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Iyanla Vanzant: What I’ve Learned About Love

Accomplished author, inspirational speaker, and talk show host Iyanla Vanzant makes quite a splash on the OWN network this month with an appearance with Oprah Winfrey on “Super Soul Sunday” on Sept. 9 and 16 at 11 a.m. ET/PT, and then with the premiere of her own show “Iyanla Fix My Life” on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Iyanla says it all began with a conversation she had with Oprah, in which they worked to resolve the breakdown that had occurred in their association. When the issue was resolved, Iyanla recalls, “Oprah said, ‘You need your own show.’ And I said well I’m perfectly happy doing ‘Life Lessons.’ She said, ‘Oh no, you need your own show.’ And the conversation ensued. It really unfolded organically.”

In “Iyanla Fix My Life,” Iyanla uses the experience she has gained from her own personal struggles — becoming a mother at 16, surviving her daughter’s death from colon cancer and coming back from the brink of suicide — to help others repair their lives.

“It’s not advice,” she says. “It’s bringing people into alignment with the nature of God and the laws of the universe. Some people are out of alignment because of one thing, some people are a little to the right, a little to the left, so the same thing is not required for everybody to come back into alignment.  I wouldn’t tell everybody the same thing but the principals don’t change.”

One of  Iyanla’s beliefs that she will share on her show is that relationships — intimate partners, mothers, sisters, friends, etc. — are where we go to demonstrate the presence of God’s love. She says, “I think relationships are the place we go to heal our most mistaken thoughts and beliefs about who we are, because not until you are willing to be intimate with someone can they be close enough to tell you the things you need to hear.”

So who better to sit down with to talk with about the subject of love? Here is what Iyanla had to tell us about What She Has Learned About Love.

eH: What do you love most about your life now?

Iyanla: That I’m too old to care what people think about me.

eH: Seriously?

Iyanla: Yes, that’s what I love most. So that allows me and affords me the opportunity to be authentic all the time. I don’t have a home behavior, a work behavior, and a relationship behavior because it doesn’t matter to me anymore what people think about me. I’ve done my work enough so that who I am, as I am, authentically is a divine representation all the time. Whether you like it or not is not my issue.

eH: Do you think it’s more important to love or be loved?

Iyanla: Oh, to love. To love … some people will never love you back. I always say you don’t get to tell people how to love you; you get to choose whether or not you want to participate in the way they love. But you’ve got to be loving to them in order to see how they love you back and that gives you the choice.

eH: What’s the hardest thing about love?

Iyanla: Not controlling it. The hardest thing about love is letting yourself know it can’t be controlled, directed, or forced. It has to be free. No strings.

eH: When would you say was the last time you really found love?

Iyanla: The last time I found love? Well, I don’t know that I ever lost love. I was never looking for it. When I realized love, I think, you realize the depth of love, the presence of love, and the essence of love at different experiences. I’ve always had love. I’ve never lost love. I think the last time that I experienced or had a deeper level of awareness of it was probably when my daughter passed. I became acutely aware of how deeply it’s possible to love. I wasn’t aware of it. You know that’s my kid, I’m the mom, but when she took her last breath, I really… I heard my heart crack. Heard it. I became aware of the capacity we have for love. That was eight years ago.

eH: So what does love mean to you now vs. 10 years ago, or in your case maybe eight years ago?

Iyanla: Love today means to me authentic self-expression as you allow others the freedom to authentically express who they are.

eH: How do you know if someone is The One?

Iyanla: Well if you have to ask that, they’re not.

eH: Really?

Iyanla: Yeah. If you’ve got to ask that…because the one for what? The one for now? The one for this time? The one to be with? The one to teach? The one to learn from? The one to heal with? The one for what?

eH: Some people think that there’s one person who is their soul mate for life. Do you believe that?

Iyanla: Hmm. Really? You know, the Course in Miracles calls that the special relationship. And any time you are looking for a special relationship where you have to be the one that this person loves forever and ever and ever — that’s ego. That’s not real love. Because love has no bounds. Now the boundaries of your relationship, I think, you create together. That doesn’t have anything to do with love. That has to do with what you desire to experience and create together. The one? The one for now? The one for today? I think we have lots and lots of playmates. Some of them we’ll marry; some of them we don’t.

eH: What do you think one needs in a partner to make a relationship successful?

