is opening up about a period where she "never felt comfortable" with how she was publicly perceived after rising to fame as a teenager in films like (2002) and (2003).
In a new interview with published Tuesday, Knightley, 37, called her maturation from adolescence into adulthood "an extreme landing because of the experience of fame at a very early age."
"There's a funny place where women are meant to sit, publicly, and I never felt comfortable with that. It was a big jolt," she told the outlet, recalling "being judged on what I was projecting" in her films, .
"She was the object of everybody's lust," Knightley said of the character, who went toe-to-toe with
"I felt very constrained. I felt very stuck," the actress added of how the part — and the fame associated with it — affected her. "So the roles afterwards were about trying to break out of that."
Knightley recalled that she felt "felt like I was caged in a thing I didn't understand" as she rose to fame and described the years after
"I was incredibly hard on myself. I was never good enough. I was utterly single-minded. I was so ambitious. I was so driven," Knightley told "I was always trying to get better and better and improve, which is an exhausting way to live your life. Exhausting."
Now a Hollywood veteran who takes fewer roles, Knightley, who next stars in Hulu's upcoming drama
"I am in awe of my 22-year-old self, because I'd like a bit more of her back," she said. "And it's only by not being like that any longer that I realize how extraordinary it was. But it does have a cost."
begins streaming on Hulu March 17.