Unconditional Self-Love

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I believe I’ve found a key to unconditional self-love.

Image of a woman with long braids looking in the mirror as she puts on a red necklace. Text states: Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist "I am who I am, not what I do. Self-love gets to be unconditional." mdillondesigns.com

This morning, I realized that I redefine myself throughout my day. With each action I perform, I reevaluate myself, and honestly others, too.

I’m a good mom when my child is happy, a bad mom when she’s upset. I’m a good business woman when people are buying my offerings, a bad one when they’re not. I’m a good daughter when I can show up for my parents, a bad one when my priorities take precedence. I am a good wife when I greet him with a smile and dinner on the table, a bad one when I’m exhausted and he cooks dinner…

I realized as I journaled earlier, that my upbringing—not just my family, but the church, the school system, my culture, society, etc.—has taught me to judge myself by my performance, rather than my core values. But when who I am is based on performance, my perception of myself can shift many times in a day. No wonder so many of us are exhausted at the end of the day.

Our perceptions of ourselves come from the beliefs we were taught, and criticisms we’ve witnessed and experienced. We take those judgments in and no longer need others to judge us. We begin to judge ourselves.

This morning I woke up with an awareness of this habit and a commitment to letting it go. I am who I am, AND I do things. I am not the things I do. I get to drop the adjectives—the opinionated labels of good, bad, successful, etc. and just be who I am, and make decisions based on my priorities. I don’t need to keep shifting how I view myself all day, based on my decisions. “Good mom” in the morning because I got her to school on time, “bad mom” in the evening because I picked her up late. Every day, all day, I am a mom. Period. Not good, not bad, not exceptional, not lazy. A mom making choices throughout her day.

It’s freeing to drop that tendency to flip flop on how I view myself… to stop the self-abuse. It’s really about shining light on that internal voice that is evaluating every single thing we do. (I break this down further in my upcoming book, You’re Being Catfished.) We get to see that the punishment and rewards systems we experienced in childhood—with labels of “good girl” and “good boy” as additional rewards for our performance, and their opposites as punishments—taught us that who we are is based on what we do.

One way to know if this is still impacting you is to think of how you label yourself (in your mind or aloud) when you can buy whatever you want vs when you have to check your balance first, when you’re the top performer at work vs when you’ve been demoted, when your post goes viral vs when you get no response, or even when you’ve got your snatched body with your six pack abs vs the keg.

If you love yourself unconditionally, your choices don’t change that fact. You don’t beat yourself up when your performance isn’t at its peak. Your love remains, even when your choices shift.

Maybe you’ve already mastered unconditional self-love. That’s great! For me, this realization is new and eye-opening. I am now aware so I can actively stop judging myself and choose actions that best support my present intentions. I get to separate who I am from what I do. I can be a mom who served dinner at 9, instead of 5 without being a “bad” mom. I can take a day off to replenish, and not feel like a “bad” business owner. I can reply to a text message when it’s convenient for me, rather than interrupt my nap, without calling myself a “bad” friend. And I can extend that kindness to others.

When we are more loving and understanding toward ourselves, we are automatically more understanding and loving toward others. We can drop the opinion-based labels we place on ourselves, make aligned choices, and address ourselves, and others, with love.


Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist


Surprise! It’s Coming.

You know in the movies—or maybe you’ve experienced it in real life—how people will take a person all over, seeming like they’ve forgotten their special day, only to allow others to set up the details and arrangements for their surprise?

Image of a family celebrating. A surprise party as the guest of honor arrives. Text states: Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist "What if life is happening for you, not to you?" mdillondesigns.com

What if this low time, this uncomfortable period, this odd stage of transition, that seems to be lasting forever, is just the redirect? What if it’s the distraction while the details are being worked out for one of the greatest seasons of our lives?

What if the delays aren’t because we’re doing it wrong, or because we’re out of alignment, or unworthy, but because what we’re seeking to manifest is being lined up and prepared?

What if we’re enough as we are? What if we’re doing enough for this moment? What if we are actually on our way to one of the greatest seasons of our lives?

Life can throw us some painful curve balls. I’m standing at the plate right now, so trust me, I know. It’s not easy when you’re in a tough season. Hugs to you if you can relate.

I’m sharing this perspective shift, because it just came to me. These words comforted me in a moment of sincere WTF. So I’m sharing it with you in case you need a shift, too.

