Ellen Pompeo is taking on critics who've commented on her weight.
The actress has been plagued by eating disorder rumors for years, but she reveals that there's no truth behind the reports.
"I used to get a lot of criticism for how thin I was, and I didn't have a lot confidence because of it. But I was naturally thin," the "Grey's Anatomy" star tells PEOPLE. "I always thought it was irresponsible of the media to portray me as someone with an eating disorder because if some girls look up to me and think that's what you have to do to look like me, it's a horrifying concept."
"I listened to the criticism a little too much—and this was pre-social media," she adds. "It's even crazier to think what women have to deal with now."
The 46-year-old also admits that she's not afraid of aging, but she knows that the "clock is already ticking" when it comes to her career. "My decision to stay on 'Grey's' was based solely on age," she admits.
The "Old School" star got a "super late start" in Hollywood, landing her first roles in her mid-20s. So, when her contract re-negotiations came up for the hit ABC series, she "was definitely aware of how challenging it would be to find other roles in my late 30s and early 40s."
Pompeo also says she would never leave "Grey's Anatomy," despite having seen Katherine Heigl and Sandra Oh ask to be taken off the show.
"I thought, 'Why would I leave something that is super successful and pays me great to search the landscape?' I decided that I would stay on 'Grey's' and be grateful and try to ride it out for as long as I could," she explains. "And I am very happy that I made the decision to stay. It's only gotten better with time."
While she's grateful for the longevity of the show, there are certainly drawbacks to watching yourself on TV for over a decade.
"Watching myself age on TV is miserable. To be honest, it's the toughest part of my job. But as uncomfortable as watching myself age is, I don't think focusing on physical beauty is necessarily the best thing for your mind. It's a natural thing that we all do, but I don't think it's the healthiest thing," she admits. "The older you get, the more you realize life isn't about your looks. Everyone ages, and it's OK."
"I think when you're in your 20s and 30s, you're super obsessed with your looks because you don't have any other wisdom," Pompeo says. "I have the wisdom to know that growing old is a privilege that not everyone is afforded. If my physical beauty is the only thing that leaves me and my health and my family stay, then that is what's really important to me."
So, has Ellen ever gotten a nip/tuck to slow down the aging process? "For me, personally, I don't do Botox or anything like that," she declares. "It can't be what's on the outside; it's gotta be what's on the inside."