The Modern Family actress opened up to Good Morning America about the online bullying she's experienced throughout her career.

By Arielle Tschinkel
September 23, 2019
Emma McIntyre/Staff/Getty Images

Ariel Winter has been in the public eye ever since she landed her role as Alex Dunphy on Modern Family. And while she's grown up seemingly in front of our eyes on the hit ABC sitcom, she's also been subjected to incessant cyber-bullying and body-shaming on social media.

"I've faced body shaming and cyber bullies for about seven or eight years now that I've been in the spotlight," Winter previously told us. "At 11 years old, I started working on [Modern Family] and I was super flat and had no curves and was getting hate for that. Then overnight, my body changed and I was this curvy woman. I didn't know how to navigate that and got so much hate for it."

She went on to tell us that she'd even tried crash-dieting for a brief time "to try to fit standard" of what she felt others expected of her. "I wasn't making anyone else happier, and I definitely wasn't making myself any happier. It led to a lot of depression and anxiety," Winter shared. (Related: Can We Please Stop Making Ariel Winter Defend Her Wardrobe Choices?)

Now, in a new interview with Good Morning America, Winter says she's come to a point in her career where she's learned that maintaining her own happiness is more important than trying to please others.

"I'm incredibly grateful that I have this platform, I really am," said Winter. But with that platform has come more exposure and more (often unwanted) attention, particularly on the subject of her body, she explained.

"I was a developed younger person ... They would see me, and even though I was a child, they'd talk about me and my body like I was an adult—or, you know, shame me for this or shame me for that—and it was really difficult," Winter continued.

Case in point: In 2015, Winter was ruthlessly body-shamed for posting an Instagram photo in which she posed with her two young nieces on a boat while wearing a bikini. More recently, she had to deny rumors that she was using illegal drugs or had gotten plastic surgery to lose weight, revealing that it was actually a change in her medication that likely led to the change in her body.

Over the years, Winter struggled with how to address this constant speculation about her appearance. "I spent a lot of years trying to figure out who I wanted to be, what I wanted to look like—if I did this would people stop...if I did this would people stop," she told GMA.

The one tried and true lesson she's learned: There's nothing you can do to please every single person in life. "The only person that you need to take into account is yourself because at the end of the day, it's just us," she told GMA. "We have everyone around us—people that we're super close to—but at the end of the day, the opinion that matters most, that should be the most valuable one, is your own."

These days, Winter wants to use her platform to let other young people know they're not alone, especially those who are struggling with body image or mental health issues. (Related: How Celebrity Social Media Affects Your Mental Health and Body Image)

"I get a lot of messages from people, especially girls, telling me that it's nice that they see somebody talking about, you know, weight in a positive way," she said. "And talking about how you don't have to fit in one small box, and that's something that I believe."

Mental health advocacy is equally important to Winter, she shared with GMA. "I've suffered from depression and anxiety in life, and I know so many people that also suffer from that, or suffer from similar things, but never talk about it," she explained. "They always talk about it in the way of like 'my friend feels this way' or talk about anybody but themselves in that way, and it's something that's like—it's real, that's just who we are, that's what it is." (Related: 9 Celebrities Who Are Vocal About Mental Health Issues)

Winter believes that every person, celebrity or otherwise, deserves to be able to talk about these issues without judgment. "You should be able to feel that it's okay to feel, it's okay to get help, it's OK to go to therapy, it's OK to take medication, I've done it. It's OK to have your life fluctuate, it's OK to have your body fluctuate. That's growing and learning and that's life."

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