How can a person escape the mental trap that is impostor syndrome? By being Oprah Winfrey, it seems.
The legendary TV host and media mogul said in an interview published Tuesday that she has never experienced the feeling we mere mortals refer to as impostor syndrome — the intrusive sentiment that one is a fraud who is undeserving of their own accomplishments.
“I don’t have any of that impostor feelings that so many people have,” she told People. “I didn’t even understand it, I had to look it up.”
The “Selma” and “A Wrinkle in Time” actor brought up the idea of impostor syndrome while promoting her new self-help book with Arthur C. Brooks, “Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier.” The author said that when she reflects on what she’s achieved, she simply feels pride.
“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 … 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,” Winfrey said.
“And so, now that I sit on land that I own, land that I worked for … 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.”
Winfrey is not the first celebrity to talk about impostor syndrome. While participating in a Times roundtable discussion in January 2021, acclaimed actors Riz Ahmed, George Clooney, Delroy Lindo, Gary Oldman and Steven Yeun all recalled experiencing feelings of self-doubt throughout their careers.
“It’s real with every actor,” Clooney said. “Because to be successful at any level in this industry means that you’re beating such huge odds.”
“I think it’s very healthy, this impostor syndrome. It’s a good thing to have,” Oldman added. “If someone said to me, ‘What do you think is your best work?,’ I like to say, ‘Next year.’ The best work is the next one.”
“Hamilton” and “Glass Onion” actor Leslie Odom Jr. also opened up to The Times in 2021 about battling impostor syndrome while working on Regina King’s “One Night in Miami…,” which landed him a pair of Oscar nominations for supporting actor and original song.
“There’s a saying from when I was a kid that goes something like, ‘Your arms are too short to box with God,’” Odom said. “And so essentially I was wondering, am I enough?”