Iyanla: What do I need in a partner to make a relationship successful? Today, I would say that I need him to accept me exactly as I am. Don’t try to fix me, change me, let me know when I’m acting stupid and being crazy and be willing to hear the same from me, and let’s do this one day at a time and be willing to let go when it’s not fun.

eH: I need to stop right there because you said something that triggered a question. Your show is called “Fix My Life,” and you said don’t try to fix me. Do you see that as a contradiction?

Iyanla: No, because “Fix My Life” — to fix me is to restore, to renew, to put back in its original form, but on the show, the people do the work. They fix, not me. I don’t.

eH: Can someone else really fix you?

Iyanla: Fix my life, not fix me. [The guests on the show] lives are a mess because either they have missing information, or the wrong idea, or they are out of order in some way. It doesn’t say fix me, it says fix my life. Life can be fixed. A person doesn’t need to be.

eH: What advice would you give to those struggling with self-love and those who are still looking for love?

Iyanla: I would say to those struggling with self-love, right where you are, God is. That’s what I would say. If God can love you, why can’t you love you? For those looking for love, I would say, look for the God in everybody and you’ll find love. One of those people might ask you to marry them.

eH: One of the things that several people have told me is that in order to be loved you need to love yourself first, but how do you take the steps to get there?

Iyanla: Accept yourself just as you are. What is there not to love about you? Really? You’re breathing, you’re moving, look at the capacity of your mind, your heart, your being…I think people don’t really struggle with loving themselves; they struggle with accepting that they’re not perfect based on some external standard. That’s what we struggle with. Because if you didn’t love yourself, just go and throw yourself in front of a truck right now, go on and walk out across the freeway. Nobody’s going to do that. Why not? If you’re so retched, go on, walk out there. What we struggle with is trying to reach this external issue of perfection. Let that go. Surrender. You’re fat? Be fat. You’re ugly? Be ugly. You stutter? Stutter. Be okay with that stuff and love will show up.

eH: You talked about how when you lost your daughter and you didn’t realize how deeply we could love, but did you realize that when you became a mom, that was something that made you love deeper?

Iyanla: I think the first three days after I was like, ‘Oh, Lord, what did I get myself into?’ The first three days. Being a mother, for me, made me astutely aware of what I thought were imperfections, what I couldn’t do, pushed me beyond the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of — and I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to do it all. I wanted to be more capable, because I love my children but I made it about me and not about them.

eH: So now that you’re a public figure, do you think it’s affected your ability to love or be loved?

Iyanla: Not to love or be loved…It’s hell trying to get a date, but it doesn’t affect you being loved. I love everybody. People love me. They have this idea of who I am, but you know, it’s harder to find a date, but I don’t know if that’s because I’m public or because I’m old. I don’t know which one it is, I’m working to find out.

I would like a companion, just somebody to have those intimate moments with. I’m not trying to have children; I’m not interested in having a dance pole or thong on. The kinds of things that I want in companionship now have changed so drastically. No, I don’t need you to pay my rent, but yeah let’s go to the Bahamas and walk together. You know, let’s go to the movies, let’s watch TV, let’s read to each other in the morning. But as a woman, I think it’s challenging for men when they don’t think you need them. So I’ve got to find something to need a man for, the trash, painting, plumbing, I don’t know.

eH: What would you say to a 50-year-old woman still looking for love? Any special advice?

Iyanla: A 50-year-old woman? The same thing I would say to a 20-year-old woman. Surrender! Be authentic, be willing to give more than you get. Be the love. Is she looking for love, or is she looking for a man? Okay, she’s looking for a partner, I say leave no stone unturned. Look everywhere. One of the things that I tell people in my workshop is when you’re looking for a partner, just say hello to every man you see. Just say hello. Smile and say hello with no expectation and one of them is going to respond, absolutely. Speak to men in the supermarket, at the tollbooth on the highway. Speak to every single man you see, put a smile on your face, an open heart and no expectation.

“Iyanla Fix My Life” premieres on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.