To be honest, life has not been easy for me. Staying positive is a struggle, and I have battled with depression and suicidal ideation for the majority of my life. Not every day, or even every week, but it’s been lurking in the background since I was 12 years old.
I think that’s why I am so committed to empowering others—why I.U.S.E. (Inspire. Uplift. Support. Encourage.) others. I know what it is to need some hope to hold onto. I know what it is to want someone to notice that I’m not okay. I know what it is to need someone to speak life into me, and not have that happen.
I am Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist because I am here to be to others what I need(ed).
Sometimes we feel like we have nothing to offer until we have “arrived.” But I can tell you right now that I do all of this while I wait (impatiently) to see my ducks line up. I haven’t got it all together. I’m not even in a good mood all the time. I am just committed to growth. I am committed to learning how to use my mind in more productive ways. I am committed to being of value to others WHILE I’m on the journey.
Sometimes contribution is the way out of depression. Being able to express myself through one of my most natural forms of creating is a blessing to me. Taking a break from ruminating on my own challenges to speak life into someone else blesses me. There have been many times when I was down and wished someone would check on me, and instead I decided to check on someone else. I cannot count the many times that I reached out at just the right time. Even though my problem was not solved, knowing that I helped them through a challenging moment helped me feel a little better.
I think of the many times I did speaking engagements and was tempted to cancel because I barely had enough gas to get there. But I pressed through because I made a commitment and I looked forward to sharing words of inspiration with the girls. I got to witness the transformation that takes place when I get to speak.
Numerous times, I watched middle school and freshman girls enter a space feeling down, drained, and individual, but after our time together they the room feeling uplifted, energized, and united.
Our time was powerful. We touched on real topics. I know that by showing up my words shifted the trajectory of their lives. What we discussed would impact them in little and big ways. Despite what was going on in my world, I gave what I had and it empowered them and that energized me.
When I look back over my life, I can see many times that I was led to make a phone call, send a text, reach out via email, check on someone via Messenger, and so on. Regardless of what was going on with me in those moments, I did what I felt led to do and I am grateful that I was able to be there for them at those times.
Getting to share my insights, epiphanies, and inspirations with you is also a gift to me. Being able to inspire, uplift, support, and encourage you while things aren’t as I’d like in my own life is oddly healing. It is a gift to me to be a gift to you. When I read comments and inbox messages thanking me for the insights I share, and even for my vulnerability, it blesses me. It is a blessing to know that how I show up here blesses you. It inspires me to know that by allowing you to be a witness to my journey that I am helping in some way. It gives me a boost, and a reminder, that regardless of what’s in my bank account, my life has value.
A few years ago a coach told me that I can tell my book, I’m Proud to Be Natural Me doesn’t have value because no one is buying it. She even went on to comment on how it’s written as part of the problem. Although my feelings were hurt, part of me knew not to (fully) take her words as truth because I know that I didn’t sit down and force words to create I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! That book flowed through me. I wrote that book in one sitting, in an hour. The words just came to me line by line. And in sitting with my editor, I decided to have “I’m proud to be natural me,” repeat as an affirmation every other page and I’ve seen how powerful that has been for children. I’ve seen lives change as a result of my beautiful, rhyming children’s picture book. Many of you only know of me because of my #Proud2BNaturalMe posts and features. My speaking in schools came as a result of that book. There are many children who now love their curls because of that book. And pretty much everything I have done since writing that book has occurred because I wrote that book….
And I must be honest, her words cut me deeply. She was a successful business coach and she was telling me that I was broke because my work had no value. I think her words cut deeper because I didn’t feel I had value and regularly used my book as my artificial value. For the longest time, being able to respond to the question I hate the most—”So… what do you do?”—with “Oh, I’m a children’s author,” gave me such relief in networking situations because people always light up when I say it. I could hide behind it and feel valuable and answer their questions about being an author and feel pretty good about myself (for those few minutes). But she was telling me that even that had no value because of how I was being paid.
It took me a long time to get over that, and I am learning that my value goes beyond how much money I make and what I have. For now, I focus on who I am to remind myself of my value. I am grateful that I have learned to focus on the testimonies, the gratitude, the support, the conversations, the empowering feedback, the supportive comments, and the friendships that empower me to know that I have value.
I shared in a previous post (last week, maybe) that I have deep messaging that value is about how much money you make. Although I know better, and don’t agree with this, the message runs deep. So regardless of all the people who I have inspired, uplifted, supported, and encouraged…. and despite knowing I am a phenomenal mom… when I think about my net worth… I still at times question my value.
Sometimes the words of that coach come back to me and I question my value. Sometimes my daughter wants something inexpensive (or expensive #macbookpro) and not being able to get it for her causes me to question my value….
But then I go back to all the moments that I know I made a difference. The memories of seeing girls unite during one of my empowerment workshops to group hug a participant who shared that her grandmother had passed that morning…. The memories of a beautiful soul, during one of my talks at a girls mentoring event, gained the courage to come out to her family…. I think of the role play I did with a tween to help her process her father’s absence and how powerful that was…. I think of all the lives I’ve touched in big and small ways…. and the unconditional love I receive from my daughter and I am reminded that my life has value.
And sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the moments along this journey that we got it right. We need to retell the stories, to ourselves, of how we’ve made a positive difference. We need to begin rewrite our definition of what it means to have value.
My life has value and so does yours. You may not feel like it right now, but some stranger, family member, or friend… a co-worker, bus driver, or coffee shop barista, a former teacher, former friend, or some random person you crossed paths with has a story about you in their mind where you made a difference. The simplest act of holding a door open, letting someone get over in traffic, or sharing a smile, or “Good morning,” can mean the difference between life and death for a person dealing with suicidal depression. You have absolutely no idea how many people’s lives you have touched with the simplest act of kindness.
I honestly can’t tell you what led me to write all this. It’s just what I was inspired to share. If you feel your life doesn’t have value, I guarantee you, you’re here for a reason. Sometimes we can’t see it right now. Sometimes the trials and tragedies we go through can cause us to question if life is worth living, but I truly believe and have seen for myself, that everything… even the worst of it… has purpose… even if the only purpose is for you to be able to support someone as they go through something similar.
I am sending you love. I am telling you that I understand deeper than you may know. And I am choosing to live and remind myself as often as I need to that my life has value… and so does yours.
Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist Co-Founder of SISTAMomsImoverbullying by Proud2BNaturalMeYvonne LivingstonAmanda ArmourMDillon Designs & Publishing