At the age of 29, Shailene Woodley is already considered a Hollywood heavyweight, having appeared in several critically acclaimed projects — including HBO’s star-studded Big Little Lies — and will soon lead the Netflix drama, The Last Letter from Your Lover. But Woodley recently revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that as her star continued to rise, she had to take a step back from acting while grappling with a “pretty debilitating” health condition.
“I said no to a lot of projects, not because I wanted to but because I physically couldn’t participate in them. And I definitely suffered a lot more than I had to because I didn’t take care of myself,” recalled Woodley. “The self-inflicted pressure of not wanting to be helped or taken care of created more physical unrest throughout those years.”
Woodley, who, in April 2020, revealed to The New York Times that she was “very, very sick in [her] early 20s” while shooting the Divergent films, is now “on the tail end” of her health struggles. But, as she told The Hollywood Reporter in July 2021, the experiences will forever be part of her story.
“It’s an interesting thing, going through something so physically dominating while also having so many people pay attention to the choices you make, the things you say, what you do, what you look like,” explained Woodley, who did not specify the health condition she struggled with publicly, who hasn’t shared the specifics of her illness with the public. “It spun me out for a while. You feel so incredibly isolated and alone. Unless someone can see that you have a broken arm or a broken leg, it’s really difficult for people to relate to the pain that you’re experiencing when it’s a silent, quiet and invisible pain.” (Related: I’m a Fitness Influencer with an Invisible Illness That Causes Me to Gain Weight).
Among the lessons that Woodley learned at the time: ignoring the often vicious chatter in the world around her.
“It made me learn the incredibly difficult life task of not caring what people think about you very quickly,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “The more I paid attention to the noise that was surrounding me, the longer it was taking my body and my mind to heal because I wasn’t focused on myself, I was focused on an image of myself via the lens of everyone around us.”
Fast forward to today and Woodley seems content with both her professional and personal life. Currently engaged to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whom she met during the COVID-19 pandemic, the actress previously told Shape how the couple “jumped headfirst” into their relationship, moving in together immediately.
“I was by myself with my dog and didn’t see anyone for three months,” she said of her living situation prior to Rodgers. “It forced me to be still and quiet.”
Despite the unique circumstances in the early stages of their relationship, Woodley believes her path was always destined to cross that of Rodgers. “I have the perspective that I would have met Aaron in any context, any space in time, because I feel we were meant to be together,” Woodley shared with Shape in June 2021.
Although the couple has enjoyed their blissful engagement — trips to Disney World and Hawaii included — Woodley recently told Entertainment Tonight that she and her 37-year-old fiancé are in no rush to wed. So, what is she to do in the meantime? Given Woodley’s conversation
Odds are Woodley will continue to enjoy some quality time with Rodgers, all the while taking care of herself — something she does by prioritizing sleep, practicing more positive self-talk, and using astrology to help encourage “more self-compassion.” (Related: Shailene Woodley Really Wants You to Try a Mud Bath)