"A lot of people don't know this, but I really don't like balloons," Oprah confesses with a terrified vocal inflection. "...For my 40th birthday, my entire staff decided to surprise me, and I come downstairs and the entire audience is filled with balloons.
"Literally, I'm stepping over balloons, having to walk through balloons and I'm...like, 'Oh! When is one going to pop?!?' It was an anxiety-filled day."
Nearly two decades after her balloon-infested birthday, Oprah says she associates her fear of balloons with gunfire because of the startling sounds the decorative bags make when they pop.
"Perhaps somewhere in my life or a past childhood I must have had something to do with gunfire 'cause it just really freaks me out being around balloons," the Mississippi native says.
Although Oprah candidly admits her fear, it doesn't come without the positive twist that she has become famous for perpetuating. She maintains that overcoming the dread supplied her with a widely applicable lesson.
"I walk downstairs, it's a surprise and there are balloons everywhere and everybody is so excited and all I can think is 'This is a room full of balloons!' No way around it, just had to walk through them," Oprah says, painting a positive message on the experience. "That became a metaphor for facing all of my fears: 'No way around it, just walk right through it.'"
Oprah said that she's drawn on the wisdom she'd gained from that experience to help her overcome fear, including the anxiety she faced approaching her commencement speech at Harvard this past June (watch here).