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Marie Forleo: In this episode of MarieTV, we do have some adult language. So if you have little ones around, grab your headphones now.
Terri Cole: When we over give, when we over function for others, this is what I call high functioning codependency, right? Because we can kind of do it all but not forever.
Marie Forleo: Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and welcome to another episode of MarieTV and The Marie Forleo Podcast. If you’re someone who struggles with setting good boundaries, you’re going to love today’s episode. Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert. For over two decades, Terri has been working with clients and her special gift is taking complex psychological concepts and making them actionable and accessible. She inspires over a quarter million people each week through her courses, blog, and podcast, The Terri Cole Show. Her book, Boundary Boss, is available now.
Terri Cole, thank you so much for being here. Okay, I got to say, congratulations, Boundary Boss is frigging awesome. I loved every moment of it. I feel like I was sitting with you. We’ve known each other for a very long time and I could feel you in the pages, just your brilliance, your intelligence, and your no-nonsense nature, which I think is something we appreciate about each other. So for those in my audience who haven’t known you as long as I do, can you take us through a bit of your backstory and your journey from being a talent agent to being a psychotherapist, and why boundaries is so important to your mission of empowerment?
Terri Cole: I sure will. And thanks for having me. I’m so excited. Well, let’s see. You know, they say, you know, you teach what you most need to learn. So, I definitely had the experience of being a boundary disaster, having very porous boundaries, over-giving, saying yes when I wanted to say no, saying yes to multiple people for the same night. You know what I mean? And then having to like, just not show up or cancel on some. So, all of my life, I was raised the way many of us were raised, to be good girls. To be nice, be nice, was like being nice was like this virtue above all others, which is not the same as being truthful and not the same.
So, of course, in my 20s, I didn’t know what my actual problem was but there was conflict within my relationships. I got into therapy young. So when I was 19, when I was in college, I stopped drinking when I, before I graduated college. So, that helped sort of spur the, my therapeutic journey quickly because I stopped probably 10 years sooner than I would have, which gave me 10 less years of bullshit. You know what I mean? In, in life and just distraction pain and lighting fires and being like, “Why am I on fire?” Those types of things.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: So, when I got into entertainment, it became so clear how boundaries were such a major problem. Where, between the bookers, I was negotiating contracts for supermodels and celebrities with Pantene and movie deals and those types of things. But I could see how the industry itself, especially with the modeling part, was so trampling on the models boundaries, like there was so much overstepping. I was like, “Okay, wait,” and I kept trying to change this business, like, who am I? I’m this little girl from New Jersey and I’m like, “You know what,” this is when I was at Ford.
And I was like, “You know, I really think Katie Ford,” Katie was running at that point. I was like, “I really think that we should really make a concerted effort to stop calling the models ‘girls’ because they’re actually all women, like most of them are over the age of 18.” She was like, “Okay, anyway, you’re in the wrong business.” It just got to the point where I could see why, why I ended up leaving entertainment in general is that my own therapeutic journey, my own transformation, was so energizing and invigorating to me, and I just couldn’t believe that I could change.
It was like, you know, you’re dealt this hand in life. And therapy made me realize, if I don’t like this hand, I can get new cards. And if I don’t like this game, I can get rid of this deck, I can make it up, because literally we are making it up. So that really profoundly changed the way that I looked at it. And I ended up leaving entertainment when I realized that I was way more interested in getting models and my clients into eating disorder clinics, rehabs, getting everyone into therapy, than I was negotiating any deal.
I was like, “You need to leave, you literally no longer care about, you care about the people, but you don’t actually care about the job.” And, really, at the height of my career, I mean I was running the New York operations for a bicoastal talent agency. I quit my job and went to… and I really applied to one school. I applied to NYU to get my master’s because I was like, “Listen I’m not going to Ohio, like I’ve been living in New York, I’m not… if I don’t get into NYU, then maybe it’s not meant to be.” Apparently it was and then I got accepted and I was like, “Oh, my God, now I have to go, you can’t not go, right?”
So, that was the, the shift into mental health and becoming a psychotherapist myself. But when I got into the trenches with my clients is when I could really see that whatever the presenting problem was when someone came in, maybe they’re not getting paid what they’re worth or they’re in a relationship that’s very frustrating or their family of origin is a total shit show, like there’s all of these things. I could connect the dots backwards to this lack of this skill set of knowing how to establish and enforce healthy personal and professional boundaries, which includes talking true, right, as the subtitle of the book says, like speaking authentically.
And I was like, “This is an, this is an epidemic.” This isn’t just like, “Oh, I had this experience.” I had this experience and worked my butt off to learn how to do this. And then I saw all of these other women. And that is what really led me to become obsessed with helping other women. I started, you know, a course a bunch of years ago. And really beta tested all of this in a course. Because I was like, “Will it work with lots of people? Can I make it so that it’s understandable and digestible and actionable?” And the answer was, yes. But I had five years to sort of do that before I wrote the book.
