The 53-year-old actor said her lack of self-belief stemmed from a long line of women who did not have a voice.
"You know, I came from a story where I didn't feel just less than or I just didn't have a voice or not pretty. I felt invisible. I came from a long line of women who felt invisible. And they're the ones who attempted to throw me an invisible rope.
"Courage is just fear said with prayers. And I feel that it takes a great deal of courage to hit bottom and feel invisible and then to share one's story. But it's in the sharing of the story in front of people who have empathy that kills shame. And once that shame is killed, guess what? You're running," Davis said in her address at Glamour's 2018 Women of the Year awards.
The How to Get Away with Murder star received one of Glamour's Women of the Year honours.
In the wake of the #MeToo uprising, she said, it is necessary for the change to come from within.
"When I look at the zeitgeist today and look at what is happening with women in terms of sexual assault, in terms of poverty, in terms of politically what's happening, I think to myself the change and the shift that needs to happen is the internal. It's finding the courage to own one's story," Davis said.