Should We Be Taking Advice From Iyanla Vanzant?

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According to Rhonda Britten, Vanzant co-star therapist on Starting Over, she and Vanzant too had issues on the set of their reality TV show and said that she was regularly on the receiving end of a bunch of rolling eyes, sharp comments and looks of disgust. Said Britten: “If she could one up me, she did. If she could get more TV time by walking over my coaching moments, she did. If she could mutter under her breath some put down that no one else could hear but me and the audio people, she did. This is what happens when we do not take responsibility for our pain. We unleash it on those around us. I believe she was doing the best she could. And her best hurt many people, including me. And, this is the sad part, she never cleaned up after her attacks. Sorry was not part of her vocabulary even when she was called out by the higher ups in production. Even when she was confronted with her behavior.”

But that’s old news. And obviously they, with exception of Britten, have made up, gotten over it and moved on in a big way. However, it makes you wonder how a woman of her esteem and consciousness could bring so much drama professionally? Moreover, I’m wondering if I could watch a show of Vanzant playing the archetypal all-knowing Earth Mother fixing other people’s lives when clearly she hasn’t done working on her own?

And maybe it is not an indictment of Vanzant as is it is on the whole self-help and life coaching industry in general. So many of us, particularly women, soak up a lot of this feel good, self-empowerment gobbledygook from folks, who aren’t too good at following their own advice. As a teen, I used to read her books a lot. I would do the daily affirmations from “Acts of Faith,” practice the exercises regularly in Don’t Give It Away: A Workbook of Self-Awareness and Self-Affirmations for Young Women and celebrated along with Vanzant through “Yesterday, I Cried: Celebrating the Lessons of Living and Loving.” There is no denying that Vanzant writes from a familiar and personal place that touches the crevices of the soul.

However I got over Vanzant and the whole self-help genre in general. I’ve seen to many self-appointed gurus walk in blaring contradictions to be comfortable listening to them. Plus, I think enough time has passed for me to get a decent perspective on life to know that no one can claim to be an “expert” in the sheer randomness of life nor could those who do call themselves experts, reduce life down to a set of tasks, motivational quotes and affirmations. And that’s not to say that Vanzant has to be perfect or isn’t entitled to mistakes but she should be consistent. But how valuable is advice if it is based around the cliché  “do as I say and not as I do?”


Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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