Gabrielle Union Told Us How She Reclaimed Her Self-Worth

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By: Haley Goldberg for Shine

“I want this to be like one of those nights out with someone you can be real with.”

Gabrielle Union makes this promise to readers in the intro of her bestselling new memoir, We’re Going to Need More Wine — and she follows through and then some.

In the book of essays, the actress, producer, entrepreneur (yes, she even has her own line of wine), and activist writes honestly about her journey to self-love and self-worth. She opens up about her experience as a sexual assault survivor, her difficult first marriage, her experience as a Black woman in Hollywood, her fertility struggles with her husband, NBA star Dwayne Wade, and more.

While her life might look like a Hollywood fairytale (her Instagram is basically #goals), the Being Mary Jane star’s book makes one thing clear: It’s been a ride — one filled with the deepest lows and highest highs. But it’s all led her to where she is today, feeling more whole than ever.

Shine had a chance to talk to Union about her journey with self-love — and she had even more real advice and wisdom to share.

Read on, and feel free to grab that glass of wine (or, you know, coffee).

Shine: Learning the value of self-love isn’t always easy. How did your sense of self-worth and self-love evolve?

Gabrielle Union: I had to work hard for it. I fell down the rabbit hole of hanging my self-worth on being chosen by the right guy, having the right friends, making the best grades, getting the right parts for a long time.

Eventually, I got on board with how much value that I brought to the table myself. Once I stopped looking at other people and external events for validation, I started to appreciate what and who I was. The thing is friends, guys, jobs all come and go. You are stuck with yourself — better to learn to love who and what you are.

“Once I stopped looking at other people and external events for validation, I started to appreciate what and who I was.” — Gabrielle Union

You said in an interview with Complex “There’s a process to happy.” What does that mean to you?

I had some tough lessons to learn after my first marriage ended, but the hardest was that I had no idea what actually made me happy. I started working with a coach, and she asked me to list 10 things that made me truly happy. It didn’t matter what they were.

At first, I could barely get to five — and they all had to do with food. It was sad. The coach said to me, “How are you going to make someone else happy if you don’t know what makes you happy?” That really made me reexamine a lot of my behavior and the way I looked at the world.

You’re the star and executive producer of Being Mary Jane — that’s pretty boss. What advice would you have for other women trying to go big with their careers?

Don’t sit on the side and just take instructions. Don’t let those in power assume you don’t know anything. If you have ideas, put them out there. Be respectful, but be confident, especially if you have a clear sense of your goals for your project or who your audience or end consumer is. Chances are, you are closer to them than most of those around you — so speak up.

“Don’t let those in power assume you don’t know anything.” — Gabrielle Union

In your book, you share a lot of tough, personal moments you’ve experienced — what empowered you to share those moments so openly?

Therapy! I’m a big advocate for working on yourself and your mental health. There is no shame in reaching out to professionals who can help you process tough things that you can’t work out on your own. It took me years to get to this point, where I felt like my stories had worth and mattered. Taking the time to work on myself is what got me here.

Do you have a mantra you try to live by?

Not one in particular — but as I’ve been talking to audiences about my book, I’ve noticed what people respond to. When I say that we all need to decide who we want to be and then be accountable to that, folks seem to really hear me. And I do try hard to live this way. I don’t want to be out there in the public eye saying one thing and doing the opposite in private.

“We all need to decide who we want to be — and then be accountable to that.” — Gabrielle Union

I want to shed light on things that I see as wrong in America, things having to do with race and gender. I get a big microphone because of my job. But in my everyday life, I try to be accountable to that. If I feel or see something that doesn’t sit right, I call attention in a positive way so that ideas might change. I try to do my part.

If you could give advice to yourself 10 years ago — 2007 Gabrielle Union — what would you tell her?

Keep going lady, because it is really going to get better if you work on this. The best is yet to come.

We want to know: How do you pratice self-love? Tweet us and Gabrielle Union



Gabrielle Union is an actress, entrepreneur, and activist. Currently, she stars as the titular character in the critically acclaimed drama Being Mary Jane on BET. She is an outspoken activist for women’s reproductive health and victims of sexual assault. She’s an entrepreneur with her own clothing line at New York & Company, her own haircare line called Flawless, and her own wine called Vanilla Puddin.