The motivational speakers who have impacted me the most are those who have shared their story, but I… honestly, don’t want to share my story. It hurts… and the story I’ve told myself is that if I share it, it may hurt others…
… the question everybody asks me more than any other once they meet me and have learned of my book is, “What motivated you to write I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!?” And I always graciously smile, think for a second, then give them an answer that is definitely true AND missing some critical parts.
My answer to the question usually goes something like this. “Well, I wrote I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! because I have always had a problem with the way people of color—particularly Black people—place value judgments based on physical characteristics such as skin tone and hair texture….” Depending on how talkative I am feeling at that particular moment, I may add another personal truth… that I wrote the book because I feel like our generation and the one before us (the “say it loud, ‘I’m Black and I’m proud.'” generation), have “missed the boat,” and left our children with a really distorted sense of self. A lot of us don’t know who we are, don’t accept who we are, or just discovered who we are somewhere in our thirties, and I just felt that the kids needed a fighting chance. By starting at such a young age, I can give them a firm foundation of healthy self-esteem from early childhood, rather than spend their teenage years trying to repair damage that was done likely before they even turned 6.
Anyway, I digress… the point is that although the topic and motive for desiring to write this book came from those desires for change, the urgency came from an unexpected life transition….
I wrote I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! because I was desperate…. I was happy as a stay-at-home mom, to my beautiful one-year-old (at the time) and decided that if I designed natural hair t-shirts and inspirational products online, I could work from home. The products in my online store became the original I’m Proud to Be Natural Me product line. (Most of these products are still available in my store http://www.zazzle.com/mdillondesigns.) Well… without disclosing all the details, I will say that two days after I opened that store, I went from stay-at-home mom to single mom.
Without a dime to my name, set to be evicted from our apartment in less than a week, I turned to my family and they graciously took me and my little girl in. The photo of us that is posted on many of my social media pages was taken just weeks after this major transition. I put on a brave face, went to the now closed Sears Portrait Studio in River Oaks, and did a photo shoot with my daughter to celebrate her turning 2 years old and us being alright no matter what… At a time when I could have broken down and decided to be depressed and not be there for my child, I pulled it together and “kept it moving.” I stayed up late and got up early, working many nights with my daughter sleeping across my lap, and even more nights with her cradled in my arms as I designed the little girls you see displayed in my book and on my products.
For a year I stayed up creating these items in my online store, that in my head would be our ticket to independence. I would post products constantly on social media thinking to myself, “People know I’m a single mom. They’ll buy my products. We’re gonna be alright.” Ha! No such luck. Well… we are alright, but the products didn’t sell…. yet.
When I finally completed the book, self-published it via CreateSpace, and saw my “Look Inside” preview on Amazon, I KNEW we were about to take off! But that didn’t really do it either.
So, I said to myself maybe I’m not giving back enough, promoting enough, doing enough and began to fill in those gaps, of course, while working a “regular” J-O-B. And finally, I thought to myself after listening to many of my personal development CDs, I think I know what’s wrong. I have negative energy around my book. I need to revise it and add the missing pieces that are causing me to put out a vibe in the Universe that no one should buy it. I was desperate. Did that. Sales? About the same.
So now, I’m here, it’s 2014. I’ve raised the stakes. Tired of being in my momma’s house, although I am grateful I have that option to do so (many wish they did), I have promised my daughter that we’re getting our own home. I am motivated. That’s one thing I have not lost through all of this. I am actually more motivated now than ever. Sometimes seeing a glimpse of your dream, or in my case seeing another “impossible” dream come true is motivation enough to keep on pushing, toward that big thing that you want. Honestly, I’m sitting up right now typing this, praying the light from the computer doesn’t wake her up. We need a space of our own… with our own separate rooms. A place where we can bake cookies together in our own kitchen, have a dog and a cat (her dream), … a space where a thirty-five year old mom, can think and regroup, read and watch shows like Scandal without having to flip to Sprout every time there’s a love scene. I want my little gymnast to have room to practice her forward rolls, and when she watches her ballet DVD to have room to twirl… (sigh)…
Anyway…. I hope that through my story you may gain some hope for your own journey. Doing the thing that is in you to do is not always easy, but sometimes these unexpected transitions help us discover our gifts, realize our passions, and give us the boost we need to pursue them. Wanting my own helps me press forward toward making my book a best seller. Needing to ensure my daughter has an easier path motivates me to press through when I want to give up. No matter what I’ve been through, I have always returned to the belief that “all things have purpose.” Had I not experienced all I did, there would be no I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! So, if for no other reason, my rough spots have allowed me to produce something that is helping children come to embrace the truth of their beauty, a realization that alters all aspects of life.
Have you learned from a life challenge? Have you come to learn your purpose through a perceived setback? I’d love to hear from you below!
If you are interested in any of the products/services I mentioned, here are some links.
- Buy a book OR purchase books for each student in your institution/organization.
- Retweet, Share, and Regram my posts on social media (favorites & likes are always awesome but they end with you. They don’t get the word out.)
- Purchase & share products from my online stores: MDillon Designs & Natural Me
- Order customized I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! tees for the all your stylists and employees.
- If you are a blogger or vlogger, encourage your followers to shop at my stores and purchase my book.
- Book me to speak at your event or host a parenting or girls’ mentoring workshop
- Hire me to design your logo (I’m a graphic designer, as well.)
- Visit/call your local bookstores and ask them to carry I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!
- …. or and you can make a donation (of any amount) by clicking the button below.
My passion for sharing the message that “we are ALL beautiful as is” has not changed. I’ll be speaking at a daycare this evening on Chicago’s South Side. I am not discouraged by a long shot. I know things are coming together and… my child eats everyday. 🙂 I will continue to visit daycare centers and schools looking for opportunities to empower children with the message I believe with all my heart I was sent to teach. I am also planning a multicultural parenting workshop to be held in the Hyde Park area, to addressing the challenges of instilling healthy self-esteem in children of multicultural heritage…. It’s just that while continuing with my purpose I am also ready to live my life full out… to tell people “you can live your dreams” knowing that when I step down from the podium, I am a very clear example of how true that statement is.
Marlene Dillon is the self-published author of the empowering children’s book, I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! She is a single mom on a mission to inspire others by living fully and purposefully, and by sharing her gifts and her story openly. Through powerful workshops she mentors young girls, and teaches parents and children how to build healthy self-esteem and confidently pursue their passions.
If you find value in what Marlene is doing and would like to make a monetary donation, rather than purchase products, you may do so securely via PayPal by clicking the “Make A Donation” button below.