By Julie Mazziotta / People
January 19, 2017

When Ariel Winter suddenly saw her body develop, seemingly overnight, her Modern Family costar Sofia Vergara helped make the change easier.

“I had a great role model in Sofia growing up, with her being a curvy woman that was super proud of who she was and what she looked like,” Winter tells SELF.com.

“She could see that I was struggling a little bit with how to deal with my body, and was always trying to give me advice, like, ‘Here are some brands that would look good on our body type,’ or ‘Wear whatever you want, and feel good about yourself.’ ”

Winter says the transition was tough on her at first, especially with social media, and took a toll on her self-esteem.

“Growing up in the spotlight was quite possibly the worst for my self-esteem,” she says. “I had a hard time finding confidence within myself. When I started [Modern Family], I had a completely different body than what happened overnight at 12 years old. I was stick thin, I had no chest, I had no butt — I had nothing. I was totally flat, and I was so sad about it.”

“Then automatically, overnight, my body changed drastically. I was a D cup and had a bigger butt, and my waist was expanding. Everything was getting bigger. I automatically got this hate and judgment online.”

Conversations with Vergara and Winter’s older sister and legal guardian, Shanelle Workman, helped her through the criticism.

“It was hard for me in the beginning to deal with people’s comments and deal with everybody having an opinion on absolutely everything I did. It was hard for me to not fall prey to wanting to change the way I felt and the way I did things and the way I looked because of what other people said,” Winter says.

“But as I got older, I started to realize that as long as I’m positive in my life and as long as I feel good about my decisions and stick to how I feel and the things I want to do, that’s what’s most important. And that’s what’s going to get me through in life.”

And when she needs to, Winter will gladly respond to the Instagram trolls trying to bring her down.

“I really had to stand up and make it a point to fight back against people who were not only body shaming, but also slut-shaming … taking aim at people that weren’t doing anything wrong and making comments that were so harmful and distressing for absolutely no purpose.”

This article originally appeared on People.com

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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