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When it comes to beauty, Emilia Clarke is all about keeping it real.
"If someone would tell me that they think that I needed something in order to be acceptable to the ridiculous beauty standards that society has set, I'm going to tell them to let themselves out," the Clinique beauty ambassador, 34, tells PEOPLE. "I'm not confident in how I look, but I am competent in telling someone who has an opinion on how I look that I'm not interested in hearing it."
It took recovering from two life-saving brain surgeries (her first aneurysm occurred in 2011 leading to surgery, and she required another, near-fatal surgery in 2013 for the second aneurysm) for Clarke to realize that true beauty comes from within.
"The happy moments and being happy is what you're going to see on your death bed. You're not going to remember the times when you took that super cute selfie," the Game of Thrones actress says.
"After the surgery, because I felt so scared and under-confident, I was putting all of that into how I looked," she continues. "As I got older, I realized that people are at their most beautiful when they're not thinking about themselves and considering their own beauty."
Focusing on those happy moments is what enables her to feel her best; "beauty is how happy I am," she says.
"When you are dancing to your favorite song because you just can't help it," she says by way of example. "When you're with your friends and they said something so funny that snot is flying out of your nose and you spit your burrito halfway across the room — that is the moment when everyone in the restaurant is going to turn and go, 'Wow, look at that person having the time of their lives.' That's beautiful."
Clarke also finds peace in maintaining her daily routine (she swears by morning meditation and yoga to start the day off right). Skincare is also a big part of it.
"Now, that I'm in my mid-30s, I have started using the Clinique Smart Clinical Repair Wrinkle Correcting Serum. Even saying 'wrinkle cream' is frightening! I don't have loads of wrinkles but my skin is aging, that's a fact," Clarke says. "I also love a double cleanse with the Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm and Clinique All About Clean Cleansing Milk, plus the Clinique Moisture Surge moisturizer."
Though the actress says preventive skincare (including her Clinque "secret serum") "just seems like the logical thing to do," she doesn't see herself doing anything more drastic to fight the aging process: "I'm not someone who's ever going to want to go in and get serious stuff done on my skin."
"The idea of me putting my face in the hands of someone else with a knife, no, no, no! Don't come at me with that. It's not going to happen," Clarke says about plastic surgery and cosmetic injectables. "Number one is the fear, and number two, I can't do my job if I can't move my face."
The actress believes plastic surgery ultimately makes "you look weird," so she plans on simply leaning into each year of life with grace.
"I didn't have a carpe diem 'seize the moment' situation when I had my brain hemorrhages. It didn't happen for me. I just got very scared of dying, ironically," Clarke says. "What the f--- is wrong with aging? What are the two truths in life? Taxes and death. It's happening. Getting older is a guarantee. I think the women who look most beautiful are the women who don't look younger."