After spending more than a decade on humanitarian work around the globe, Angelina Jolie tries to instill the lessons she’s learned from her activism in her children, particularly on her three girls.

“I tell my daughters, ‘What sets you apart is what you are willing to do for others. Anyone can put on a dress and makeup. It’s your mind that will define you,’”

she said in an interview with former Secretary of State John Kerry for Elle magazine’s cover story for March. “Find out who you are, what you think, and what you stand for.”

And fight for others to have those same freedoms,” added the actress, director and humanitarian. “A life of service is worth living.”

Jolie shares three daughters — Zahara, 13, Shiloh, 11, and Vivienne, 9 — with ex-husband Brad Pitt. They also have three sons, Maddox, 16, Pax, 14, and Knox, 9.

In her sit-down with America’s former top diplomat, the actress and director raised awareness about International Women’s Day on March 8. She also spoke about how her humanitarian work stems from the blessings she has been able to enjoy with her children.

“It’s only because we are a country based on people of different backgrounds and faiths coming together that I can have this family,” she said, pointing out that she is the only one in her household born in the United States. “My daughters have the freedoms they have because of being American. And we are at our best when we are fighting for others to have the same rights. Particularly other women.”

“I think of how hard women fought to get us to where we are today,” she said. “Everything counts, from the way you hold yourself in your daily life and educate yourself on your own rights, to solidarity with other women around the world.”

Jolie, 42, has served as a goodwill ambassador and special envoy to the United Nationals High Commissioner for Refugees, completing nearly 60 field missions. She said she makes sure her children, especially her daughters, remember the people who helped forge the path before then. Jolie, who also co-founded Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative in 2012, also addressed the discussed her work to curb crimes against women.

“In some countries, sexual violence is less of a taboo discussion. It’s something more people expect their leaders to act on,” she said, noting she was in Kenya last summer as U.N. peacekeeping troops received training “since peacekeepers have been part of the problem.”

“We’re working with NATO on training, protection, and getting more women in the military. But there is so far to go,” she said.