Celebrated KTN news anchor Betty Mutei Kyallo is probably the only public figure in Kenya whose marital issues have been publicly scrutinized, attracting widespread backlash and cyber-bullying in epic proportions.
In spite of the grueling times that followed her split from ex-husband Dennis Okari, Betty Kyallo has remarkably beaten all the odds and continues to flourish in her TV career and as a new business owner.
How did she do it?
She revealed to Sunday Magazine the 11 crucial tips that helped her overcome the difficult times.
1. Own the public life
When I got a job at KTN and even before I went on air, my then managing editor, Katua Nzile, told me, “I hope you understand what this means, “From now on you’ll not be able to wear slippers and go to the kiosk, you cannot be seen holding a beer bottle, you cannot be rowdy.
There is a certain way you have to carry yourself now that you represent the KTN brand.” At that time I really did not understand the words, but over the years, I have.
Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with all the publicity or being a popular figure, because, with the career that I chose, that is the price you pay. It exposes your life a lot. Everything about you is out there.
Even if you choose to really hide and live your life privately, sometimes it is not possible. That’s the price of fame. Sometimes you pay that price very harshly but sometimes it works for my brand. I own it.
People feel they can connect with me like they know me and feel warm towards me. It has its negativity but I choose to look at the positive side.
2. Find your comeback
It’s alright to feel your pain, but don’t be consumed by it. Don’t let pain make you bitter. It’s OK to wallow for some time, but know that you have to get over it before it drowns you.
Setting up Posh Palace was definitely a comeback for me. When I see the premises while driving past it, it reminds me of my inner strength. I am still in awe. It stands for so much more than just a business. It is special to me.
3. Allow yourself to weep
When I was in the heat of it early last year, I went off social media completely. I deactivated and deleted every social media app from my phone – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I had to grieve in peace and be in a reflective space. People want you to lose your job, and sometimes you actually go ahead and lose the job, or lose your relationship or a big business deal.
It’s OK to feel sad, cry, mourn, even if it is for a day or a week or a month or two. Everybody needs that. If you find yourself moving on from such things without thinking about it or feeling anything, there’s a problem.
If you do not do it, at some point it will catch up with you.
4. Remember that everyone struggles
What helped me go through my very public battle, knowing that there were so many people’s eyes on me, was knowing that none of them were perfect, and neither am I.
As much as you have many perfectionists out there trying to tell you what is wrong and right, remember that nobody is perfect.
When you remember that, you will not try to live a life that is not yours. It’s OK and human to make mistakes. Everybody has a struggle. Even Richard Branson with his islands and aircrafts.
You could have a lot of wealth, lots of property, a gorgeous wife or husband, gorgeous children, but maybe you’re suffering from a long-term illness.
That’s just life. Our battles have a way of balancing all of us out. We could be different on many levels, but there is that one thing that brings us together and that is normally a battle.
5. Put God first
Human beings, including family, friends, and colleagues let you down, but God won’t. People think God’s answer is always going to be ‘yes’, but He doesn’t work like that.
Knowing that has worked so much for me because I believe that at the end of the day, no matter what situation I am in, God has a reason for it.
Sometimes we stress ourselves out asking why God let this or that happen, but believe that it all works out in your best interests.
Sometimes what we think is good for us is not actually good for us in the long term.
As human beings, we just see what’s right in front of us but He sees eternity. When I am going through hard times, I feel comfortable knowing He has my back.
That gives me comfort, knowing there is a higher power who knows how to place things where they need to be.
6. Lean on your support system
Last year I would go online, and there were all these people who did not know me but had an opinion about me.
My family would go online and see it all, but it would never change how they felt or looked at me because I am one of their own.
The same happened with my very close friends. I would ask them, “Have you seen what these people are saying?” and they would say, “Where are you? We need to take you out ASAP.”
You need a close friend, a sister…anyone who has your back when you’re going through something bad, public or not.
They change your story. They are there to support you and hold your hand. They are there to listen to you. Most of the time the world is not ready to listen to you; they do not want to hear your side of the story.
Having a support system really helps because in this life you cannot live as an island. You need people who are there to support you and hold your hand.
Even when you do wrong, they criticise you but they do it with love. Whenever I go through a hard time, I always go back to my support system because they are the ones who know me.
They do not know ‘Betty Kyallo’. They know me. They know the things that I am capable of, they know if I actually did something or not.
7. Guard your heart
I dealt with having people I thought were friends being anything but. That will always happen to you. Even knowing what I know now, that can still happen to me. I have however learnt not to bring people too close. The moment you do, it becomes very easy for them to bring you down.
You have to have friends, but you also have to be objective in your friendship. You are there for each other and support each other, but there is a certain distance that you still need to have to protect yourself.
Do not put yourself out there completely for everybody to see and analyse.
8. They are hurting too
People’s opinions should not define you. Keyboard warriors are very many. I used to really care what people said but I snapped out of it.
Because everyone has a struggle, someone’s struggle might not be manifested in their day to day interactions, but it can be manifested in that they feel much better when they see someone else going down.
Sometimes people are so empty that they are looking for the next thing to give them some purpose. And it happens to be you.
I tell myself that keyboard warriors will always be there, but whatever opinion they hold about you does not define who you are. You define who you are.
9. Develop a great filter
When I was going through my separation, people had an opinion about everything. At some point, I was completely immersed in that world, following what people were saying, but I realised that the more I did that, the more I couldn’t even leave my room because the whole world was against me.
That really wasn’t the case. Those were just a few people seated somewhere and that was just their opinion. I had to learn how to filter things out the hard way. Take in what is good and leave what is bad.
Today, it is very hard to come for my heart. I have shielded myself so much that you cannot get to me. The things that get to my heart are things that I have intentionally let in.
If someone makes a comment and you say, “Oh Betty you’re an amazing anchor, I love what you do,” I take that in very fast and lock it in somewhere.
But the moment I see negativity, I lock it out. I also don’t go out looking for negativity. I don’t go checking what people are saying about me.
That’s what everybody should do. Even if a friend says something bad about you, you don’t have to react.
That’s the only way to protect yourself. If you let everything in, then you will be fighting a lot of battles. Block them. Don’t think about them. Don’t indulge them. Just let it go.
10. Pick your battles
I can tell what is positive criticism from an insult or a derogatory comment when I hear it. Sometimes it’s good to have a voice, and sometimes it’s good to stay quiet.
It’s good to keep quiet and hold back and let things be, but sometimes, if you are strong enough, you can decide to fight for yourself.
In any case, you only have yourself. Nobody is going to come and fight your battles for you apart from God.
That’s why sometimes I respond to comments online. Sometimes I’m just having fun and sometimes I’m just showing people that they shouldn’t take these things too seriously. I can respond to negative feedback and I’m not afraid of it.
I’ll just decide, “Alright, let’s fight this out!” I don’t do that a lot. I do it when I am out to have a little fun or when a line is crossed.
11. Find a distraction
It could be a new hobby, travelling, cooking or anything you like doing. Find something that will stop you from feeling the pain too much.
The distraction for me was my daughter, Ivanna, who is three and a half-years-old. When I would go home after a bad day, I wouldn’t have a chance to think about my issues until the next morning or until she went to bed.
I could not show her that mummy was sad. I also love dancing, so I would sometimes decide to just put on my high heels and go out and dance. The distractions make life easier to get through and helps you rise above whatever you’re going through.