Marie Forleo: Yeah, it’s awesome. And I, I feel like having so many conversations with dear friends and colleagues, you’re right, you can start to trace it back. And it’s like, “Wow, boundary issue.” And I even looked back in my own life personally and professionally and where shit’s gone off the rails, you know, nine times out of 10, it was like, I was not really good at setting a boundary somewhere. And, you know, for me, my particular flavor has always been and, again, you know me for so long, like over-giving, over-providing, overdoing, overachieving, and it’s come back to bite me in the ass more than once.
And I feel like now, one of the things I was talking about last year was so funny, I was like, “Oh my gosh,” like, this, it came to me, Terri. It was like, I now have boundaries as big as the Wall of China. I’m just like, legitimately, they are big. I like big boundaries that I cannot lie, I, just, that is where it goes for me. So, I wanted to get into this because we get asked about this all of the time and it is an important topic. We’ve got a question here from one of our viewers in France. So, let’s have a listen.
Marie: Hi, Marie. I’m Marie from France. And I’ve been having trouble finding the right balance between being generous and flexible, and being more poised and respectful of my boundaries. So when I’m generous, I tend to give a lot of my time and energy but I feel like I’m a pushover. And on the other hand, when I have more solid boundaries, I feel like I may be too strict and the other person may take offense. So my question is, how do I know when I’m being too generous or too rigid with the other person? Thank you so much.
Marie Forleo: So, Terri, I think Marie spoke into what a lot of us can feel from time to time. So for Marie or anyone else watching who feels the same way she does, what do you say? How do we start to peel into this?
Terri Cole: Well, part of it is you, you really have to dial into your, your body wisdom and how you feel. So the real question for Marie in France is when you are giving, do you feel resentment later? Because you basically said, “I feel taken advantage of. You know, I feel like someone’s kind of trampled on my boundary.” But that’s really on you to establish the boundary. So, before you decide whether it’s too much or too little, think back. Huh, the last four times you said no or said yes. How did you feel afterwards? Do you feel sufficiently appreciated? Did you give from a place of equanimity and love, right? That’s one thing. We give from a real, a full heart, a full place like we want to.
But what I find when we’re, our boundaries are disordered, is that a lot of times we’re giving from one of the other, we’re giving from a place of fear. I’m afraid to be rejected, I’m afraid to say no. We’re giving from a place of obligation. It’s, it’s family, I should, even if it’s a super inconvenience or even if I miss out on something. But what happens, and you can always tell where you are in that boundary spectrum, as to how you feel. And if you’re feeling resentment after the fact, then you have to look and go, okay, so why did I give her, why did I give that much?
The other way, because you also said, “If I draw a boundary, I feel guilty and I worry that they’ll be offended.” Here’s the thing. When you’re learning to become a boundary boss, you will pretty much always want to take back the boundary. You will have such a desire to be like, “I was only kidding, forget it, I can work overtime or I can take your shift or I can do the thing I said I wasn’t going to do,” even though you’re like bitching to your friends about how entitled Betty is and I can’t believe Betty would ask me to do that again. Here’s the thing, you have to think about what is that fear and wait 48 hours.
When you draw a boundary, you have to really look in and it’s like I guide you through this in the book of like, top-of-mind, at the end of the chapters like this thing, like think about this. Why do you feel guilty? Do you not understand what your boundary rights are and your rights in general? I have that right in the front of the book is like your Boundary Boss bill of rights.
Marie Forleo: Yeah. I actually, I’m going to interrupt you to read that because it’s so genius and then we’ll go right back to you. So, for anyone who wants to know because you’re like, “What are my bill of rights?” “You have the right to say no (or yes) to others without feeling guilty.” These are all Terri’s words. “You have the right to make mistakes, to course-correct, or change your mind. You have the right to negotiate for your preferences, desires, and needs. You have the right to express and honor all of your feelings if you so choose.”
“You have the right to voice your opinion even if others disagree. You have the right to be treated with respect, consideration, and care. You have the right to determine who has the privilege of being in your life.” Amen. “You have the right to communicate your boundaries, limits, and deal-breakers.” We’ll talk about that. “You have the right to prioritize your self-care without feeling selfish, and you have the right to talk true, be seen, and live free.”
