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An Interview with Iyanla Vansant

May 30, 2011 01:56PM ● By Linda Sechrist

More than innocent miscommunication, it was a feeling of unworthiness that led to the 11-year rift between two well-known business colleagues, Iyanla Vansant and her media mentor, Oprah Winfrey. Vansant, the former no-nonsense relationship expert for The Oprah Winfrey Show in the late 1990s, shares how losing everything—her daughter, husband, home, and fortune—not only taught her the life lessons that God wanted her to learn but also led her to find peace and self-worth, the subjects of her latest book, Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through.

Q. What lesson did you learn from the dissolution of your marriage?

I learned that I didn’t need external validation to have self-worth and value and that whenever I put someone before me and honor them more than I honor myself, I am in a dangerous situation.

My husband told me that he wanted a divorce during my daughter’s battle with a rare form of leukemia. I said, “My baby is sick, you go on.” After she died, my thoughts were never of him. When my mind wandered back later, I questioned why, after 40 years, did he leave me now?” The answer stirred a deep understanding within me. It was simple: he changed his mind and didn’t want to do this anymore. Through prayer and meditation, the Holy Spirit revealed that not only was my husband my teacher, but also that anyone with whom I have an intimate and loving relationship is here to teach me about myself.

My relationship with my husband taught me my biggest lesson: I had unfinished business with my father. While I was attempting to finish it with my husband, it wasn’t his job to heal my father-daughter wounds. The important lesson here was that I could never have a healthy male/female relationship as long as I was requiring the man in my life to give me what my father did not.

Q. What was the life lesson from the dissolution of your relationship with Oprah?

The level of success that I achieved on Oprah’s show was very unfamiliar to me. I learned that whenever I was in a situation that was greater, grander and higher than my internal sense of worth, I sabotaged it. I felt that doing the show had been too easy, and that I didn’t work hard enough and hadn’t done enough. I came to understand that I didn’t recognize the value of what I had already accomplished to deserve that platform. The resulting lessons: whatever I am and have is enough and whatever I do, I must do it for the joy, and not for the validation.

When we are strong, we think we have it all together. When we face challenges, breakdowns, illness, divorce, death, loss or separation, that’s when we are vulnerable enough to let our heart open up, so that our inner eyes can see life and ourselves differently.

We go through situations trying to figure them out in our heads, as opposed to being present, sitting, learning and healing within. I am a teacher and all that I have been through is my life’s research. My book shows that I took good notes.

Q. What plans do you have for the future?

I don’t drive my life any more. Instead, I let the Holy Spirit direct me. When I live in the moment, I enjoy the sense that there is nothing I have to do or prove. When I’m invited, I do book signings and speaking engagements. In-between, I work with my staff at my life’s ministry, Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development.

Iyanla Vansant
will be speaking at Celebrate Your Life!, June 10-13, at Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center, Schaumburg. Visit for more information and to purchase tickets. For more about Vansant, visit

Linda Sechrist is an editor and senior writer for Natural Awakenings magazine.