By PEOPLE.COM/Ale Russian
Oct 21, 2018 @ 10:00 am
Kevin Mazur

Charlize Theron is known for portraying complex and strong women in her movies. In real-life, she draws courage from a special person — her mom.

The actress, 43, opened up about her mother Gerda and how she’s found strength over the years at Elle‘s 2018 Women in Hollywood event Monday night.

“I think we all have to find our own footing. None of us are born knowing how to navigate life and difficult decisions — especially for young girls,” Theron told Extra at the event. “No matter who you are or where you come from, the struggle is maybe a little bit different, but all interconnects. I am lucky enough that I had a great mom who really kind of made me brave and always told me to be brave. I don’t know who I might have been without that.”

When Theron was 15, her father, Charles, attacked her mother and shot him to death in self-defense (no charges were filed). Theron has previously revealed some of the details of her family’s harrowing experience dealing with her father’s addiction, including what it was like when her mother shot and killed her father.

The actress went into detail on the Howard Stern Show in 2017 about how she didn’t really know how to react at the time. “I just pretended like it didn’t happen,” she said. “I didn’t tell anybody — I didn’t want to tell anybody. Whenever anybody asked me, I said my dad died in a car accident. Who wants to tell that story? Nobody wants to tell that story.”

She admitted to host Howard Stern that ultimately, it wasn’t the incident of her father’s death that traumatized her. Instead, Theron said she struggled with the everyday nightmare of growing up with such an unpredictable figure in the house.

“I think what more affected me for my adult life that happened in my childhood was more the every day living of a child living in the house with an alcoholic and waking up not knowing what was going to happen. And not knowing how my day was going to go and all of it dependent on somebody else and whether he was not going to drink or drink.”

RELATED: Why Charlize Theron Felt “a Little Unstable” After Winning an Oscar

She added that her mother was similarly thick-skinned about the incident, praising her selfless resilience.

“I have an incredible mother… She’s a huge inspiration in my life,” said Theron. “She’s never really had therapy. So a mother who never really had therapy dealing with something like that — trying to get your child out of that. Her philosophy was ‘This is horrible. Acknowledge that this is horrible. Now make a choice. Will this define you? Are you going to sink or are you going to swim?’ That was it.”

This article originally appeared on People. For more stories like this, visit people.com.