What Does Jennifer Lopez Say About Following Your Dreams?

Growing up in the Bronx, Jennifer Lopez thought she would only become a teller at the local bank, just down the street from her house. Instead, now 49-year-old Lopez became the multi-talented superstar dancer, actress, singer, and businesswoman we know today. How did she do that, and what, if any, are the secrets to her success? Here’s how J.Lo shaped her mindset in order to achieve her goals.

Believe in Your Dreams

Jennifer Lopez started acting and taking dancing lessons at a young age. But as she grew older, she felt stuck, assuming she would be stuck int he Bronx for life. She shares,  “...the Bronx seems so small. Like that was gonna be my whole life.” However, she clung to her love of dance and continued to pursue her dream. But this love of hers soon created a major challenge for her when she turned 18.

Like most people of her age, Lopez graduated from high school and faced the pressure of her mother to attend college. Rather than studying at a university, J.Lo started working part-time at a law firm, but still found the time for her passion and continued to take professional dance classes.

But it wasn’t an easy trail. After facing conflicts with her mother, J.Lo moved out of her parents’ house and lived on the couch at the dance studio. She was so low on money at times, that all she had eaten for a day was a single slice of pizza. Yet through all this adversity, she didn’t give up. Lopez stuck to her dream and kept on trekking.

Finally, all the work she had done had paid off. At 21, the broke Lopez had her first big break in the dance and entertainment world. She was cast as a “Fly Girl” on In Living Color, a sketch comedy television series that aired in the early 90s. She has since become one of the highest-paid Latina actresses in Hollywood, despite all the obstacles she had to overcome.


What challenges has Lopez faced?

At 18, Lopez faced two different paths. The first was to follow her heart and pursue dance full-time. The second was to meet her mother’s expectations by going to college.  

It can be very difficult to separate external expectations from your own goals and dreams. But it is your life that you’re living. Ignoring your dreams just to pursue what others have set out for you will not lead to any personal or professional fulfillment.

Really think about what you want and be brave enough to follow your own path, even if it’s different than the one that is expected.

When you know what you want, find a way to make it happen.

Cultivate Your Inner Voice

Now 49, J.Lo has learned to block out the critics. But early in her career, self-doubt was a constant struggle.

After breaking into the entertainment business on In Living Color, Lopez appeared in a number of TV shows and movies, working with well-known actors Robin Williams and Jack Nicholson.

Lopez’s next big break came in in 1997 when she landed the lead role in Selena, a biopic about murdered Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla-Perez. It was a hit, catapulting J.Lo into stardom.

She was on a roll. Her talents weren’t just being the star of a show. In 1999, just two years after her role in Selena, Lopez released her first album On the Six.

But with the accolades came the critics. Lopez recalled, “I’m killing it, and then everybody’s like, ‘She can’t sing, she can’t dance, she can’t act, she’s just some pretty face or her butt is big’ or whatever they were saying about me and I started thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s true.'”

Despite such negative feedback, Lopez continued to work hard to keep her internal voice positive. One of the keys to her success was to make sure her inner voice was the antidote to critics: “I think that, for me, the most important thing for me is not listening to all the outside voices, but making sure that the voice that I’m speaking to myself, that roommate is a kind roommate, is a good roommate, is someone that’s lifting me up...every single day,” Lopez said.


Sometimes we tell ourselves that we just simply can’t do it, that we’re not good enough, that we’ll fail. And often we assume we don’t know what we’re doing. Negative self-talk afflicts our inner voice, which alters the stories we tell ourselves. This can often cause us to feel defeated before we even start working towards a goal.

The good news is that there is a way to overcome this sentiment, and that’s to be aware of your inner voice. The first step to changing your own self-perception is by recognizing that you do, in fact, have a voice inside you. Let it speak up!

How to raise your inner voice

When you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself or your abilities, make an effort to stop. Then, turn around your self-talk. Here are some ways to raise your inner voice and subdue negative feelings:

-Instead of dwelling on your mistakes, think about your successes.

-Don’t focus on your weaknesses.  Recognize your talents. Everyone has different talents abilities - appreciate yours.

-Dwelling on your past and upbringings can cause negative self-reflection, forcing you to feel like you’re not destined to accomplish the goal. But focus on how much you would have overcome if you did. Let it become a moment of inspiration to push you further in the right direction.

Self-defeating stories keep so many from achieving their goals, or even taking the first step. Don’t beat yourself before you start. Instead, cultivate a kind inner voice and get out of your own way.

Work Hard

J.Lo is obviously not resting on her laurels. No one would argue that Jennifer Lopez isn’t an incredibly hard-working superstar. She is a massively successful entertainer and businesswoman, holding over thirty film credits and appearing in at least ten television shows. She has also released eight pop albums since the late ’90s, and more recently, became a judge on the last few seasons of American Idol. She even has her own highly successful fragrance line.

So how did she get here from the broke and homeless aspiring dancer she was at 18? She just kept working. When faced with criticism, Lopez told herself to just keep going.

“I just couldn’t allow myself to let that become who I was. I was like, ‘No, I’m gonna make another record, I’m gonna make another song, I’m gonna make another movie,'” Lopez said. “‘I’m a great actress, I’m a great singer, a great dancer, I’m great at this stuff! And I’m gonna keep going!’ And I did. And that’s all I did. I just kept going. And I just started working harder and harder than everybody else.”


When you’re faced with criticism, don’t take it personally. Valuable feedback is what helps us grow professionally. Successful people face plenty of obstacles and are stifled with criticism.

It’s also important to choose a path that uses your inherent interests and talents. If you have a goal you believe in, don’t let yourself be deterred. Just keep working toward it and you will succeed.

Trust your gut and just keep going. The only way you will pursue a goal and finish the job is by working hard.

Blaze your own path

At 18, Jennifer Lopez wanted to be a professional dancer. Thirty years later, she’s had a wildly successful career as a dancer, singer, actress, and businesswoman. What can her accomplishments teach you about reaching your goals? Make sure your inner voice is kind, never stop working and above all - follow your dreams, wherever they may lead.