Superstar Alicia Keys has experienced a lot of success in her life. With 50 Grammy awards under her belt, plus accolades in the theater and a brand new book out, one might think she defines herself as a talented singer, songwriter, actress and author.
The opposite is true. Keys has discovered that she actually finds her greatest satisfaction offstage. The things that have most shaped who she is today all stem from the last few years she has spent discovering how to live out of her true self.
Recently, Keys sat down with Jay Shetty on an episode of his podcast, On Purpose with Jay Shetty. They started the episode by talking about her new book, More Myself. Shetty didn’t waste time in saying that reading her book was a healing experience for him.
“This is so much more than a book for me,” he confessed. “It felt like a healing. It felt like a meditation and a reflection, in and of itself. It’s not a memoir,it's not just an autobiography. It was really an experience for me as I was reading it.”
Reliving the past can be difficult, but Keys chooses to see it as a gift. She encouraged listeners to take the opportunity to look back and heal too.
“Looking back and being able to carve time out to do that and then to meet myself again in those different places and realize why certain things happened has helped me be who I am,” Keys told Jay Shetty.
The Truths that Hold the Key
One thing Jay Shetty loved about the book were the comments, notes, and memories Keys’ friends and family included in the pages. Words from her father, sound engineers, and friends, to name a few, grace the beginning of the chapters.
These heartfelt messages give readers an incredible window into Keys’ life and a special glimpse into the the journey Keys has been on as she has discovered her identity and self-worth.
As Keys has reflected on how far she has come, she is profoundly grateful for the people along the way who have spoken into her life. Unpacking memories and experiences has enabled Keys to take a good look at life and own who she is.
A Star in the Making
In many ways, Alicia Keys has come full circle. Gone are the days of her teens and early twenties, when she doubted her gift or ability to perform. She jokingly remarks that 18- or 19-year-old Alicia thought she knew it all, but in reality, she didn’t know much.
It is abundantly clear, however, that four-year-old Alicia knew what she was talking about. Two of the most profound parts of Keys’ life were things she discovered at an early age, and they have stuck with her until now – her passion for singing and the power of true friendship. The journey back to those important things has been a sifting of sorts.
“It’s almost a process of unlearning and rewiring, reconnecting back to who we were or what we knew. It’s letting go of all the noise and layers,” said Jay Shetty, describing it perfectly. Keys agrees.
“In a way, I started out more clearly myself and maybe lost my way through the middle there,” she told Jay Shetty. “I have been able to find my way back. When I look at myself, I realize I’m now most close to the original.”
The original is a girl who always loved performing. Four-year-old Alicia shared that passion with her mother, who made a move to New York with the hope of landing on stage herself.
“She was excited when she saw that spark in me too, so we were a good match,” said Keys to Jay Shetty, describing the woman who brought her up. “In many ways, I’ve always said that I am her dream manifested in some way.”
The world was a harsher and more opinionated place than Keys had experienced within the walls of her home. Growing her dream and passion in that supportive environment was one thing. Facing the thoughts and criticisms of others brought a whole new set of challenges.
“We kind of start knowing the truth,” said Keys. “Then we start learning the lies, and the lies start to get in the way. You start meeting more people, and you start being exposed to different things. And then maybe doubt creeps in or fear creeps in or whatever else comes in to try to unseat us. But in that four-year-old space, I definitely knew, and there was no doubt.”
Best Friends Forever
“You say that the best relationships are generally meant to flow naturally,” said Jay Shetty of Alicia Keys’ friendship with her childhood best friend, Erica. “It’s almost like it doesn’t have to be incredibly hard work.”
Keys admits that having someone in her corner for so long has been a huge part of her. What began as a young friendship has moved into a partnership, as Erica now plays a key role in Keys’ work.
Commitment is one lesson Keys has held on to and flourished under. Committing to relationships that are natural and healthy is not without hard work. It generally does mean, however, that they are without constant struggle. Keys sees relationships like these as a gift.
“That’s a nice way to look at it because I almost feel like we are programmed as humans to believe that if we are working harder for something, it’s more important,” Jay Shetty said. “We feel like if we’re not working hard, then it can't be worth it.” Instead, the opposite can be true.
“If it’s not flowing, it's not flowing for a reason,” agreed Keys. Holding onto this motto has made all the difference in Keys’ self-confidence and her ability to stay true to who she is. Forcing relationships that are not working, stressing over work feels strained or unnatural, and staying stuck in places that lack growth are situations we don’t have to accept.
“I have definitely learned to trust me,” Keys explained proudly to Jay Shetty.
Hello Mother, Hello Father
The chapters that open with short notes from Alicia Keys’ father are glimpses into lessons gleaned over a lifetime with the man who raised her.
“For many people as they grow up, their relationship with their parents either strengthens or weakens,” said Jay Shetty. “How did this process of reflecting on all of this again heal or further deepen your relationship with your parents?”
Keys is quick to point out that while her parents were not perfect, reflecting on her childhood and the circumstance she was raised in has given her a greater love and respect for them and the choices they made. Although she was not raised in a traditional home, Keys believes that her mother made sacrifices to choose her.
