Before she even became a legal adult, the Modern Family star—who we watched grow up from the time she was 11-years-old—faced several years of legal battles in order to become emancipated from her mother, Chrisoula Workman, due allegations that she emotionally and physically abused her as a child.
"I did have a really, really hard childhood," Winter told Good Morning America on Tuesday. "It wasn't normal. It wasn't what I should have had. It wasn't a supportive, loving home. I had a really tough time."
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She said she was "kind of being pushed into the industry" at a young age, starting off in the spotlight at just 4-years-old.
"That's not to say I don't love it and it's not my passion now. I do love it. But I definitely think that at 4, nobody knows what they want to do," she said. "And I don't know that if I had had my own run to be able to decide what I wanted to do if I would have [chosen acting]."
She revealed she's now going on three years of not speaking to Workman and has taken the reigns of her life in her own hands, even applying to colleges (something she admits she never thought she'd do). But she still struggles thinking about her home life and growing up without a mom.
"It's really hard to have that kind of drama in your life and to be going through that court situation and have an open court case and have everybody look at it and have the media around you trying and paint different pictures," she explained, adding: "It's already hard enough for abuse victims, but it's harder in the public eye when everybody has an opinion."
Despite everything, she maintains a positive outlook on her life and her future and believes her rocky childhood will only catapult her into brighter days ahead.
"Don't take anything for granted, for sure, because I have an amazing life now, but I know what it's like to not. So I definitely am grateful for everything I have. Everyone I have. Everything I have," Winter said. "And to always—not in a selfish way—but always put yourself first. I think it's really hard a lot when you're in certain situations to be able to do that, but I think it's really important to love yourself and be there for yourself first before you do anything else."
Check out her full interview with Good Morning America here.