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How Ellen DeGeneres Got Through the Toughest Moments of Her Life

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Ellen DeGeneres opens up about her journey to happiness with wife Portia de Rossi. Subscribe now for an exclusive interview with Ellen about what matters to her most, only in PEOPLE!

Ellen DeGeneres knows exactly what advice she’d give to her younger self if she could.

Having experienced backlash after she first came out in 1997, DeGeneres, 58, says the lessons she learned have been invaluable. “At 30, everything was fine. I would have said, ‘Hold on, because it’s not always going to be like this,'” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “At 40, I would have said, ‘It’s going to get better.’ Now that I’m wise enough to know that life changes in an instant, I would say, ‘Everything is always going to be okay.’ Because it is. No matter what comes. Right now everything is fantastic. That doesn’t mean things don’t change.”

Nino Muñoz
Nino Muñoz

Now with her Emmy Award-winning talk show and ED by Ellen, her line of clothing, accessories and home goods — not to mention her animated summer blockbuster Finding Dory — DeGeneres is beyond grateful for all of her success. Yet even when she was a struggling comedian, she insists she was always appreciative.

“I didn’t worry even when I didn’t have any [money]. I was living on a can of soup every single day. And I would eat it out of the can because I didn’t have a kitchen,” she says. “I would live paycheck to paycheck, but I never worried. I was living. I think that’s part of my mentality about money. My parents always worried about it, and we never had any. You put that energy out there, and it’s like, ‘Well then, we’re going to give you what you’re asking for.'”

Married to actress Portia de Rossi, 43, since 2008, DeGeneres has also learned to not pay attention to negative energy and doesn’t read what’s written about her on the Internet. “Never. Never have. I don’t see any good or bad, whatever people say about me. There’s a phrase, ‘What you think of me is none of my business.’ And I really feel like that,” she says. “If I’m going to buy into ‘People love me!’ then I have to buy into ‘People hate me!’ So I just have to like myself and not care what people think. Usually if they don’t like you, it has nothing to do with you.”

  • For more from Ellen DeGeneres, including her take on success and her love story with wife Portia de Rossi, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Nino Muñoz
Nino Muñoz

Most importantly, DeGeneres strives to live every day with the intent of helping others, especially now that she’s found her own success in life and love. Her greatest joy is “when I know that I’ve done something to make someone happy. My life is ridiculous; I’m so blessed in so many ways,” she says. “I have more riches in every kind of way, whether it be people who are kind to me or money or whatever it is. There’s nothing that anyone can do for me. So now I just want to figure out how to give it back.”

Finding Dory comes out digitally on Oct. 25 and on Blu-ray/DVD Nov. 15.