Empowering others is my greatest strength, while admittedly self-empowerment is my biggest challenge. I strongly believe that what we came here to learn is also what we came here to teach. I learned that from Louise Hay and it has stuck with me.
Growing up, I was constantly criticized. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I struggled in school, but nobody knew it, because my grades were really good. I sat in class most days having no clue what was going on. I felt stupid and wondered why everyone around me got it and I didn’t. I had no idea that I was #neurodivergent at the time.
What few people know (because I didn’t tell anyone until recent years), is that everyday I went home and taught myself what I missed in school. Phonics didn’t make sense to me. When we’d sit on the floor and sound out words and then put them together, I always felt so confused because the word that they came up with in the end was not the same word that I yelled out. (When everybody else said, “Cuh” “at” “cat,” I said, “Cuh” “at,” “cuh-at!”) I quickly learned to sound things out with them and then just move my lips and remain silent for the word part so I didn’t embarrass myself. Eventually, I accepted that I wasn’t going to master #phonics so somewhere between first and second grade I started to memorize all the vocabulary words in advance and in class I would just lip sync. When it came to math I really struggled. It didn’t make sense and no one would help me. I wanted to raise my hand and ask for help, but my teachers always said, “If there are no more questions, we can move on.” I saw the eye rolls and heard the sighs each time other classmates raised their hands, so I didn’t raise mine. I was often one question away from understanding, but I didn’t want to delay the progress of my whole class—my teacher included. I felt they shouldn’t be inconvenienced just because I wasn’t “smart enough.”
I never realized until now how much being neurodivergent in my environment impacted who I’d become. The constant criticism at home mixed with the constant feeling of being behind in school made me feel hopeless and helpless. In all my spaces, I felt like I didn’t belong and that I wasn’t meeting the standard. No matter how hard I tried I just did not fit in. I was never doing enough. I was not #enough.
Feeling “not enough” has echoed throughout my life—it’s such a disempowering feeling. Some people experience pain and choose to give pain to everyone. I am a pain alchemist. I turn my pain into purpose. I don’t want people to feel the way I have so I offer the opposite. Due to the pain of not fitting in, I became dedicated to making everyone feel welcomed. Due to the pain of feeling invisible, I became committed to ensuring the overlooked are seen. Due to the pain of feeling powerless to change, I became obsessed with teaching empowerment.
I am Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist because I pour into others what I wish I received. I learned this from one of my professors in my master’s in counseling program. He asked us to take our memories and create a #timeline of our lives. We wrote down our emotionally charged memories—those life snapshots that periodically come to mind. Whether they were happy or sad, embarrassing or exciting, we wrote down our most vivid #memories. Next, we sorted our memory snapshots. For each unpleasant memory, we wrote what we needed at that moment.
I put that assignment off to the last minute because I didn’t want to think about the “bad stuff.” I am so grateful I didn’t skip the assignment because it was one of the most powerful gifts I’ve ever received. In class as we reviewed our assignment, he taught us that the way we heal our brokenness, is to give to others what we needed in the unpleasant moments. We can form gold from the pain we’ve experienced. This is how we gain purpose from our pain. We heal ourselves, and we heal others….
Our challenging moments can overtake our lives if we let them. However, I decided to use my pain for a purpose. I decided to keep this lesson in my heart and build my life around it. As a parent, I give my child what I wish I received. Through my business I give to my clients and customers what I wish someone offered. Through my posts, blogs and podcasts, I.U.S.E. (inspire, uplift, support, and empower) people with what I’ve needed. Because I was especially disempowered throughout my life, I specialize in #empowerment. I give others what I wish I received.
If you find yourself ruminating over the negative snapshots of your life, I highly encourage you to try this exercise. If you feel it will be too emotionally triggering, I encourage you to do it with a supportive loved one, coach, mentor, or therapist. It was so healing for me and still is….
I have been through some tough stuff that in those moments, I couldn’t understand. Even now, my current financial situation is painful. And as much as it hurts, I am beginning to understand. My new business partner, Yvonne Monique Livingston LLC says she’s “poor for a purpose.”™ Prior to our connection, all I could see was the pain of poverty. However, now I recognize that my financial struggles are helping me fully understand the mindset and needs of those I intend to serve. I have a heart for supporting the community through #education, #resources, and access to services.
I see now that people who cannot relate to the struggle miss the nuances that impact connection, cooperation, and participation in support services. If you’ve never known the pain of filling out extensive government paperwork for services, or experienced the embarrassment of standing in line outside an aid office in your neighborhood, or the soul-destroying disappointment of sitting in that office for a full day to be told that the person directly in front of you is the last person they are serving, and to “come back tomorrow,” you do not fully understand how to serve people who need financial assistance.
Someone who knows the struggle of #poverty first-hand is far more equipped to design programs than someone who learned about it in school. Someone who struggled with being a #neurodivergent student is more equipped to design an educational system that supports the #neurodiverse. A single mom who rebuilt her life through personal development, introspection, and spiritual practices is far more equipped to speak to the needs of newly single moms. Education has its purpose and lived experience makes a difference. Yvonne and I are blessed to have both.
The lived experience doesn’t feel like a blessing, but it will be for those we serve. None of our pain has to be wasted. We get to use it to empower our community and that’s exactly what we’re building with SISTAMoms™. We’d love for you to join us in building a vehicle to disrupt violence in our communities in all its forms.
Please like and follow our social media pages:
SISTAMoms™ on Facebook, and @SISTAMoms_Global on IG. Look for us on LinkedIn, Twitter and eventually TikTok. We are two single moms, working our way out of poverty, while building the empowerment vehicle we wish already existed. We are being the change we want to see in the world.
Please join us on this #healing journey as we do our part to empower our #community.
Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist
Co-Founder of SISTAMoms
Author of I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!
Owner/Publisher/Author/Designer at MDillon Designs & Publishing