand this perfectly – and it can provide enormous comfort to all those women out there who may have been trying for a baby for years and cannot see a future where it does not work out. Jen is telling them there is terra firma on the other side. Don’t beat yourself up.
Many women will never have kids – 18 per cent of those turning 45 in the UK last year did not – and Jen shows how you can live your best life regardless. Not only that: you can be content and happy where you are and still be single.
Jen also admits that she wishes someone told her to freeze her eggs – practical advice that may nudge many women to do what she regrets not doing.
To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here
Before I read this piece I had Jen down as a one-dimensional, “typical actress” type. I got her mixed up with her waspy character in Friends.
But on reading her talking so candidly about things like this; plus her parents’ divorce, her family estrangement – well, it made me think of all my divorced friends. How reading this interview must have given them an incredible boost.
Most of us are not entirely honest, either with ourselves or with those around us. But Jen has decided to tell the truth.
And her teachings are those we can all learn from: that nobody has a perfect life; that things do go wrong – but we should not let this define us. That we are complete – even without all the jigsaw pieces in place. So thank you, Jennifer Aniston: the role model and modern-day philosopher we didn’t even know we needed.