She’s a a wife, a mom-of-three, and an Emmy-winning TV star, but not even Mariska Hargitay admits that she has life all figured out. In fact, during an exclusive new interview with Closer Weekly for the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now, the 54-year-old actress confessed she’s still learning every day.

“I look at my life now and think, I’m on a TV show, I run a foundation, I run a household, I’m a mom, I’m a wife, I’m a lot of things. I’m learning to be present with where I am. The truth is we have to live the journey, right? And that’s what I’ve learned,” Mariska candidly revealed.

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Mariska filming Law & Order: SVU.

Mariska’s job has also helped her grow both on and off-screen. For the past 19 years, she’s portrayed Detective Olivia Benson on the NBC drama series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. “I’ve learned to lean in to the sharp edges,” she recently told Closer at the “Paley Center Presents Creating Great Characters: Dick Wolf and Mariska Hargitay” event. “There has been a lot of darkness. But on the other side, things can be so bright.”

“What have I learned from Olivia? Having hope, you know? Stamina. Fierce protection. Never giving up no matter what,” she added of her TV character.

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Mariska’s parents, Mickey and Jayne.

The actress’ childhood was tumultuous as well. When Mariska was just three years old, her famous mother, Jayne Mansfield, was tragically killed in a car wreck while Mariska slept in the back seat. Following her mom’s passing, the future star was raised by her father, Mickey Hargitay, and his third wife, Ellen.

Mariska actually credits her late father — Mickey died in 2006 — for teaching her how to cope with life’s pain. “The message I got from my father was that life is hard, but you just don’t quit,” she has said. Her dad additionally helped Mariska launch her career as an actress. “I’d get an audition and he’d say, ‘How hard are you going to work for it?’ So I pushed myself even when I didn’t feel like pushing myself. I acted confident even when I wasn’t. And slowly… I became more confident,” she explained, adding that she realized if you “kick fear to the side the payoff is huge.”

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Mariska with her family.

Today, Mariska couldn’t be happier. She married fellow actor Peter Hermann, 50, in 2004 — “I was never so sure and happy,” Mariska has said of their wedding day — and the couple are now parents to three kids, sons August, 11, and Andrew, 6, and daughter Amaya, 7. “They are the answer to everything,” Mariska has said of her family, adding that her children are her “joy.” She continued, “[My character, Olivia], really prepared me for motherhood, because as a cop, you are in charge of any emergency and you need to stay calm, take control. It’s the same thing with being a parent.”

For more on Mariska Hargitay, pick up the new issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and sign up for our newsletter!

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