Though social media wasn't around when Sarah Ferguson became a member of the royal family in the '80s, Prince Andrew's ex-wife still faced a ton of scrutiny from the media. In particular, tabloids began poking fun at her weight, giving her the nickname "Duchess of Pork" — something that effected her for years.
"I had major mental health problems because of the trauma. It's taken a great deal of work because I believed every word that the front pages told me," she admitted to PEOPLE. "It was self-shame. I'm stratospherically sensitive."
It didn't help that the mom-of-two was often compared to sister-in-law Princess Diana, whom she actually had a good relationship with.
"In the '80s, it was Diana looking beautiful, and there was fat, frumpy Fergie," she recalled. "We were just there for people to make a lot of money. At the time we both didn't realize that."
But because of their close bond — the two had known each other since childhood — the author leaned on Diana to cope with situation.
"Diana and I both had our own mental health issues, and she and I used to talk. She said, 'Fergie, remember one thing: When you're at the top of the pedestal, it's so easy to fall off. And you're at the bottom. You just climb up,'" she shared. "We were positioned as saint and sinner. And the most important thing was to remain robust together, and we did, no matter what anyone wrote."
Fergie — who shares daughters Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice with Andrew — has worked on herself since then, and she's now confident and content as ever.
"It's like I've gotten out of my own way," she said. "I've really become Sarah. The Duchess is there. Good old Fergie's there too. But Sarah is authentically present."
"I have to be aware that trying to be perfect is no longer necessary," she added, "and that actually being Sarah is just enough."