I know that I’m still relatively young, but looking back on my own life so far, I feel an enormous sense of gratitude. I’ve been given phenomenal opportunities, and I have worked hard to make the most out of each of them. My life didn’t just happen to me. I chose to move to São Paulo when I was fourteen. Many years later I chose to marry my husband. I chose to have our two children. I could have never left Brazil. I could have played professional volleyball (I was good at it) or become a veterinarian. I could have married somebody else, or never married, or never had children. The life I live today is an accumulation of dozens of decisions I have made. When I was younger, I took advantage of the doors that swung open for me. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to push the doors open— for myself. If we make choices more consciously, and with greater self-awareness, we will find ourselves more closely aligned to our purpose in life, whatever it may be.

Over the years, friends and strangers have confided in me about the struggles of the girls and women in their lives. They’ve told me that their daughters or friends were facing depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm—and in response I’ve shared some of my own challenging experiences with the hope that they would feel supported and know they were not alone. We are all bombarded today with images of how we should look, and how we should behave. And yes, I know that for more than two decades I worked in an industry that can have a tendency to exalt unattainable images of beauty, style, and glamour. I know, too, that social media is about showcasing the best moments of our lives, not the worst ones. On my own Instagram, you won’t find a lot of photos of me with a headache or with bags under my eyes from staying up all night with my children when they get sick.

Life can be magical. But living it well takes work, focus, patience, compassion, determination, and discipline. Jealousy, or comparing yourself with anyone, is a toxic recipe. Jealousy only produces feelings of never being good enough. I believe we are— each of us— singular in our own way. We each have something unique to offer, which only we can give to the world.

Many women, I know, are simply overwhelmed. Whether they are in high school with too many activities in their schedules, or in their thirties and forties being run ragged while trying to be a good mom, a perfect wife, a star at work, or all three, they spend almost no time alone. They’ve lost a connection to nature and to themselves. They’re looking for answers outside themselves, not realizing that the answers that matter most are on the inside. There was a time when I was that person. So naturally I’m also writing this book to my younger self. If someone had shared these lessons with me when I was in my teens and twenties, maybe my own ride would have been a bit easier.

Reprinted from Lessons: My path to a Meaningful Life by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2018, Gisele Bündchen