INdeep With Vironika
INdeep is a monthly series of interviews with people that inspire me. They may be coaches, healers, teachers or wellbeing advocates and experts.
I ask these guiding lights to share their stories of darkness, fear, growth and triumph that have lead them along their journey and I then ask them to go deep… sharing their current struggles and secrets that they don’t normally share with the world.
Stories of courage, honesty, vulnerability and the abolishment of “perfect”.
Every month we will have a rare opportunity to see the person behind the teacher, the human behind the bright lights and struggles that have lead to their success. You won’t want to miss these intimate musings that are not often shared beyond covert journal entries.
This month I spoke with Vironika Tugaleva author of The Love Mindset and creator of www.vironika.org
Tell us what you do.
In my work, I teach people to heal and love themselves. I seek to be the light in others' lives I wish I had in my times of darkness. My first gift to the world was The Love Mindset – a bestselling book which has inspired people all around the world to heal themselves and change the world. Now, I teach, coach, and speak on the importance of understanding and loving ourselves, each other, and life itself.
How did you find your path to help and inspire others?
I certainly did not mean to do this work. If you would have met me three years ago, you’d have found me lost within the caverns of my mind, trying desperately to claw my way out. For close to ten years, I struggled with eating disorders, addiction, and self-hatred. I was once an expert at self-avoidance and self-destruction.
My distress took me on a downward spiral that violently smashed to bits all the healthy parts of my mind and body. At one point, I remember realizing that I no longer remembered what sober felt like. I stopped sleeping. I began to hear voices. I became addicted to the idea of killing myself.
One calm evening in March, just over two years ago, I had a mental breakdown. I had to choose: change or die. It wasn’t an easy choice at the time. Dying meant no more pain, no more suffering. Living, at that time, meant the dullness of sobriety and the pain of facing myself.
And still, I chose to live.
I woke up the next day and looked into my eyes in the mirror. I realized, suddenly, that the real problem was not my body or my inherent worth. The problem was that I hated myself. The problem was with my thoughts, not with me.
On my journey of healing, I wrote The Love Mindset. As I shared this book with people, their eyes would light up and they would ask for more. To be honest, I never sat down and said, “I’m going to be a coach.” One day, after I finished speaking in front of a hungry crowd, a woman came up to me and asked to work with me. Then, another came. And another.
I suppose this is what happens when we intimately explore the depths of darkness – when we find the light, we must share it. On some level, that was not a choice, but I do make the choice every day to use my experience to inspire people, help people, and do my best.
That is where I am on my journey now. I am perpetually doing my best.
Are any of those old challenges still playing out for you?
Oh, yes. Toxic thoughts still creep up on my doorstep. They come less frequently and less powerfully now than they ever have, but they still come.
My strength does not lie in the lack of adversity, but in what I choose to do when I encounter it.
These days, I always know the way out of the darkness. It’s always simple, but it’s not always easy. Just because I know the way doesn’t mean walking it is quick or painless; but that’s okay. I don’t think I ever wanted it to be easy. I just wanted to know that I was going the right way.
And the woman in the mirror, who smiles back now and assures me that we can do anything together, her and I know that we’re going the right way.
Tell us about a recent challenge that you’ve been facing in private.
Last year, I did a speech at a bar. When I was first offered this gig, my gut reaction was that a bar was not an appropriate place to talk about healing and spirituality. When I said this, I still remember how the planner said to me: “If you want to make it in this business, you have to be flexible.”
I went along with it, and it turned out to be a big mistake. He became furious with me, blaming me for a lack of attendees, refused to pay me, and reprimanded me for selling books at the end of the talk (which we’d agreed I was going to do).
After forgiving him and pulling myself together, I realized that it wasn’t just him I had to forgive – it was myself. After all, I knew it was wrong for me all along.
This used to happen to me all the time. I’d take on clients that gave me a nagging feeling I’d ignore, and then wonder why they didn’t want to change. I’d work with people who made me feel disrespected, and then wonder why my creativity was stifled. I’d ignore my instincts. I’d ignore myself.
What is the next step for you?
The same process I’ve gone through in accepting and loving my body, I’m going through with myself as a leader. I’ve learned that everyone has an opinion and just because I haven’t been to business school does not mean I don’t know how to run a business. I have my intuition and I have my vision for humanity. And that is enough.
I look at myself in the mirror each day and, now, I don’t just tell her she’s beautiful. I tell her she’s powerful, worthy, and capable of doing whatever she sets her mind to. She’s capable of leading people back to themselves.
I’ve learned to walk away from interview requests that feel wrong, redirect coaching applications from people who I don’t feel are ready to change, and accept criticism with grace.
The hardest part has been breaking away from what other people think of me and learning to trust myself. It’s been difficult because, at school, I was addicted to the 100%, the gold star, the positive comments.
Now, as a full-time entrepreneur, people-helper, and creative person, there’s no 100%. There’s no perfect. There’s no feedback. There’s no stability. There’s a lot of criticism.
In the end, no matter how painful these experiences have been, they’ve only deepened my relationship with myself and, unexpectedly, to the world. Admitting my imperfections and trusting my intuition has led me to some life-changing conversations, many happy tears, and a lifetime of memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Memories that make me smile and, each day, help me realize that, maybe, people are ready for a leader who’s human. Maybe they’re ready for me.