Terri Cole: You do. So, you know, not to quote Biggie, but if you didn’t know, now you know. Those are actually your rights. And I think that if we can start foundationally from really living those, the reason I put them right in the front was because I know that the zillions of clients that I’ve had over the past two and a half decades in my therapy practice, most did not know that you have the right. And we are raised and praised for being self-abandoning codependents, most women, we are. We get positive feedback in growing up. You know, we talked a little bit at the top about being a good girl and this is what we want to be nice and we want everyone to like us. We don’t want anyone to be mad. We really don’t want to be rejected.
So much of that is ingrained. And so part of this process of understanding why you are this way is that we go backwards, right? So, you, you do your downloaded boundary blueprint, which is basically this unconscious paradigm in your mind, of why you personally, Marie, or me personally, why do we relate to boundaries in relationships or in business the very unique and particular way that we do? So I see the commonalities because most of my practice has been women in all of my courses. But you also were raised by different people in different cultures, in different countries.
So we have our own specific flavor to understand like, “Oh, it’s hard for me to say no because when I answered these questions about what did I observe growing up,” one of your parental impactors might have been someone who had the disease to please or who was very dependent on validation from outside. That would impact you, because as a kid, let’s say it’s your mother or your maternal impact or maybe it’s an aunt or whoever, but we want to be like them, like we are unconsciously drawn. Like, “Oh, this is what being a woman is, selfless.”
You know, people always say things like, “You know what, she’s amazing. She would give the shirt off her back to anyone.” And I’m all like, “She’s going to be cold, now why is that amazing?” Like that is having no boundaries, right? That is like, not, not everyone deserves the shirt off your friggin back.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: Be discerning. So I think a lot of what we’re really talking about is how can we become discerning about how we give? And you had said before, Marie, about over-giving, right, about…
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: …you know, feeling compelled, having it yourself and me too, of course, obviously.
And why do we do that? And what is that about? And part of it is really looking at your life experiences and that there is something in there for us. I know for me, I really like helping people, I actually still do, but now I do it healthily not at the expense of myself.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Terri Cole: But when we really unravel this, there is something else driving a lot of times that over-giving, and not just the obvious “I want to be liked,” or “I want to be the hero.” You know, I was the hero child in my family of origin. So, being helpful to others and, and being the one who knew what people should do was incredibly ingrained in my life.
But then what happens is you become this sort of auto fixer. And, really, when you think about what am, what am I doing and what was I doing throughout my 20s when any person who had a problem, I don’t care, it could be like for my hair colorist to like my mail carrier. I’d be like, “Oh, Joe, I know exactly what you should do. Let’s go inside. I got this great book for you.”
Marie Forleo: “Joe come and sit down.”
Terri Cole: “Come on, I got it. I’m putting the pot of coffee on.” Like, actually.
And what I found through my own therapeutic process and then through being a therapist for many years is that I had a therapist, oh, my God, she was so amazing and brutal and awesome at the same time, Ruth. She said to me, I was talking about… I was over functioning with one of my siblings. And, you know, every family will have someone who is like the scapegoat, who’s sort of acting out the veiled frustration of the group. Most people don’t even know that that’s how family systems work but they do. So it isn’t like the scapegoat was like, “Can’t wait to be the scapegoat,” they just are chosen by the system.
Anyway. So, she was always in bad relationships and painful and these things. So, anyway, she was in a terrible situation. And I was already in my late 20s, for sure, probably early 30s. And I was crying to my therapist and being like, “You know, this, I don’t even know what to do. I’ve been sending her money. I’m telling her to do this. I’m going to try to get her into treatment. I know that she’s drinking too much.” But she was living in the woods without running water, with a guy who was doing crack who was physically abusive to her. So, that’s literally no embellishing, that was the actual situation.
And I said to her, crying, crying, and she was like, “Terri, let me ask you something, what makes you think you know what Jenna needs to learn in this life?” I was like, “Well, Ruth, I think we can both agree that she doesn’t have to learn it in a place with no water with this idiot, does she?” And she’s like, “Well, we can’t agree to that, Terri, because I literally am not God and I have no idea what your sister needs to learn. But do you know what’s really happening for you?” I was like, “Apparently not so I’m assuming you’re going to tell me.”
And she said, “You’ve worked really hard to create internal peace and a peaceful harmonious life. And your sister’s life kind of be in a dumpster fire is really messing with that peace that you have fought so hard for. So what you really want is you want her to get it together so that your pain can end.” Wow, I was like, “That’s a different frame, okay.”
Marie Forleo: You’re like, “Ruth. Ruth coming in.”
Terri Cole: She is telling the truth. But this is what, when we over give, when we over function for others, this is what I call high functioning codependency, right? Because we can kind of do it all but not forever.
Marie Forleo: Yeah. And it doesn’t lead us to peace and it doesn’t lead us to freedom, and it doesn’t lead us to allowing other people the space and the grace to live their lives and take care of themselves. I love it.
