It has been one week since I sat on a stage in St. Louis to participate with Oprah in the Life Class Tour. I was there in person. I heard and saw everything that unfolded and then last night I watched the program on television. I must say that I was humbled and grateful and excited and impressed. Let me address one thing at a time.
I was humbled because it was a little over a year ago that I sat across from Ms. Winfrey for the first time in 11 years in an attempt to heal the breakdown in our relationship. Trust me when I tell you that I took a lot of heat for it. It was clear that some viewers got more into the “drama” than the healing opportunity. Other viewers accused me of throwing myself on Oprah’s sword in order to advance myself and my career. Then, there were those who determined that I had destroyed my credibility as a teacher, coach and empowerment advocate by sharing about my own challenges during the time I was an Oprah regular.
When I agreed to do the show I had a clear intention; to be a demonstration of how to have the difficult conversation required to heal a relationship breakdown. Watching Life Class last night I realized that the intention was fulfilled and, that Ms. O and I have been able to restore a sisterly, working relationship. Intentionality and clarity will support you in weathering the storms of criticism.
Gratitude is the only word that captures the experience I had standing in the midst of 3 beautiful, powerful and vulnerable men who were supporting one another in their healing. Standing with Steve was a powerful experience. Nothing that happened on that stage had been rehearsed, nor was it scripted. When I asked Steve to stand, I wasn’t sure why. It was clear to me that he was sincere about wanting to heal and move forward in life. What was not clear was where he was stuck and why.
When I looked into his eyes, I knew immediately that there was a little boy in his soul who needed affirmation – – not from me but from his parents. As I spoke to him I could feel his sorrow, his grief, his sadness because both of his parents are deceased. Like many of us he needed and wanted something that was physically impossible to receive. I also realized that what he needed in that moment could not come from me. It needed to come from a man. As a woman, I needed to be able to step back and let the men do their work for one another, with one another. I am grateful that I am healed enough to know what I can and cannot do. I am grateful to have been an instrument used to demonstrate to the world what it looks like to support men without taking over.
I admit that it is hard for me to watch myself on television. I almost never do it because I am overly self-critical. I worry if my butt looks big; if I am talking too loud; if I said the right thing in the wrong way, blah, blah, blah. But last night, I was excited because HD television looked good on my butt! I am not a tiny woman and with the new HD cameras a size 10 looks like a 14. That’s the personal side.
In the bigger picture, I am excited to be a part of something so new and refreshing on television. It is new to see people sharing their story, not just for the sake of the “drama” but with a real desire to be a demonstration of the healing that is possible. It is radical to see people air their most personal and intimate experiences publicly with the intention of getting support and healing themselves. We see all sorts of “dirty laundry” being aired in reality television. However, it is not always clear that the people want to shift, change, heal or be helped.
The people who come forward in the Life Class are willing to be a demonstration in the world that change is possible. I think that is exciting and radical because it has been my experience that we love to talk about our problems and we are not always willing to do what is required to find a resolution. To be in the midst of people from all over the world, college students, incarcerated inmates and the everyday people – – like minded people is exciting.
As a television insider, I have intimate knowledge about what it takes to put on a program. As a viewer it is easy to get lost in what happens on the screen and forget about the behind the scene requirements. Let me say that I was impressed by the number of people and the amount of energy it took to create a live broadcast that went off without a hitch. The crew at HARPO/OWN is fueled by a sincere desire to present excellence. There were so many people who were not seen yet who worked like Christmas elves to ensure that what the viewers saw was flawless. The set designers, the lightening engineers, the stage hands, the security guards, the camera personnel, even the caterers, worked with a spirit of kindness, professionalism and excellence. Trust me when I say it does not always look like that backstage. In this instance, however, I could feel the level of commitment and respect required to insure that every aspect of the production was addressed with excellence. It was an awesome experience!
So, why am I sharing this with you, the readers of this blog? The first reason is because I think it is important that people understand that I am a real person, with real feelings. I am painfully aware of how easy it is for folks to put you on a pedestal when you are a public person. There seems to be an imaginary line of demarcation which places public people over “there” and the rest of the world someplace else. Nothing could be further from the truth. What public people do is their work in the world. The fame and fortune of it does not make public personalities any different or better than the rest of the human race. Public personalities have weaknesses and challenges and experiences just like you. I for one am willing to acknowledge and celebrate my humanness. It is, after all, what keeps me grounded.
The other reason I am sharing my experience about Life Class is because of what I shared in the beginning. I am experiencing such deep gratitude, humility and excitement about what is going on in my life, the world and, in my experience with OWN that I just had to share it. Nothing more and nothing less.
Iyanla Vanzant is the best-selling author of five books on self-empowerment, personal growth and spiritual healing. As the founder and executive director of the Inner Visions Spiritual Life Maintenance Network, she conducts workshops, seminars and lectures nationally. Drawing from her own experiences of family dysfunction, abuse, and poverty, Iyanla encourages us all to look at ourselves, laugh at ourselves and then take the necessary steps to heal ourselves. Her practical message is based on the principles of universal law, self-determination and the power of Spirit. You can learn more about her work at www.innervisionsworldwide.com.
Iyanla has recently appeared several times during Oprah’s Lifeclass webcast segments. You can view the classes here: http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/oprahs-lifeclass.html