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Amy Adams, Vogue

Mario Testino/Vogue

Amy Adams looks ethereal covering Vogue's December 2014 issue, but her life hasn't always been quite so enchanting.  

She was "a mess" her first several years trying to "make it" in L.A., she recalls, "and it really, to this day, gives me perspective, but going through it was painful, to say the least."

The Colorado-born beauty "was able to do everything from day player to guest star to small parts in movies," she says, but that wasn't quite cutting it. "I felt a lot of pressure, but I just wasn't able to get there in the audition room. Or even in meetings," she says. "My squirreliness would come out, and people wouldn't feel confident."

Amy Adams, Vogue

Mario Testino/Vogue

"I've always been someone who had, like, a spirit of perseverance, but I actually almost quit because I was starting not to like who I was," she tells Vogue.

She stayed the course, though, even meeting her now-fiancé, Darren Le Gallo, in one of her acting classes. Career success followed suit, too, and by her early 30s, people started to take note.

Now, fast forward to this past August, when Amy was about to turn 40. Even with five Academy Award nominations under her belt, a handsome hubby-to-be and a beautiful daughter, the Big Eyes star panicked.

Amy Adams, Vogue

Mario Testino/Vogue

"I was like, ‘I'm 40 and I still care what people think of me; I still don't do laundry so I'm always out of things; I'm just not a grown-up at all,'" she says, "and I had this expectation that I would be by this age. It wasn't, ‘Oh, I'm getting old and I'm going to lose something vibrant about myself.' It was more that I was just...so disappointed with myself."

Amy admits to Vogue she's a worrier, saying, "It feels like I worry about everything—mothering, relationship." Fortunately, she was able to remind herself to take a step back.

"You need to appreciate your life, Amy," she says. "Every time I get stressed out or anxious, I say to myself, Just live and love. Feel love. I think that's what I took away from my turning-40 meltdown."

Big Eyes hits theaters Dec. 25.