#MEFIRST SERIES FEATURED POWERHOUSE
INDIANA P. ALMANZAR
Please tell us about your own self-love journey! What did you learn about yourself in the process?
Indiana: My self-love journey started much like the growth of a lotus flower; out of the deepest and darkest point in my life. I experienced the most intense depression I'd ever felt during and towards the end of my last relationship, I don't want to place all the responsibility on him though. I'll be very clear, I believe our lives and the circumstances presented in them are a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves. It doesn't excuse his actions, but like does attract like.
I lost myself when I decided to move in with him and relocate my entire life from New York to Alabama. I can hear the comments now: ALABAMA?! I laughed out loud myself. I wanted a slower life and I got it, what can I say? The relationship slowly became mentally & verbally abusive/manipulative. One afternoon while I was doing laundry, my "strength" gave out and I fell to my knees crying, begging God for help. This moment helped me become truly aware of how unhappy I was. It was his self-professed love & need for me that kept me from packing my bags, and my "understanding" nature could always see his side of the story, so I stayed. He would use his life's experiences to make me feel bad for him (he is an ex-army vet with 3 tours under his belt) and instead of placing my needs first and developing healthy boundaries, I gave in every time.
I couldn't tell my friends or family; I was too ashamed that I was "that girl": the one who moved her life for a man, the one who was in an unhealthy relationship, the one that needed help. I was also embarrassed and scared. I ended up breaking down to my brother whose love for me gave me the strength to leave. You see, I didn't love myself enough to do it on my own, but my brother’s love gave me the courage to charge forward. Till this day when I tell the full story, I call it "The Great Escape". This is the "fat-free" version because I don't like to revisit all the details, I instead focus on the lessons learned.
How did you overcome this challenging turning point in your life?
Indiana: Books. Book after book I dug myself out of depression; I still loved him and didn't know how to heal. Until I found my strength again, it took 1 year of consistent inner work to muster the courage to stop missing him, 2 years to find happiness again by focusing on myself, and 3 years to heal, forgive him, and most importantly forgive myself.
I couldn't have done it alone, I had life vests helping me along the: my brother as emotional support by just being there, my best friend who gave me the first book: "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, my mother and sister who assisted me financially throughout the process of rebuilding my life, my father who paid my hospital/doctor visits (yes the depression was that deep that manifested physically, I went from 130 lbs to 120 lbs in one week) as well as the rest of my family and friends who tried to keep me entertained and busy. I am no longer angry with him or the situation because I honestly am in a better place than where he found me. Without that situation, I wouldn't have found my life's purpose. It's easy to recognize that in retrospect but undeniably difficult to undergo as you're going through it, and you have to go through it to get over it. I tell my clients: Healing truly is an every day thing, I can't say it'll happen today, tomorrow, in a month, but if you do the intentional work of putting yourself first and setting yourself up to win by implementing changes: mentally, physically and spiritually it gets easier and the pain becomes bearable and sooner or later you'll find yourself flirting with life and living it the best way possible.
Indiana Almanzar is an education expert with 11+ years’ experience, ranging from early childhood education, both In-School Youth (ISY) & Out of School Youth (OSY), to adult education reaching age 65. She is currently the full-time Special Projects Manager for Girls Inc. NYC where she is responsible for the development of youth programming as well as staff training & development. She has successfully led multiple National Pilot Projects from inception to completion. She trained & certified 70 Teen Peer Leaders within the Teen Leadership Circles Girls Inc. Initiative; which ultimately reached a vibrant participation of 800 girls citywide. Due to their success, the programs are now being implemented throughout all Girls Inc. affiliates nationwide.
As an Internationally Certified Speaker, Coach & Trainer through ‘The John Maxwell Team’, Indiana is able to further her influence as an empowerment educator. A proud immigrant from the Dominican Republic, she is no stranger to displacement while having to navigate through a sea of barriers and insecurities. She vulnerably shares her vast experiences in order to provide light and hope to anyone who might find themselves where she once was. She describes this as a Shamanic approach wherein Native cultures, the Shaman or “village doctor”, had to have experienced the illness themselves before being able to ‘treat’ or ‘heal’ others.
Internationally Certified Empowerment Speaker & Coach
It is often those journeys of self-love that lead us to come into our own. Does your journey inspire your speaking and coaching at all?
Indiana: My journey not only inspired my speaking and coaching but it also identified my life's purpose.
I take a Shamanic approach in my wellness endeavors in that the Shaman, or medicine man, cant heal his patients without having gone through the "disease" himself. I've come to realize that all of my life's experiences are for this reason. I am able to help others because I understand where they are since it is where I once was. Think of it much like the AA approach to coaching, the coach is a recovered addict themselves.
My life's purpose is very much attached to my life's motto: Peace, Love, and Magic. I want to remind people to live in peace, give and receive love, and witness the magic around them. Peace can only be found within by making time for ourselves. Most of us are usually good at giving love, but we have to realize that allowing ourselves to receive it is also a form of self-love. Magic is all around us and if we take the time to notice it, we can live our lives in joy... the way we are meant to.
Even in a crowded NY train/bus, you can see the magic you just have to look around. You can see it when someone helps someone else, maybe offers them a seat or a comforting smile. You can see it when someone is jamming with their headphones on and can barely contain themselves from busting a move in public. It's also in the sunrise & sunsets that touch the NY skylines... we just have to remember to look up! Once you start stealing all these small moments for yourself, you'll find yourself smiling, and feeling the love and peace around you even in the city that never sleeps.
Can you give the beautiful soul reading this interview a piece of advice?
Indiana: Sit down and breathe. We tend to be so busy living on "self-survival" mode that we barely make any time for ourselves. What would happen if God forbid you are injured, or worse, die, tomorrow? Life would go on without you, that's what would happen (trust me I've been there). Today put your phone on silent, in another room, and go sit with yourself. Relax and be comfortable in your discomfort.
Additionally, allow yourself to break. I've been "the strong one" for a long time and only now realized that this title was self-imposed because I wanted to "help" the people around me. I didn't want to be perceived as "weak." Now I see the power in vulnerability: It takes personal power to admit we need help and to set up healthy boundaries that keep us sane. Let yourself break, that's how the light gets in anyways. This is also a way to teach ourselves to receive the love we are constantly giving others.
Let's end with some fun! What is one of your favorite quotes, and how does it remind you to practice saying #MeFirst?
Indiana: I'm reminded of this interaction from Alice in Wonderland...
"Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don't much care where...
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't matter which way you go.
Alice: As long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if you only walk long enough."
You can live your best life, you just have to define what that looks like for you first; or else you’ll just end up living someone else’s best life.
Loved Indiana? ME TOO! Learn more about her and book her for your next speaking engagement by checking out her Instagram HERE! She is also an ambassador for the Best Self Journal and Project Action Pad from Best Self.co which she swears by. Get 15% off using her code: PEACELOVEMAGIC. Thank you, Indiana!