Fool for Love or Marked for Manipulation?

Image of desert background with blue sky. Text states I forgive myself for trusting you  more than me.

“There is a difference between a fool and a “mark.” We are all capable of making silly choices, but some of us were targeted for manipulation. When we make that distinction, we can begin to retell the story to ourselves in a way that allows us to forgive ourselves and reclaim our power.

After completing a relationship, where we felt someone took advantage of us, rather than be tender with ourselves, we tend to beat ourselves up. We label ourselves as silly, foolish, gullible, and naive. We look for reasons why it happened to us, what we did wrong. We view our positive characteristics as weaknesses. We draw conclusions like, “People think I am stupid,” “no one can be trusted,” and “that’s what I get for being so nice.” We say things like, “I shouldn’t be so trusting” and “good guys finish last.” Sometimes we even decide to become more like the ones who hurt us believing that if we drop the kindness, and put on the “heartless,” we will protect ourselves from future hurt.

Unfortunately, when we review our situations from a place of feeling victimized, we don’t heal.We often put on protective personas that are not us, and put up protective walls so high, and impenetrable, that even the good can’t get in. It’s the equivalent of stacking bandages on an infected wound. The bandages may provide some protection from additional outside injury, but they are also preventing the wound from being cleaned, receiving antibiotics, and being left to open air to heal.

When we don’t take the time to address our wounds, they remain decaying under our “protection.” We are helping the wound to fester. It is in our best interest, to at some point, address the infection.

What is the infection? The beliefs we took on about ourselves as a result of the relationship. The habits of deferring our power to another. The surrender of our boundaries, rules, and expectations. All of these need to be cleaned from the wound, if we want to truly heal.

Today, I realized that I get to look back at my past experiences in a more empowering way. I can assess the experience after the fact, like an insurance adjuster. I get to objectively review my past and see where things went wrong. What I realized is that it was wrong long before the relationship ended.

Sometimes situations come up and they seem to “blindside” us. I believed that for a long time. However, when I looked back, objectively, I realized that my relationship was wrong from the beginning. I knew it, I saw it, and ignored it. No one took my power away from me; I gave it away. When I recognized that truth, I felt empowered. I realized that although that person targeted me for manipulation, that I ignored what I saw and listened to what I was told. I was not a fool, although I may have played one.

I am so grateful that I took the time to look back on situation after situation, not from a place of anger, or even hurt, but from an objective place of assessment. I put myself on the witness stand and asked the tough questions, such as:

  • When did you realize that things no longer felt right?
  • When did you compromise your beliefs, standards, expectations?
  • Did you feel the relationship was feeding you or draining you? Picture the moments when you felt this.
  • Look at the numerous times you thought about walking away. Why were you ready to end it those times?
  • What were some times that you remember it did not feel good anymore?
  • When did you feel you were being dragged along but weren’t fully in it?
  • What were the big compromises? the ones that left you feeling you had betrayed yourself?
  • What was your original plan? Did you stick to it? Did you take on their plan?
  • Do you recall times where intuition told you something wasn’t right? What were some of those moments?

I asked myself question after question and DID NOT BEAT MYSELF UP. I just asked the questions to show ME where I compromised MYSELF. I saw the numerous moments when I pushed myself to go along with what didn’t feel right. There were numerous moments where I saw our core values were not aligned. There were numerous moments when I felt as if intuition was screaming, “Pay attention!”

Taking the time to recognize this was so powerful. I realized that I surrendered control when I turned down the volume of my intuition. Seeing that helped me to realize it was a choice. From now on, I choose to trust myself more than I trust anyone else. I am wiser than I gave myself credit, and likely you are, too.

If you were in a relationship that negatively impacted your self worth, or if you can review your timeline and realize you were happily on your way up until that relationship came along, it may be a good idea to assess what happened. Feel free to use some of my questions above to help yourself review it objectively. Maybe ask a trusted close friend to go through the questions with you, if you feel you’ll need support, or bring it to therapy.

I set aside a few hours to unpack this and I felt so light after I was done. I didn’t even realize I was carrying that weight all this time. Be objective. Act as if you are a detective looking for clues of when it stopped being a blessing.

DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP. You are looking for answers that will help you see the truth, heal, and move on with your life. There were lessons in that relationship that can empower you, and likely someone else. Look back with the intention to forgive yourself for trusting someone else more than you trust yourself. And decide to never let that happen again.

Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist

If this post resonated with you, please leave a comment below, and definitely share.

Redefining Success

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is spotify-badge.svg

What if the reason we don’t feel successful is because we are judging ourselves by someone else’s definition of success? What if it’s not that we set the bar too high or too low, but too specifically? What if it’s possible to redefine success in a way that propels us toward our future dreams without making us feel presently inadequate?