“Hearing her perspective and story and understanding that regardless, she, in essence, chose me – being a mother myself now and understanding the weight of that actually deepens my respect and love for her so much,” Keys said. She described her mother as her one and only.
Perspective was once again healing for Keys when it came to reflecting on her father and their relationship. He grew up without a father figure himself, and although he did the best he could, there were challenges.
“We’ve definitely been on a deep journey to understand our relationship,” she told Jay Shetty. “It’s taken many incarnations, and it’s taken many turns. I’m moving toward gratitude and definitely a deeper understanding of his journey and his difficulties and what he's had to endure and experience. My father and I are really in a very wonderful place and closer than we’ve ever been.”
Understanding that expectations are not always fair or feasible brought Keys to the point of being able to accept her father and the experiences they have as they are and acknowledge their value.
“I think how we see it is the experience we have with it,” she said to Jay Shetty. “The pictures were painted that we assume we’re supposed to live up to, and then we hold each other to these images of what is supposed to be.”
“Our fiction-writing brains create pictures and visions that of what it should look like and what it should feel like,” agreed Jay Shetty. “Then you start realizing that no one has what it should feel like or look like. It doesn’t really exist. It’s almost like there’s an expectation of your parents to be a certain way. Then you try to become that yourself, you realize how hard it is to gain those qualities and those perspectives.”
Keys refers to this process as ‘unlearning’ and realizes it has made her a more appreciative daughter and a better mom.
“I think one of my favorite things about being a parent is that they’re teaching me so much about what I want to let go of and what I no longer want to bring forth,” she said.
A Second Chance at Love
Many believe love at first sight is what fairy tales are made of. In the early days of Alicia Keys’ and husband Kasseem’s relationship, however, there was no love lost between the pair. Now happily married with two children, Keys admits that had she trusted the quick initial instinct she had about her better half, she would have laughed at the idea of them having a future together.
“We judge each other and assume we know something about people,” she told Jay Shetty. “And we don’t.” It took a lot of growing up for both of them to get to a place where they were good for each other. Even then, the star admitted, she had her doubts.
“I actually started to communicate with him and then, finally, I was like, ‘Wow, he is quite interesting!’ she said. Once she peeled away her assumptions and got to know him, she was won over.
“I know for a fact,” she told Jay Shetty, “that the universe and God definitely knew what they were doing when they brought us together.” Shetty agrees that more people should refrain from initial judgement about someone.
“I often find that people judge so quickly,” Jay Shetty stated. “We make the decision of whether we could or could not have a future with someone so instantly. It’s almost like you guys wouldn’t have been together if it was just based on that initially. You can see the abundant life that you’ve been empowered to live for yourself through both of you coming together. It’s incredible to think that it may not have happened because of an initial judgement.”
Unafraid of Greatness
One pivotal lesson Alicia Keys has learned through her husband is how to live in greatness. Despite all her accomplishments in the last decade, Keys says her confidence and power had barely been tapped. Today, she feels free because Kasseem taught her to walk in her greatness.
“There is this beautiful thing where he’s taught me so much about greatness and bigness and being unafraid of this enormousness that we have within us.”
“You don’t have to hold back or repress it,” she continued to Jay Shetty. “You don’t have to not want wonderful things for yourself. You don’t have to be afraid of anything – not your wealth in any capacity, not the wealth of the love you have that you want to give, not the wealth of ideas that you have that you want to create, not the wealth financially that you want to be able to have and give and share. You don’t have to hold it back.”
Keys’ success grew because of this awakening, and so did her self-worth. She learned the power of saying no. She also learned to love herself and refused to feel guilty when she chose to look out for her own best interests. But that’s not to say it’s been easy.
“I have to practice saying, ‘I deserve this. I am meant to have this special moment,’” she admitted to Jay Shetty.
Although she initially resisted, Kasseem challenged her to be open to more, both financially and emotionally. In the process, Keys has also learned that blessing isn’t just about wealth. It’s about tapping into greatness.
“Telling the universe you don’t need much is blocking off the blessings and potential to reach a greater greatness,” she explained to Jay Shetty. “I realized how blessed I am to have reached so many beautiful plateaus and places and amazing spaces, and I am struggling with the belief that I deserve more,” she said. The bottom line for her is belief matters more than experience.
“What you believe you deserve, what you believe about who you are, that's how you walk into a room,” she stated with conviction. “Living in truth makes you feel unbelievably good.”
With these truths under her belt and a solid support system of people surrounding her, the sky's the limit for Keys. As she reflects on her life experiences, she is thankful for what she has learned along the way and how those lessons have shaped her into a force of power and blessing.
The beauty of Keys, however, is that she doesn’t reserve that space only for herself. She believes in the power of every person and calls them to live in that place of their greatness.
“We all belong there in that highest, greatest space that we have yet to imagine because it’s that big and we might not even be able to see it,” she told Jay Shetty. “I don’t want to say any longer that I don’t need much. I need the greatest version of myself that I can possibly manifest so that I can be the greatest version of myself for the entire planet. That is what we all deserve.”
More From Jay Shetty & Alicia Keys
Listen to the entire On Purpose podcast episode with Jay Shetty and Alicia Keys on “Permission To Be More Yourself & The Gift Of Saying No” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.