Twelve-ish years ago, Iyanla Vanzant was a regular guest on Oprah and really dug her. She had great insight and brought an amazing message about self-respect & dignity that I really appreciated and apparently is desperately needed. Then she disappeared. Then she reappeared on her own short-lived eponymous talk show. Then she disappeared again. Oprahland was mum on the topic. Hard to believe that a personality that large could go away so quickly, but she did.
Now she’s back. The last two Wednesdays on Oprah she’s been talking about what happened & where she’s been. Long story short, she’s lost everything – money, husband, book deals, royalties, everything. She rents a small house, lives check-to-check & makes soap. Seriously. Soap.
The wealth part of the “rich & famous” thing took her so by surprise and her naivete left her without the proper accountant & advisors & she owes the IRS more than she ever made. She filed bankruptcy. All the royalties from her first 10 books go back to her publisher to pay back an advance because she didn’t have the right attorney to make sure she had the rights to her own intellectual property.
She kept saying, “I was a millionaire with a welfare mentality.” She said it several times until Oprah asked her what that meant. She said that it meant that she lived in a mental state that all the money had to be gone in order for more money to come in. She wasn’t able to RECEIVE the money as a blessing because she didn’t feel she deserved it.
A couple of things about this were enlightening to me. First, as I’ve discussed, I have always had issues with money management and I’m definitely getting a handle on those now, but that description of a “welfare mentality” rings a little true. Sometimes the money just burns a hole in my pocket & there’s a Gap flagship a block away from work that can really put that fire out. I’m going to go full Wisconsin cheddar on you and say that since watching this I have begun to see my pay as a blessing that facilitates my goals, not something to be disposed of as quickly as possible. See – cheesy. Shut up.
The other part was her discussion of being able to receive. That right there is my huge stumbling block. My name is Tiffany, I am a control freak fixer who wants to be perceived as flawless. (Hi, Tiffany). Receiving is not a comfortable place for me. It feels vulnerable and powerless. Iyanla kept saying that she didn’t think Oprah wanted her for who she was, only for what she could do. I have such a tendency to believe that my value lies in what I can do, rather than who I am. I feel very uncomfortable with recognition at work, focused attention of any kind, and I absolutely HATE compliments. The worst is people noticing when I get my hair done. Gah! Get a life. Seriously. Hate. It. I’m perfectly happy pampering myself at a spa or nail salon, b/c I’m paying people to do that for me. I’m in charge. But letting people just care for me for no reason? Awkward.
This is my “opportunity” as we say at work when you suck at something. Receiving. What am I supposed to do about this? Am I supposed to allow myself to be strapped into a chair and be forced to listen to people notice my hair like some sort of emotional reverse-aversion therapy? What I am doing is trying to be in the moment when I am in a position to receive and acknowledge my discomfort & let it pass.