Jennifer Aniston Talks Overcoming Self-Doubt and Sticking Up to Bullies at Italy's Giffoni Film Fest

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Jennifer Aniston in Giffoni

“We need to start having conversations and put our phones down and get out of social media,” the actress told young fans.

Jennifer Aniston was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Giffoni Film Fest, Europe’s largest fest for children, on Saturday. Hundreds of children and teens are brought in from around the world to attend the festivities in the south of Italy, and to get up close and personal with the guests of honor.

Aniston didn’t disappoint fans. Guests recorded an extended welcome video for the former Friends star, which visibly moved the actress, before the floor opened to questions.

When asked how Hollywood can work to tell the stories of women, Aniston encouraged the young writers in the room to get to work and start writing those stories. “I think we need to empower women to not just be about dresses and beauty and selfies. We need to start having conversations and put our phones down and get out of social media, take social media breaks,” she said. “That’s why we’re not seeing the right stories being told, because everyone is stuck in their phones.”

One teen asked how she would have handled the topic of bullying, which was featured in some storylines on Friends.

“When you see a bully, you have to, in a group of you, take the bully down and not allow it,” she told the assembled teens to much applause. “You have to support each other in just eliminating that. People didn’t stick up to bullies enough.”

“And now with the Internet, it is endless, and it is a bunch of anonymous bullies that can sort of be stalking,” she continued. “We used to think that it was just in childhood that we would be bullied or made fun of. I was. I think many of us can say that we were. And it’s the worst feeling in the world. And now that we are grown up, the Internet is filled with them. And they’re cowardly, and they’re anonymous and they hide behind their computers, so it’s about not allowing it to penetrate and have again, put your computers down and have conversations.”

And finally one quiet girl’s question brought the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress to tears. The teen meekly asked Aniston if she ever woke up in the morning and didn’t know who she was.

“There are not enough fingers and toes in this entire room to count how many times that moment has happened to me,” she responded, wiping her eyes. “We’re all human beings at the end of the day, whether we’re a waitress or a baker or a student or whatever we are, at the end of the day you kind of hit walls and think I kind of can’t go any farther. Or this is too much. My heart can’t take it or the pain is too great, or am I good enough? Will I survive? And you just have to sort of somehow miraculously overcome. You just go, ‘I can’t, yes I can, yes you can.’”

“And also know that your actors, your idols, your icons, whatever you call them, have all had that experience in their lives many, many times," Aniston continued. "There’s nothing that separates us from you, because we all started at the same place. We all came out of nowhere. Don’t punish yourself if you feel that. Go talk to people and seek help and always find something to inspire you.”

Aniston recently made headlines and was applauded by peers for speaking out against the constant tabloid speculation on pregnancy rumors. She has spoken out in the past saying that cyber bullying has led her to stay mostly at home with husband Justin Theroux, avoiding the public spotlight.

Aniston can next be heard as the voice of Mrs. Gardner in the animated film Storks. She was No. 5 on Forbes’ world’s highest-paid actresses in 2015 with $16.5 million in earnings. 

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