Terri Cole: Yes, and feel good about themselves.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Terri Cole: Like part of it is she was like, “Also, by the way, you’re taking away some of the urgency by giving her money. These are all band-aids on like a gaping wound that only she can heal. So what is it that you need to do?” And I was like, “Well, I think I need to step back because I can’t listen to this terrible stuff.” And I did. I said, “Hey, if you ever really want to get help, get clean, I’m so your person. Until then, I’m going to limit contacts.” It’s so painful.
And then nine months later, she was like, “Hi, I’m ready.” I was like, “Can’t wait to help.” And she’s been sober and amazing many years, very happy. She’s not… she has running water. All, all is well. But, again, it was not for me to do and that’s where the side of the street stuff kind of comes in where I literally thought that my sister’s pain and her situation I was obligated to help, to do, to fix, to change, to convince her to do something different. And that was, really, that whole thing with Ruth, let me see like, that isn’t my side of the street and it’s so painful especially when someone else’s pain profoundly affects you.
Marie Forleo: So rich. Let’s talk preferences, desires, and deal-breakers. Because all relationships, right, they, they do require some give and take. I think this can probably show up, perhaps, most profoundly in our intimate relationships, but any significant relationship, whether that’s family or colleague or friendship. What are these distinctions and why are they so important to understand, especially as we’re on this journey to becoming a boundary boss?
Terri Cole: Well, first thing, the reason why I even wrote it that way and started doing this with my clients was that women would come in to see me, and I would ask them, you know, “What is your preference about this and what brings you joy?” Or, questions where they were like, “Oh, I don’t know.” I’m like, “Why not? I mean, don’t you want to know?”
So, long ago before the book, I came up with this very in-depth list of what is okay and what is not okay in all areas of clients’ lives. So that’s from the lighting in your office to anything. How you’re communicating in your love relationship, the way that you’re being sexual with someone, every single thing, because most of the time, if, if you’re raised to just really want to avoid conflict, to… you know, it’s very easy to confuse compliance with compatibility. You know? And…
Marie Forleo: Say more about that.
Terri Cole: Yeah, that’s, that’s so mind-blowing when I got that in my life that a lot of my clients would be like, “But, I don’t know, I kind of feel empty, I’m not sure. But, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I mean, my relationship is perfect. We never fight. Like it’s just perfect.” I was like, “Well, I don’t know, you might feel empty for lots of reasons but just because you don’t fight actually doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re being seen or heard or known, that you are deeply connected to this person. So you’ve mastered the art of avoiding conflict, and that’s one thing. But is that, does that really, is that the marker of an excellent relationship? It’s not.”
So, it’s an important thing to think about, am I just compliant, because I go along to get along. A lot of women in my practice have been very like, “You know me, I’m easy. No fuss, no muss, that’s me.” I’m like, “But is it? And why is that like a badge?”
Marie Forleo: But is it?
Terri Cole: I don’t think it is. And, and what’s wrong with having a friggin preference? Knowing your preferences, your desires, and your deal-breakers, literally, that is what makes you uniquely you. So where did we get it in our minds that if we are to share our preferences that we’re burdening another person or that there’s something wrong with us? So, compatibility, is actually getting along, talking about real things, compromising, meeting in the middle, having respect for each other, having effective communication, all of those things? That’s real compatibility.
And, yes, hopefully goes along with liking to do some of the same things. But I just have seen this as a phenomenon, that compliance and compatibility can be easily mistaken for the same thing, but your level of satisfaction in the relationship will be a dead giveaway as to whether you might be confusing compliance with compatibility. Because if you feel empty and you’re not really satisfied, that might be what’s happening.
Marie Forleo: So, I would think, right, in terms of deal-breakers, obviously, preferences and desires, these are things that are coming from your heart, these are probably going to be really good things to communicate to those who you’re in deep relationship with. And then I think that deal-breakers bit, that’s cool, too. Like, this is where it ends, right? If, if something crosses this particular line, that’s a deal-breaker for me. Is that how you would describe that?
Terri Cole: I would. And I think that the thing that’s really important though that I find that women in general are always questioning if they have the right to have deal-breakers, like, like setting limits. So like, “Am I being unreasonable?” You know?
Marie Forleo: Yeah, or threatening?
Terri Cole: Oh, everything about boundaries…
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: …the fear, the myth, is that you have to be hard, and that you have to be like punching people in the face. And it’s like, Jersey Marie all the time, right? Like, if you’re a boundary boss, are you going to be… just conflict and bawling people out.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: You’re not.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: And actually when you think about when you master anything, when you get to the end of this journey, you’re actually doing it with ease and grace, and when appropriate, love, because it won’t always be appropriate. Like, it could be your boss, you don’t have to be so loving, but you know what I’m saying?