If you’re in a low season, remember seasons are temporary. Even if the details can’t change, we can. We can shift how we view things. we can find a more empowering perspective.

Maybe winter felt extra long, but spring follows. If you’ve been going through for a while, it’s easy to stop expecting good news. Our expectations are powerful. It’s hard to get good flowing when we only expect the bad. Today, I decided good gets to come to me, too.

Let’s begin to look out for good, the way we’ve been conditioned to brace ourselves for bad. Let’s leave a little room for hope, and anticipate some good news for a change. I believe it’s coming. We’re definitely worthy of it. You are worthy and deserving of a good life.

Life gets to be good for all of us. Let’s begin to expect it. ❤️💜💙💚


Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist

New Landings

Some of our most painful endings lead to our most powerful beginnings. We get to shift our perspective. At any moment, we can decide to view our tough times as landings on our way to new levels of blessings. Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist

It Ain’t About You

“Oftentimes we can’t connect with our kids because we’re being mean and angry at times they need the most love and support.” — Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist

Image of a little girl hiding her face as an adult in silhouette yells at her. Text states, Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist  "Oftentimes we can't connect with our kids because we're being mean and angry at times they need the most love and support. The root of their behavior is rarely laziness and disrespect." mdillondesigns.com

Look deeper. On the surface, what looks like laziness and disrespect is often layers of fears, sadness, and hurtful experiences. When they aren’t listening, often they have so much going on in their minds, as they replay experiences and attempt to strategize solutions. When they’re expecting to finally have a break from the stress (and yes kids have stress) of their day, and we come piling on new demands, of course they get frustrated. Imagine you make it to the end of your work shift and right as you’re ready to relax, your boss comes and hands you more work to do, or asks you to stick around and clean your office, take out the trash, mop the floors. It sounds outrageous, but we have to learn to empathize with our children, if we want to have a good relationship with them.

If all we do is make judgments, without trying to put ourselves in their position, we won’t connect with them. And empathy means you put yourself in their shoes, not that you stand in your adult space looking at all the benefits you miss from childhood. What sucked about childhood? What was scary about school? What made you sad? What part of the day was the worst for you? What year did you begin to experience self-doubt? When was the first time you were hurt by a friend? or a crush? Get out of that adult mindset and really remember what that age was like. What mattered most? What did people get teased for? What determined if you had friends, popularity, or that you didn’t get picked on? What subjects were hard? What teachers were mean? Were there bullies or mean kids? What were they like?

When our children change, we need to pay attention to that. Often there are stories behind that change that our children have not shared with us. And why haven’t they shared? Because sharing doesn’t feel safe. Why don’t they tell us? Because they know we’re going to jump to conclusions. Why don’t share with us? Because they’re embarrassed. Why don’t they talk to us? Because they expect us to overreact, not understand, or have a response that makes an already bad situation worse.

Far too often, we react to their behavior but don’t look at ourselves. If our kids don’t talk to us, how can we adjust to make them feel their words and thoughts are safe? This is not about blame. We are doing our best, but if the relationship is not working, we cannot put all the responsibility for that onto our child. We have to be willing to take responsibility for what IS within our control.

We can acknowledge changes in our children, and choose to think the best of them, rather than the worst. In any relationship, that is key. When a person is acting out of character, if we love them, our first thought will be toward them not against them. If my child is uncharacteristically unkind, yes, initially my feelings will be hurt. However, it takes maturity to not immediately snap back and react. Maturity allows me to condition myself to pause and think before I speak (what we expect our kids to do). I could take it personally, or I could get curious and wonder what must be going on within her that would cause her to behave in this way. So many of us are conditioned to parent by pride, rather than love. If we feel disrespected, we have to immediately assert dominance, like we’re two bucks in the wild. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not gonna tolerate disrespect, but I handle it differently now that I’ve taken time to think. Now, I may respond with, “Excuse me?” and then take a minute to breathe. I may even walk away and give her space to gather herself. What I won’t do now, is start a whole argument, going off on her, labeling her as “rude,” “disrespectful,” etc. I know that my words can last a lifetime so I’m careful with them.

What I know now is that most of the times our kids’ behavior is rarely about what we think it is. Especially in the tween and teen years, they have so much going on that we don’t even know about. We are just background noise to the narratives going on in their heads. So when we are consistently annoyed, frustrated, disappointed and “fussing” at them, we just add to that noise.

