Tina Turner has learned how to be strong.

The legendary singer has a new book out called Happiness Becomes You, and in a new Guardian interview, she sat down with The Vagina Monologues creator V (formerly Eve Ensler), to talk about how she has gotten through the hardest times in her life and come out the other side.

“I suppose it might seem natural to resent bad situations or other people’s bad behaviour but it’s just not in my nature,” Turner says. “I’ve always felt the most important thing isn’t what happens to us, it’s how we choose to respond. I release negative feelings by taking to heart the importance of forgiveness and self-reflection rather than blame. That’s how I broke the cycles of negativity in my life.”

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Over the years, the 81-year-old has faced a number of health and medical challenges, including cancer, high blood pressure, kidney failure, stroke, and vertigo.

There is a passage from the Buddhist philosopher Nichiren that I love: ‘Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What illness can therefore be an obstacle?’ Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is another name for the enlightened nature that exists within each of us, which is far more powerful than any obstacle we may face,” Turner says. “As I’ve learned over and over, there’s great value in never giving up. Drawing on my years of spiritual discipline, I summoned up my inner lion and overcame each health problem that came along. Illness has given me a greater appreciation for health and reminds me to enjoy each day to its fullest.”

Talking about how she learned to transform negativity into positivity, Turner says, “I came to realize that the way I saw myself had a strong influence on the way everyone else saw me. When I was young, my perception of myself was quite negative. I didn’t really care for the way I looked, especially how my legs looked, which is funny now because I became almost as famous for my legs as for my talent! But once I decided that my personal standard of beauty would be my own and that I’d never compare myself to others, I could finally appreciate myself fully. Then, if a negative thought ever came to mind, I’d replace it by repeating a positive one many times over, which worked wonders.”

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Turner also talks about the value of forgiveness.

“I wanted to make clear the importance of forgiveness and self-reflection rather than blame. It is so important for mental health. Forgiving people doesn’t mean you’re condoning their bad behaviour,” she says.

“I believe that the law of cause and effect is strict and no one can escape the effects of their actions, whether or not we forgive people. But we don’t have to carry the burden of pain, anger and resentment – we can let it go,” Turner adds. “Holding on to those toxic feelings only harms us and keeps the negativity bound to us. I choose the freeing mindset of forgiveness, which is so healing and helps me to be whole.”

In the Beginning
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Tina Turner At 80: Her Life In Pictures