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: It becomes easy because you know that you have a right to the way you feel.
So, let’s make the distinction between preferences, desires, and deal-breakers. Preferences are things that could go either way. It’s like a nice to have, right? I would, I would like it but it’s really like I have a preference to have coffee over tea. Most of those things are not like relationship ending, earth-shattering, but they’re still important that you know what they are and that where you can, you honor them. Why shouldn’t you get what you want as much as possible if it’s not trampling on someone else, right?
I mean, we make sacrifices all the time. We have families, we have spouses, we have partners, we have friends and family. Sure. But in general, I mean, I negotiate for my preferences all the frigging time because I want to, because I believe that my husband cares, I know he does, what I think and what I want. And I care about him too. So it isn’t like I’m trampling on him. If he says, “You know, Terri, actually, this thing is important to me.” I’m like, done.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: Anything. If he says, “This matters to me,” because he doesn’t often, done. So preferences are things that you can share.
Desires are really the ones, if you were to say this is important to me, that’s more likely that falls in the desire category. But these are all boundaries, right, because they, they impact what’s happening in our daily lives. When you move into limits and deal-breakers, you need to know yourself. I have this thing where, I’m a highly sensitive person, and I’ve shared a bunch in the book about empaths and highly sensitive people because these are my people. And so, I don’t like places with loud music and whatever. So, and when I’m done somewhere, I need to leave, that’s it. So I always make sure I can drive and I always make sure when it’s time. So all my, my girls, I have the same friends since Nixon was in office.
So, as soon as I stand up, wherever we are, she’s like, “Oh, it’s time to go. She’s ready to go.” I’m like, “Listen, bitches. I don’t care who doesn’t leave. I’m getting in my car and I’m leaving. I’m not mad if you don’t leave. I’ll meet you at the house, just give me keys.” I don’t, you get to a point where… and those are also friends I’ve had for like five decades. But…
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: You get to a point where understanding your own limits and deal-breakers means that you also know that you don’t need to write a dissertation to convince someone else that you have a right. I don’t give a crap if my friends don’t understand why I want to leave when I do and I just leave. I don’t care. They accept me the way that I am. They think it’s weird, then fine, I’m weird. I literally don’t care. If they ask me why, I’m happy to tell them and I have over the years like it’s just, I get to a saturation point of noise and I got to go, that’s it. And if I don’t, I’ll end up with a headache and I feel crappy, I’ll be mad at all you, so wouldn’t you rather me leave?
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: Good point, yes, we would rather you leave.
But if I’m with my clients and in the courses that I teach, people feel like, women in particular, like they have to convince someone. Whether they’re saying no about something, they feel like they need a really good reason to say no. And I’m like, “You don’t. How about you just don’t fucking want to do that thing.” That actually in and of itself is a good reason. You don’t need Betty’s permission to not go to an outside concert if you don’t want to do that. You can be like, “I’m a, I’m a no to Tanglewood and a yes to you, Betty, I still love you, but I don’t want to go.” Like, why Betty going to take it personally? And if she does, that’s not my side of the street.
Marie Forleo: That’s right.
Terri Cole: You know, So you don’t have to convince people that you have a right. And you don’t need a good enough… because in, in romantic relationships, I just want to say this one last bit about this.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: It’s like, people feel, women in particular, feel like if their partner says, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” or, “That’s like ridiculous,” or, “That’s not what I’ve said,” or, “I didn’t mean that,” you know, “That’s not the way that I meant it,” or, “I’m not going to do the thing you just asked me because it doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t get it.”
So I give this example of many years ago when Vic and I were still living in Jersey, how he would come pick me up from the train, I’d go to the city. And if I got out of the train and if I looked down, because it was one of those ones that was up, and I would see the car, I would be so happy. I’d be skipping and running down the stairs to see him. Wow, I was in love. I still am. But, I mean, literally, I would be running to the car.
But if I got out of that train and he wasn’t there yet, I have no idea why, but I would be super bummed. Like, doesn’t make sense. He would pull up 15 seconds later when I got downstairs. I don’t know why, really made me feel bad. So in the beginning, I just would be like kind of pissy and a little bit withdrawn and angered. Let it be a little chilly so he got the idea. I would hint that there was a problem.
And then finally, I was like, “This is the dumbest thing ever. Why am I doing this?” And I said to him, “Hey, I don’t know why, but if you are not there, it makes me feel like crap. This makes no sense. But can you just do me a favor and just, I’d like to make a simple request that you work to just be there before the train pulls in.” He’s like, “Of course, okay.” Now, he’s an easygoing Pisces. He’s 10 years older than me. So I’m not saying every person’s person is going to be as mellow as my husband.
