Speaking as one of Variety's six Power of Women honorees on Friday, actress Jennifer Aniston opened up about a painful childhood incident that she carried with her into adulthood.
Aniston explained that she has been thinking about the differences between power, strength and her own relationship with both terms, which led her to recall the incident again.
She said, "I have been thinking about my own relationship with that word 'power,' which got me thinking about my early association with my own sense of power, something I believe comes from using our voice."
"I remember a parental figure saying to me around the rather critical age of about 11, after a dinner party, that I was excused from the table because I didn’t have anything interesting to add to the conversation,” she remembered.
"I carried that sentence with me into adulthood."
"Ouch," Aniston continued. "It stuck to me, it stuck to me like painfully worded sentences can and if I’m being honest — and I’m being honest because I’m 50 and that comes with the territory — I carried that sentence with me into adulthood."
The actress and producer explained that even though she has always "felt incredibly comfortable giving a voice to the words of others," she felt uncomfortable in unfamiliar groups for a large part of her life.
"Put me at a table full of strangers, or at a podium like this, and I'd go right back to being 11-years-old," she said.
It wasn't until "Friends" became a hit that she "started seeing (herself) in a different light."
"I started meeting all of these people who expressed to me how much the show meant to them, how it lifted their spirits during a bad breakup or got them through an illness, and I was just so incredibly moved by that," she explained. "I began to change the way I thought about my own voice, and what it meant to have a platform to use it."
The "Murder Mystery" star said that she's still particularly aware of the messages that are sent to young children, especially girls.
"And that is what every child deserves to know. That they are seen, that they are powerful and that they are loved. That they deserve a seat at the table."
"The last two years have made me really think a lot about the messages we send young kids, little girls especially," said Aniston, who recently produced the body-positive "Dumplin'" for Netflix.
"How the things we say and do can either break them up or tear them down, and make them feel like maybe their voices don't matter."
Aniston used her speech to discuss her work with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a pediatric facility that provides free medical care to children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
“That’s what’s unbelievable about these kids," she said. "Despite everything that they are up against — and as much pain as they’re often in — they are vibrant, they are joyful, they are fearless."
“And that is what every child deserves to know. That they are seen, that they are powerful and that they are loved. That they deserve a seat at the table. That anything they have to say — or any question they have to ask — is of value, even if we don’t have all the answers for it.”