I hear a lot of parents complain about how their kids never talk to them, and how they are just moody and rude, and when they try to find out what’s going on they never want to talk. We rarely look at ourselves and how we react and respond to them every day, and see they have good reason to go straight to their rooms and shut the door. We don’t think about the insults we spit at them when we get offended because we misread their behavior. We don’t consider that the reason their room isn’t clean is because they are possibly depressed, rather than lazy. We don’t consider that they maybe they listen to their music so loudly to drown out anxious thoughts. We forget that school isn’t one big amusement park. It’s the place where most people picked up their doubts about who they are, who they can be, if they’re successful, if they’ll be liked or loved, where we picked up many of our insecurities about how we look, how smart we are, and who wins in life and who loses. We don’t see that our kids are humans like us, who when they are away from us are navigating a whole separate world, and now with social media, that world follows them home. There are no breaks.

We expect that they are going to respond to life at 13, the way they did at 8. They are growing up. They are different. They are increasingly autonomous. They are becoming independent. They are changing their likes and dislikes. They are navigating social pressure. They are navigating academic pressure. They are navigating a friggin’ pandemic, that saddly most adults haven’t taken the time to process with them…..

Sidebar: I am still in shock that it wasn’t automatic that before returning to regular classroom activities for admins, teachers, school counselors, somebody to facilitate a sincere talk with students to allow kids them to first acknowledge and process the transition. How is that not something we talk about? Do we really think this was not traumatic for our kids? I digress…. Breathe, Marlene….

The point of this post is to shine light on the fact that our kids’ behavior is often more related to what is going on within them than about rudeness, laziness, or the other conclusions we draw. Our kids are often dealing with things we don’t know about and even if we think we have a great open relationship with them, sometimes what they are going through feels embarrassing and they don’t want to share it. Sometimes because of how we carry ourselves, they worry that we’ll be disappointed. (Sidebar: one of the worst responses to a child’s behavior is to tell them you’re disappointed. If you do that regularly, I highly recommend you choose a different word. I explain this more in my course.) Other times they don’t share because we have proven to them that we don’t know how to handle things gracefully.

We make so much about us, when most of it IS NOT ABOUT US. They are navigating and processing friendships, insecurities, acceptance, isolation, academics, world news, AND for our tweens and teens, they are recognizing for the first time in their lives their actions have real consequences that impact their futures. They are processing changes in their bodies, changes in their social life, changes in their perception of themselves. They have just crossed out of a season where everyone feels pretty much the same and acceptance is automatic to being judged, scrutinized, and defined as a part of the community or the one that is left out.

We think our kids are being rude and moody because they don’t want to talk, rather than realize they are typically so busy processing life that they aren’t even thinking about us. They are often navigating life solo because all we do is meet them with anger, disappointment, and hurtful assumptions so they can’t even turn to us.

I wrote this because I get that the moods and behavior can really be frustrating, and reacting to that can be automatic, but I know that is not an effective way to reconnect with your child. If your goal is merely to assert dominance, then yelling, shaming, blaming, and punishing your child should keep you busy. However, if you actually want a relationship with your child, stepping back to pause your offense long enough to look at the bigger picture is more effective.

An injured animal will react to protect itself when it’s hurting. It takes tenderness and kind intentions to get them to trust you. Same with other living beings… like our kids for example. They may come off like a rabid, feral creature when they are hurting. We have to have the compassion to recognize that their behavior is not personal. They are not trying to hurt us, they are often nursing their own wounds. Much of the behavior we see as laziness and disrespect is actually sadness and fear, and sometimes signs of varying levels of depression and anxiety.

When we view our children through the eyes of compassion, rather than pride and offense, we can meet them with love and support rather than anger and meanness. We can see their behavior as symptoms of pain and emotional distress, and are moved to support them in ways we never would have considered. We can drop our ego and see that most times they just need us to see them and know that they are doing their best, even when it doesn’t look like it. When we see that they are hurting we stop yelling about that undone chore and start saying things like, “I see you’ve been struggling to clean your room, and I’d like to help. Let’s work on it together this weekend.” And it’s in those moments that the wall comes down and we hear the truth of what’s on their hearts because we finally met them with compassion, rather than judgment.

Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist

** If you gained clarity from this post and would like to learn more ways to improve your relationship with your child through supportive communication, you’re going to love my course Healing Our Families: Healing the Parent-Child Relationship. Enroll, today!

Watch this video to find out more!

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