But he didn’t even say, “Why?” He wasn’t even like, “That makes no sense at all.” Because in a way it doesn’t.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: But what does have to matter to anyone who’s going to be in my life is the way that I feel, like you need to care. Whether you understand, you don’t need to think it makes sense. I don’t care if you do but you need to care. If I’m saying, “Hey, this is causing me pain.” Because if anyone I love says this is causing me pain, I’m like, “If I can stop doing that thing, I will immediately stop doing that thing.” So, don’t think those of you listening and watching that you need to convince, you, you have the right to the way that you feel.
And the thing with emotional boundaries is that someone’s saying, “You shouldn’t feel that way. That’s dumb, right?” Nobody has a right to tell you how you feel, and not to mention most of the time how the horse is already out of the barn, because you’re like, “Oh, good, you told me I shouldn’t feel that way. Now, I don’t.” You’re like, “Too late. I already feel that way.” Right?
Marie Forleo: Oh, my gosh, I love you so much. Yes. And I want to highlight, I want to underscore something that actually builds off this quite nicely. You wrote it on 64. “Your healing comes from having the courage to ask for what you authentically want regardless of what the other person does.” And I think that there’s so much in that especially for, for those of us who might be feeling just like we’re out in space in terms of boundaries like, “Whoa, how do I even get a grip on this?”
Just that notion that healing can come from having the courage to ask for what you want authentically and, again, not like Jersey Marie coming through, like, “Hey, this is how it’s got to be.” Right?
Terri Cole: Right.
Marie Forleo: That’s not going to, and we’ll get to that in a few moments. But I just wanted to thank you for writing that because I, I feel like it’s so important. And even that in and of itself because we can’t control other people. And we’re talking about boundaries and they can be applicable in so many situations. You’re talking about Vic, I’m thinking about Josh, and I’m sure folks listening or watching are thinking about their significant others. And then you kind of think about as you go to the outer circles of your life, the colleagues, the acquaintances, the whoever you see on the street, you know, these things, we have to be willing to navigate them in different ways.
Terri Cole: Yes.
Marie Forleo: So, I love that notion of having the courage. Is there anything that you want to say on that because, obviously, you know, boundaries are important for our intimate relationships. But they’re also important, I think, for the world at large.
And one of the things that has really been so freeing for me, you might know this, Terri, because we’re friends, but for those listening who may not, you know, actually most of them should know this. I’m not that real big on social media in terms of like, I don’t spend much time there generally speaking. It’s like very not a big part of my life and I love it. Because I think that’s probably one of the places where people have the shittiest boundaries. And I can witness things.
I’m like, “Y’all think that’s okay to say to some that you really…” Just, it’s kind of mind-blowing. So I love this book for that as well, to be able to take care of yourself in a really healthy way while we are living in this modern society where there are so many inputs, you know, that you’re choosing to participate in. But, yeah, so I’ll stop there and see if there’s anything you want to add.
Terri Cole: There’s, there’s two things I want to say. I love that. So, with the social media stuff, there’s this thing as a meme going around. And I’m not sure who said it, I didn’t. But it was like, you know, you don’t have to, you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to, right? Literally, you could be like you could RSVP, “No thanks.” Right? I’m not doing that. And, and really not allowing people who you certainly don’t know to hook you into these low vibration experiences. You will most likely not change that person. So I’m not talking about in your real life having real conversations, that is important.
But social media, like you got to have boundaries with it and with technology. And I know that you and Josh do. Vic and I do as well where we have no, you got Hip-Hop Shabbat or you used to like where it’s like none of, none of this. We’re not doing this tonight. No phones while we’re eating. No phones when we’re together. And if something were happening, and Vic need or anybody, if I’m with anybody and if we’re talking and you pick up your phone, I will say it nicely, “I’ll wait until you’re done.”
Marie Forleo: Yep.
Terri Cole: And if they go, “No, you know, you know, I can listen.” I’m like, “Oh, no.”
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Terri Cole: “I really need you to listen with your ears and your eyeballs.”
Marie Forleo: Yep.
Terri Cole: “There’s a billion and five other things I could be doing right now. I’m not looking at the top of your head while you scroll Insta. Absolutely not, so, no.” And people are like, “You’re a pain,” I’m like, “No.” And this should be in our lives, we’re having these, I call it like life light, where we think we can multitask. And yet there’s been Harvard studies that tell us, we cannot, we’re just doing everything 30% shittier, so we actually can’t.
But in what you remember and the emotional impression and the neural pathways, when your attention is somewhere else, you will not remember that experience in the same way. So why are we distracting ourselves from our one and only life this time around? For what? To see what Reese Witherspoon, who I love, is talking about like, I don’t know. I feel like it can wait.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Terri Cole: Your life needs to be the topmost important thing. So that’s…
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Terri Cole: Yes. So boundary is yes. It is not a hotbed of mental health or boundaries is the internet.
