No matter what, don’t forget your why! As I immersed myself in the creative world, I began to receive advice from every direction telling me what I needed or should do to continue to grow and be successful as a creator. I gradually forgot my why and so the content I was creating, was not coming from my heart. I felt disconnected from everything I was creating until I took the time to reflect and reconnect to my why.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jorge Alvarez.
Jorge Alvarez is a Latino recent first-generation college graduate, content creator, digital strategist, and mental health advocate using creative storytelling to drive impact and change through short-form videos on social platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Through creating content, Jorge cultivates space for collective reflection, unlearning limiting beliefs, and breaking generational cycles.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in the northern part of New Jersey! Although I can’t say for sure because I have yet to experience living elsewhere, I’m happy I grew up where I did because I was close to New York City, the Jersey shore, and hikes in the Appalachians. I also like to highlight that I was raised as an only child in a Latino/a/x household which is highly uncommon in our culture. Unfortunately, that sibling I asked my parents for a few holidays in a row never came. But that’s okay! I was extremely fortunate to be raised by two loving parents who tried their best despite worrying about living paycheck to paycheck. There are countless times I can recall today where my parents had sacrificed their own well-being in a lot of cases to focus on surviving rather than thriving– a choice they could not have made even if they wanted to. Growing up low-income was not easy but my parents did their absolute best and for that, I am forever grateful.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
No book or organization comes to mind but I’ll use this as an opportunity to highlight my beautiful mother who 110% is one of the biggest reasons why I am who I am today. She never failed to make me feel loved and always reminded me she was there for me no matter what.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I think of “Making A Difference” as doing the best we can which in turn, leads to a natural domino effect occurring around you whether you notice it or not. Hustle culture lately has convinced a lot of us that making a difference is all about turning your passion into a career or that side hustle that takes off all while having a positive impact on people’s lives. For those who have or are accomplishing this, that’s absolutely amazing, congrats! But the reality is, making a difference takes so many different forms. You don’t need to do a grand gesture to make a difference, sometimes all you need to do is make the person next to you smile. You may not see it unfold before your eyes but oftentimes, that smile will have a far greater impact on that person than you may imagine which, in my opinion, is all the difference we need.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
I use creative storytelling to drive impact and change through short-form videos on social platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Through creating content, Jorge cultivates space for collective reflection, unlearning limiting beliefs, and breaking generational cycles.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Whether I’m behind the camera recording or in the workplace, my mission is to build community. Through creating content, I achieve this at a much larger scale by cultivating space for collective reflection, unlearning limiting beliefs, and breaking generational cycles. I strive to serve as the representation I sought out when I struggled with my own mental health and self-belief by asking the questions and sparking the convo most people stray away from. This is where the beauty happens, where we question more than what’s on the surface and begin to learn, process, and grow. If you were to ask me where I see myself 5 years from now, I’d say that I see myself doing something that I love, that lights me up so bright on the inside that it’s contagious on the outside. I see a community of people, a safe community of BIPOC who are passionate about being their best selves and who empower one another to do the same.
After a very difficult first year of undergrad, I finally had the privilege and opportunity to get the support I needed through my campus counseling center. I began therapy in June 2018 when I began to question how I wound up spiraling into depression and experiencing such intense anxiety. As I reflected, I began to realize that the biggest barrier to entry to me seeking help was the lack of representation in the mental health care field and the stigma related to and unrelated to my Latino culture/upbringing. Therapy changed my life and I felt inspired to share all I was learning with others on my college campus by getting involved with our Active Minds chapter. Fast forward to the beginning of the pandemic and I, like many of us, began to consume personal development content nonstop. I immediately turned to YouTube and TikTok to learn from those who I aspired to be like. But it wasn’t long before I realized a similar pattern; with each creator I looked up to, there was a point where I could no longer relate. It wasn’t long before I realized the same issue existed in the world of content creators. I struggled to connect with a lot of them because they were not representative of my people. I assumed there were Latinos and BIPOC out there making personal development and mental health content, but I could not find any. So, I took my girlfriend’s advice, “If you can’t find community, build community,” and did just that! I headed to the fastest growing app in the world (take a guess?) to record myself speaking to my phone’s camera while I shared the lessons I’ve learned. In 4 months, I grew a platform… NOW A COMMUNITY, of +115,000 people. Today my (OUR) community continues to grow. This only further validated the need for not just representation but for someone to ask and speak on the questions that aren’t usually addressed– which is exactly what I do through my content. I aim to continue to nurture and grow my community while sharing my life as a Gen Z first-gen college grad learning what it means to find and feel fulfillment in my day-to-day life. Now, I use my passion for creative storytelling to share my personal experiences and bring my family along with me as I highlight what I learn as I continue my inner work.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. We don’t always get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
My “Aha Moment” and final trigger was when one of my TikTok’s went viral. I’ll admit, external validation is not the best source of motivation but for me, it was enough to show me it was possible. The best part was that I didn’t try to make a viral video or hook people in. I posted what I wanted because I simply cared, and well, it worked! People’s comments relating and asking me for advice showed me that people not only want to hear what I have to say, but they value my insight. This light in my storm of overthinking and perfectionist doubt, was all I needed to realize, “Wow, I need to keep going!”
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
The good news is that anyone can be a creator if you have a stable internet connection and a cell phone! For anyone who may be interested in creating, I would 100% recommend *just starting*. It’s super easy to get in our heads and start overthinking about what we should speak about, how we will be perceived, and even compare ourselves to others along the way. I get it, imposter syndrome is real! But I kid you not, just start. Highlight your day, share a sudden thought, post a funny story, just be you. The best and most successful creators are those who build and nourish community by showing up as their authentic selves. I’ll also add that as you grow and get a gauge for what type of content does well versus what doesn’t, you may feel inclined to only do what “works”. You might also feel like you need to post what your audience “wants”. The reason I use quotes is that once we begin posting for others or for the sake of the algorithm, we begin to lose our authenticity.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Since beginning my creative journey, the most interesting (and exciting) experience was when I was featured on TikTok’s Discover Page… yes, I was featured on the app itself where anyone in the country could see my face. I was super excited because I had only been creative for 4–5 months at the time. So, for me to start sharing my experiences just cause having my face on the fastest growing app’s discover page was HUGE for me!
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
Early on in my creative journey, my girlfriend was my biggest support. Each time I would post, I could always count on her to be the first person to comment. Back then, barely anyone engaged with my content so it meant a lot to have her along my side supporting me from the beginning. Whenever I would doubt myself or get stuck with a certain thought, she would be there to listen, give me advice, or a very much-needed pep talk. As my platform continued to grow, I began to meet other amazing creators, especially within the mental health/healing and Latino communities that quickly became friends. The best part was that since we identify in more ways than one, we are really able to understand one another’s struggles, goals, and the nuances that others may not. Today, I continue to connect with other amazing creators who inspire and empower me.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
To date, I have received more DM’s than I can remember. I say this not to brag but because I wish I could remember them all. Each time a person reaches out to express their gratitude, share an experience, or ask a question, I am further reminded why I do what I do and share what I share on a platform for thousands, if not millions to see. Of all the messages I have received since embarking on my creative journey, the one that will forever hold a very special place in my heart was from a follower who I was gradually befriending over the course of a few months. They joined almost every single one of my TikTok lives, actively engaged with my content, and were always extremely supportive of my wins. I truly appreciated their endless support because even when I did not believe I could achieve something, they did and reminded me that I was more than capable. Though I never “met” this person beyond their comments on my posts and TikTok lives, I felt like I knew them for ages. So I decided to reach out and ask if they would be interested in setting up a call to “meet” and get to know one another outside of our interactions through my content. In short, the conversation went amazing! They not only asked insightful questions, but we also shared similar perspectives when it came to our upbringing and healing. In short, we were an absolute ray of sunshine! But what really meant the world to me was when they reached out and shared that they had decided to begin therapy for the first time after hearing me share my experiences on TikTok. I was… shook! Did someone decide to begin therapy… because of me? WHAT!? I was taken back in the absolute best way possible and overrun with emotions of happiness, shock, excitement, confusion, and of course, fulfillment. This will forever be a monumental moment in my life and career because they showed me the power of storytelling and the impact that showing up as my authentic self can have on others.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
There are far more than three things that must be done to change the way our mental health care system fundamentally functions. Although I create content around my own personal growth, mental health, and healing journey to empower, educate, and encourage others like me to engage with their own healing, I recognize this is much easier said than done. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the stigma surrounding mental health is still extremely prevalent in our society and this will not change until the systems and structures that perpetuate this stigma by making it more difficult for people to access safe, welcoming, and affordable mental health care are remodeled entirely. However, if there was one thing I would say to my community, especially my Latino and BIPOC overall, it would be to prioritize your wellness no matter how radically you need to love yourself. When you put yourself first, you in turn strengthen and empower those around you. Destigmatizing mental health and breaking down the barriers we face is no individual effort, but a collective one. To politicians, all I have to say is please, please try your best to invest your efforts on issues, like mental health, that matter and affect everyone. Without healthy minds, we cannot function and progress as a society.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
- No matter what, don’t forget your why! As I immersed myself in the creative world, I began to receive advice from every direction telling me what I needed or should do to continue to grow and be successful as a creator. I gradually forgot my why and so the content I was creating, was not coming from my heart. I felt disconnected from everything I was creating until I took the time to reflect and reconnect to my why.
- Play the long game. Don’t seek pleasure or instant gratification, seek consistency and feeling content. It’s easy to give up when we don’t see immediate results. Trust me, as someone with ADHD, I get it. That’s okay! All things worth doing tend to take time. I’ve been wanting to have a platform since I was 12 years old. A decade later at 22, here I am. I got a YouTube channel going on several occasions, but it simply wasn’t my time.
- Take your time. Your path is that of your own. What works for others, may not work for you. Similar to my point above, it’s easy to compare ourselves to others’ paths and then look back at ourselves like we are failing or not doing enough. Know that you are your own person and with that means, you will grow and win at a different time and in a different way. I’ve taken a lot of advice over the last year and would feel down when things didn’t work as expected. I had to remind myself that my path is different and in turn, so is what will work for me.
- Careful not to let inspiration turn to comparison. When you begin meeting other amazing people, it’s easy to feel and be inspired. With time, this inspiration can turn into comparison especially if you’re on a similar path. There were moments when I compared myself to the very creators I looked up to and admired. To get out of this habit, I had to set firm boundaries and limit the amount which I consumed their content while reminding myself of point #3 above.
- All that is meant for you, is already yours. I’ve always struggled with believing in myself. But creating content has helped me realize that I am more than capable. Looking back, I wish I realized that what is meant for me, is already mine, it’s simply waiting for me to take a leap of faith. Whatever that project or goal is that you’ve aspired to do, trust that you will do it, take baby steps and give yourself time. Then DM me and tell me all about it 😉
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I would tell other young people to please fill your cup before thinking of filling anyone else’s. Prioritize your wellness and happiness above all and success will follow. Second, do what lights you up and brings you joy even if people think it’s silly or corny. Doing so will allow you to fuel your inner child and lead you to opportunities you may have never imagined.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
The King and legend himself Bad Bunny or the icon and queen Doja Cat! Why? Because they both make amazing music that gets me through my best and most difficult days. No matter my mood, I could always count on their music to make me feel better.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow me on Instagram and TikTok @ijorgealvarez where I post daily, if not every other day, and soon on YouTube!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Young Change Makers: Why and How Jorge Alvarez Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.