Oprah Winfrey Says She’s Never Felt Imposter Syndrome: ‘I Had to Look It Up’ (Exclusive)

In their book, 'Build the Life You Want,' Oprah and co-author Arthur C. Brooks invite readers to change how they think

<p>Courtesy of Oprah Daily - Photographer: Ruven Afanador</p> Oprah in 2023

Courtesy of Oprah Daily - Photographer: Ruven Afanador

Oprah in 2023

Oprah Winfrey and her co-author Arthur C. Brooks have just published a book, Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier. In it, the two discuss how all of us, no matter what struggles we may be facing, can make adjustments to how we respond to our emotions — positive and negative — and learn to live our lives with more purpose, satisfaction and joy.

One negative emotion Oprah admits she's never felt: imposter syndrome. You know, that feeling of self-doubt that perhaps you don't belong in that good job or good school. Imposter syndrome leapt into the public conversation in the late 1970s in an academic article about high-achieving women who felt dogged by the fear that someone would expose them as a person who doesn't deserve the life she's leading.

Not Oprah. In her conversation with PEOPLE about the new book, Winfrey said that it was an alien notion to her.

<p>courtesy of PRH</p> 'Build the Life You Want' by Oprah Winfrey and Arthur C. Brooks

courtesy of PRH

'Build the Life You Want' by Oprah Winfrey and Arthur C. Brooks

"I don't have any of that imposter feelings that so many people have," she said. "I didn't even understand it, I had to look it up."

Winfrey, 69, credits this to her upbringing, particularly her father's influence.

"I remember as a young girl being a strong orator in the national competition for speaking and winning the local championships, then the state championships. And then placing, I think it was No. 3 or something, in the nationals," she says. "And I remember after every contest, the families whose kids were just in the contest were going to celebrate and their families were all excited. My father's thing was, 'Get your coat.'"

Related: Oprah Winfrey on Finding the Secret to Happiness: 'I Have a Big Life, But the Simplest Things Bring Me the Greatest Joy' (Exclusive)

Winfrey adds, "I learned, in all these years, every exciting thing that would happen to me it was always, that's good, get your coat. Get your coat. I don't know if that was ingrained in my personality or I just learned that nobody's going to be excited about it, so you might as well just get your coat and go. I don't have high highs and I don't have low lows. Which is a good thing, because no matter what I'm going through, I know I'm going to come out of it, and be okay."

<p>Courtesy of Oprah Daily - Photographer: Ruven Afanador</p> "I don't have any of that imposter feelings that so many people have," says Winfrey

Courtesy of Oprah Daily - Photographer: Ruven Afanador

"I don't have any of that imposter feelings that so many people have," says Winfrey

Now, she says, she values " the ability to live in the space of true appreciation for a life, not just well lived, but well-earned."

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Winfrey says she feels "proud of myself.": "I look around at the space that I've created for myself, and I recognize that I came from a great-grandfather who was a slave, and who for 10 years after slavery could not read, but 10 years after slavery could read. And who negotiated with a local farmer to pick 2,000 bales of cotton in exchange for 80 acres of land. And so, now that I sit on land that I own, land that I worked for, learned land that I earned, I feel the essence and presence of all that has come before me to allow me to be in this space."

None of it was given to her, she adds.

"I didn't have a grandfather, a great-grandfather who could give me land. But now...I am able to have my own and to know that I work for it. And it wasn't a husband that did it. It wasn't a brother or an uncle, or whatever did it, but I did it," Winfrey says.

Related: Oprah Winfrey's Co-Author Arthur C. Brooks Explains How She Has 'Cracked the Code' for Handling Fame (Exclusive)

In fact, Winfrey says, she credits other people's low expectations of her for part of her success, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, the talk show that helped make her a billionaire. "The real reason I was able to own that show and have the percentages of the show," she says, is because nobody expected it become the enormous success it did.

"They would've never agreed to it if they had thought that it would," she adds. "Never."

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