But what I wanted to say one thing that you said about the notion that asking someone something or for what you want even if you’re not sure what they’re going to say that that was something that I learned from Ruth that was so profound. Because I thought the point in asking, kind of was like to get the person to do the thing I wanted them to do, right? Isn’t that the point? Apparently not.
And Ruth really made it clear to me, she’s like, “Terri, don’t you see though that by you being brave enough,” in particular this was a situation with my dad, “being brave enough to actually say what you want, that’s you, standing up for you. You having your own back and it’s a very loving thing to do in a relationship because it allows the other person to know who you are, what your heart’s desire is.” I would really like this and I’m also a grown-up. And if you say, no, I’m not going to light myself on fire. I’m going to be okay. I’m not that fragile, right?
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Terri Cole: Why is this so hard? When we’re boundary disasters though, someone else’s no can feel very devastating.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Terri Cole: And you got to get used to it like, it’s okay.
Marie Forleo: Yep
Terri Cole: If we want to be honest in our lives, you have to learn to say no when you want to say no. And you’ve got to also be able to accept someone else’s no.
Marie Forleo: Yes. And speaking of that, one of my favorite parts of the book is chapter 10, which is the real world scripts and scenarios. This has been such a huge thing in my whole life because, A, I love communication. I, I love working on my communication, striving to be better at it. And I’ve always found that in those really tricky, emotionally delicate places, having some semblance of a framework of the right words that I could either try on or tweak for myself has made, my goodness, the world of difference.
So I’m just going to read two just to give people a little teaser because you got to get the book to have all the scripts that Terri puts together. So, one example for saying no, speaking of saying no, “I have other priorities but I’m sending you good vibes to figure this one out.” I was like, “Yes, all right.” I have other priorities. It’s like, “That’s true. That’s very true.” Or, I like this one, “For someone who negates your feelings: I’m telling you how I feel, not asking for your opinion.” I was like, that’s why Terri is from Jersey, Terri and Marie. I was like, “Yep.”
Terri Cole: That’s correct.
Marie Forleo: “I’m telling you how I feel. I’m not asking for your opinion.” It’s very direct. It’s very straight. It’s very to the point. And obviously, I would be able to deliver, as you would, as anyone would who’s watching right now, you can deliver that with fire or you can deliver that with a feeling of love.
Terri Cole: Yep.
Marie Forleo: Like a sense of neutrality and a sense of clarity and a sense of firmness, but not necessarily a machete, right?
Terri Cole: We, we definitely do not need the machete, but what is interesting is that in all the scripts, because I gave every scenario you could find yourself in, from in-laws, to neighbors, to narcissists, to everybody, you can make them your own. So you will find a way. And we also have sentence starters where, listen, if it’s someone who I love, then I, then I want to start with something positive. And say, “You know, Betty, I love that you always think of me and I always think to ask me these things, like it makes, it really makes me so happy that you do and yet I can’t go on Sunday to whatever, but thank you.”
And if that’s how I really feel, it, for me, it makes saying no or declining an invitation, aligned with how I feel, which is that I want to lovingly say no to that person that I care about.
Marie Forleo: Yes. That’s right.
Terri Cole: And the, the extremes, and this kind of goes back to Marie from France for a sec. In the beginning when you start getting these skills or when you’re vacillating, which is what Marie describes. She’s vacillating between feeling being over-boundaried, which is too rigid, or being under-boundaried, which is too porous, right, if we’re talking about boundaries. That in the beginning, a lot of times, we’ve waited a really long time to start setting boundaries.
So there’s two things that I always see happen. One, is that every person is like, “I literally can’t wait to get a bullhorn and tell everyone like, there’s a new boundary sheriff in town. Everything is going to change. I’m not doing this anymore.” They want to literally have a conversation with everyone. I was like, “Okay, how about we have no conversations, not like that because it almost is discharging the anxiety that you feel about changing the dance, right?” We’re unilaterally changing our relationship, relationship dances, and that brings up anxiety.
So we’re like, “I’m just going to tell them.” I’m like, “No, you’re not, because that doesn’t work.” What you can do is slowly but surely, as I teach you in the book, take baby steps towards establishing different boundaries that are more aligned with the way you feel. Learning to speak your truth with ease and grace. And before you know it, talking true will literally become your new normal. And it feels so good to be seen.
So, understanding that the, the beginning you might react, you might have this very energized sort of overreaction when you finally say something because you’re so waiting for someone to be defensive or to be mean or to do something. So you’re like, “Yeah, Betty, I’m…” Betty is like, “Holy crap, I did not know that was coming.” But you will find your place in the middle. So, we do a lot of sort of role-playing in the book so that you’re able to say it.
