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How to live life unapologetically, according to Naya Rivera


Photo: Deborah Feingold
Photo: Deborah Feingold
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On Glee, Naya Rivera played Santana Lopez, the sassy, say-it-like-it-is cheerleader who ultimately joins the glee club. In real life, Rivera could be described similarly—sans the cheerleader part. In her new memoir, Sorry, Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up, she’s unapologetically herself as she describes her 29 years of life.

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Photo: Penguin Randomhouse

From a rumored feud with a fellow co-star and her highly-publicized breakups, Rivera isn’t afraid to expose it all. On the final page of each chapter, she ends with a “sorry” and a “not sorry” column and—all jokes aside—that seems to be how the actress lives her life.

She believes that life happens for a reason, and as much as she may regret certain choices, she can’t erase them. Her “sorry” column is filled with moments that, in hindsight, Rivera admits that she maybe should have treated differently. (Sound familiar?) But her “not sorry” column is filled with memories—both good and bad—that she’s grateful for.

While the actress touches upon many tabloid-fueled topics with her refreshingly non-filtered attitude and opinion, Rivera also takes time to cover some serious issues—from the death of co-star Cory Monteith, her struggle with an eating disorder as a teen, and even her experience having an abortion while in the middle of filming Glee. 

In other words, in a world filled with seemingly perfect, Instagram-filtered lives, the actress’ book is real, filled with all of the messy, sad, and wonderful things that happen in life.

“That’s what makes us human—we screw up, make bad decisions, and take wrong turns,” she writes. “We can only hope to learn from all of them, and maybe, if we’re lucky, laugh a little bit.”

No matter what you think of the actress’ past or current-day opinions, she is unapologetically herself. (And sorry if you’re offended, but she’s not sorry about it at all!)

Here are four #sorrynotsorry lessons to learn from Naya Rivera’s book.

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Photo: Instagram/@nayarivera

1. Your decisions don’t control your fate—you do

“The unexpected silver lining to a really horrible time in your life is that it can actually be somewhat empowering,” she writes. “It makes you realize how much control you do have—not over what is happening, but how you choose to see it. So I could sit there and be depressed and feel like a victim, or I could pick myself up and get on with it.”

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Photo: Instagram/@nayarivera

2. Find what comforts you, even when you don’t need it

“It [sometimes] takes something bad to remind us that connecting with our spirituality and own inner strength is something we should be doing on a consistent, not just as needed, basis,” she explains. “When I prayed, I made it a point to say, ‘Thank you for this time, because I know that something good is going to come out of it, and I know that I need to calm down right now.'”

It can be hard to remember that things will get better when you’re in the thick of despair, but Rivera urges readers to find the one thing that calms you down no matter what, and start doing it all the time—because you never know when you’ll need it.

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Photo: Instagram/@nayarivera

3. When in doubt, write it out

Although Rivera consistently turns to her faith, she also finds journaling and list-making to be major sources of relief during times of pain. “List-making gives you a concrete and visual reference for what you want for yourself, much like a vision board does, and that’s important,” she explains.

“It holds you accountable and can help get you back on track when you start to stray. Being ballsy enough to bullet-point your future gives you confidence, and this is the first step towards having the future you want. If you don’t have some way of checking in with yourself, you’re always just going to be bouncing around like a pinball, losing your direction and going whatever way seems to be the easiest.”

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Photo: Instagram/@nayarivera

4. Be unapologetically yourself

Rivera isn’t afraid to share her truths—even if that means sparking controversy or criticism. Revealing her abortion is one of the book’s most emotional chapters, and she doesn’t treat it lightly. She explains how difficult of a decision it was, how it still affects her to this day, and why she hopes speaking out about her experience will be a lesson to all people who judge her because of the choices she’s made. Because ultimately, she has accepted herself—and her past—and refuses to apologize for it.

“If you are being committed to being your honest and authentic self, then you are going to piss a few people off here and there,” she writes. “You just have to learn how to not take it too personally, and definitely don’t obsess over it. It comes back to the idea of gratitude and being thankful for what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t.”

If journaling has always been tricky for you, try doing it in bullet point form. Or take a tip from Elle Macpherson and try writing before bed—it might actually help you sleep better!