Have you ever thought about how you define success? Maybe you have, but I know for me my understanding of success was an accident at best. It came from what I saw applauded in my environment. “Sherry got straight A’s.” “Jeff is a National Merit Scholar.” “Did you hear that Mary’s daughter graduated with a 4.0 and is heading to Princeton in the fall?” “I heard that your classmate that became a doctor—you know the one who married that lawyer—they’re having twins! Oh, and they just moved into a 5 bedroom mansion in L.A.” Throughout most of our lives we’ve received subtle, and not so subtle, hints about what success looks like. As we’ve observed the words and reactions of our family members, teachers, siblings, and society, we have learned what is and isn’t success. 

The interesting thing about the word success is that it is more a concept than an actual physical thing. It’s not tangible, though many may define it by status and acquired possessions. Success is an idea. Ideas differ from person to person. You could ask one hundred people, “What is your definition of success?” and you’d likely get an equal number of answers. For some, having a million dollars is how they define success. While others feel successful if their family is happy and healthy. Some will feel successful if they can afford an apartment and pay their utilities. While others don’t feel successful because they don’t have a vacation home. 

There are perceived norms of development that society uses to define what successful looks like at each stage of our lives. From birth ‘til death, we are taught to compare ourselves to others of similar age, gender, religious affiliations, and so on. We contrast our “progress” and feel that we are a failing student, an irresponsible adult, a terrible spouse, an unessential employee, or the worst parent. However, since we all have various experiences, natural tendencies, priorities, responsibilities, skills, etc., if we evaluate our worth by some broad definition, or worse, hold ourselves to a standard that feels unattainable, we can go our whole lives feeling unsuccessful. 

The reality is that everyone is different and that means that we each need our own definition of success. For the longest time, being rich and married, with two kids and a huge house in the suburbs was my definition of success. Having a steady paycheck as a doctor, lawyer, nurse or government employee, my own home, and no debt was my parents’ definition. Graduating with honors, tons of scholarships, and a bazillion Ivy League acceptance letters was the definition I learned in high school. At every stage of my life, there has been an implied meaning of success that was devastatingly out of reach for me. And it made me feel horrible about myself. I kept trying but I was often pursuing goals that didn’t matter to me or weren’t aligned with who I am. They just felt really important to everybody else. I wish I knew then what I know now.

Presently, I am a 42-year old single mom, who is rebuilding her life from the ground. What I recently realized is, if I don’t set my own empowering definition of success, I will never attain it. I cannot afford to give another second of my life toward pursuing other people’s goals for my life, nor attributing my self-worth to what I do or have. For the rest of my life, I choose to define success by who I am and how I show up. I am willing to change my definition as often as needed. 

I currently have a note to myself on my wall that states, “I choose to believe and accept that SUCCESS is believing in who I am today and who I am becoming.” That’s my current definition. So all I have to do is believe in myself—my present and my future—and I’ve had a successful day. That’s success that’s attainable. That’s success that empowers me to feel good about myself and to move forward. 

Our definitions of success often do us more harm than good. It is essential that we take the time to make them empowering. I challenge you to take a few minutes and think about how you define success. Does it empower you? Is it aligned with your truth, your priorities, and your current beliefs? Does it make you feel good about yourself? If not, give yourself a chance at success. Create a new and empowering definition, today. 

Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist

Want to share your new empowering definition of success? Share it in the comments below.

A Letter of Apology | Dear Black Man 

For months, I’ve been trying to formulate the words to say how I truly feel, and each time I just draw a blank. So I’m just going to let it flow freely and hope you hear my heart.

Dear Black Man,

I choose to see you.

Not just what you show me, but underneath

I admit, I accepted your armor without processing your war 

It’s not that I didn’t notice your wounds 

It’s that I accepted them as the way things are

I never saw another version for you

I never saw a life where you are treated like them

I accepted what is—what has been—and said nothing 

I was wrong for that.

I assumed you were superhuman

I did not consider how you must feel

The pain of your days

Or fear of your nights 

I assumed you felt nothing.

That your wounds had calloused over

That the daily offenses no longer had impact

I was so wrong for that.

I should have known better.

I should have comforted you more.

I should have asked you what it’s like.

I should have been your refuge.

I should have seen the pain and fear in your eyes

And not viewed it as anger.

You are not superhuman.

You have feelings, you breathe, and you bleed.

You have walked far too long alone. 

I am on your side. 

I love you.

I see you.

And I apologize.

— Marlene Dillon, Empowerment Specialist

%d bloggers like this: