updated 07/20/2014 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 07/22/2014 AT 11:15 AM ET
But that was before she stopped settling.
“I hate the sensation that you have when you get home and you think, ‘I’m a coward. I didn’t speak up. I didn’t defend myself. I didn’t say no,’ ” she told PEOPLE while promoting Guardians of the Galaxy on Saturday. “I wanted to please others more than I wanted to please myself, and I [would] find myself embarrassed to look in the mirror.”
Saldana, 36, added: “I promised myself, by my own will, that I’m not going to do it anymore.”
Proof she is, indeed, staying true to those words: her marriage to Marco Perego, whom she wed last summer.
“We found each other, and it was that desire and not that necessity that put us together,” said Saldana, who has not commented on speculation that she’s now pregnant.
Her profound confidence comes from embracing her 30s, Saldana said.
“I’m where I wanted to be when I would look at myself and say, ‘I just have a feeling that it’s going to get better, that I’m going to find who I truly am more and more, and I’m going to stick to that road,’ ” she said. “I’m very happy that it happened before I met him, because I didn’t want somebody to give me the answers that I should find for myself.”
But Perego did give Saldana a symbol of everlasting love when he tattooed her face on his arm. “It was the most romantic thing! I didn’t stop him, but I did sort of try to talk him out of it,” she said. “I’ve done crazier things than that, and I’m pretty sure he has, too.”