Like once you say the words, because in the beginning, you feel like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t,” then when you see all the scripts, you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, I can,” because I included a lot of ones that would be perfect for you that are funny.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Terri Cole: Like, I use humor a lot, not like sarcasm, not to tell someone to F off. But, honestly…
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Terri Cole: I don’t need to school Bob in accounting, like I don’t. But when he asked me how much money I make, I also don’t need to tell him.
Marie Forleo: Yep.
Terri Cole: So, intrusive questions is another, like boundaries and conversations, because these are also really emotional boundaries where so much of the time women in my courses would be like, “This person asked me this intimate question. And then I frigging answered it and I’m so mad at myself and I feel humiliated and I’m embarrassed. The person asked me, ‘Why don’t I have kids’ or ‘Why did, why did my husband I break up.’” Or whatever the thing is.
So, this is also a skill that we learn. There’s ways of deflecting because we don’t have to be “brutally honest.” Quote unquote. What does that even mean? I don’t love the whole thing with people being like, “You know, I’ll tell you the truth,” and I always feel like that’s someone who’s got a little sadistic streak and can’t wait to tell you how bad your new haircut is. Do you know what I mean? Or like, “I don’t like it, those pants don’t look good on you. I’ll tell it to you straight.” Yeah, do me a favor, Betty, don’t. I don’t, I don’t need that.
But you, you’ll get better at it the more that you do and you’ll find your style. And I know not everyone will do it with humor so… But I peppered that throughout. Because I find that you can just say when Bob says, “How much money do you make?” You know, you can say, you know… Or, “What are you doing on your personal day?” Let’s say. If he says, “How much money do you make?” You can say, “Trust me, Bob, not nearly what I’m worth.” Right? You’re not answering. Or, “What are you doing? You took off tomorrow, what are you doing?” “That’s why they call it a personal day, Bob.” Right?
Again, tongue in cheek. I don’t care about Bob. Look, you know, if Bob got abducted by aliens today, you’d probably be fine.
Marie Forleo: Yep.
Terri Cole: So you don’t need to invest in your boundaries in the same way with Bob from accounting as you would your partner.
Marie Forleo: Yep.
Terri Cole: And you will find that, that happy medium. And it is nerve-wracking which is why practicing and saying the words is so incredibly helpful.
Marie Forleo: I love that. Let’s wrap up today. I think we did a little hunting around on the internet which is always precarious and you can’t ever really confirm that much. So, maybe it’s a Polish proverb, maybe it’s not. But it made me laugh. And you have this phrase that it can be especially useful for boundary destroyers. Those people who just want to be like a bull in a China shop. When you got your boundary and they’re just not respecting it.
Terri Cole: Yep.
Marie Forleo: The phrase is, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Can you tell us, it just made me chuckle so much. And, again, for many folks in our audience, whether it’s Marie or other people who have that natural fix-it kind of tendency or who feel like they have to go in and rescue or take care of everyone or do the things, how does this phrase work out with retaining your own boundaries for yourself?
Terri Cole: It is absolutely essential to know what is your circus and your monkeys and what is not. And when we have this tendency to get on everyone else’s side of the street, fix for this one, do for this one, depleting ourselves in the process, not only are we a boundary disaster but what we’re really doing is such a disservice to our relationships. Because you know where that train goes, there’s literally one-stop and that is bitter land, nowhere else to go. You can only over-give for so long before you will morph into the martyr syndrome where you’re like, nobody could be grateful enough because you’re actually giving from a disordered place when you’re over-giving. You’re not. It’s not a badge, it’s not something that’s good.
Being nice is wonderful. So those of you who go, “What’s wrong with being nice?” Nothing. But over giving at the expense of your mental health and how you feel, and that feeling taken advantage of by people when you are literally doing it to yourself, that is not being nice. That’s being dishonest and it really harms your relationships. So, you don’t have to over function. You are worthy of having these boundaries of being loved for who you are, of being known and being seen without being utilitarian in every single moment of every relationship that you have.
Marie Forleo: Terri, you are awesome. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for the gift of this incredible book in the world and your work for decades now. You are just a gem. So, thanks for sharing with us today. And I’m so excited for all you watching to get your hands on Boundary Boss because it will change your life.
Terri Cole: Yes. And we have a thing for you too. Do you want your thing?
Marie Forleo: Yeah. Oh! Yeah.
Terri Cole: boundaryboss.me/marie.
Marie Forleo: Oh!
Terri Cole: I’ve created something for your people, simplify and do less with boundaries.
Marie Forleo: You’re amazing. Thank you so much. Say that URL one more time, mama.
Terri Cole: It is boundaryboss.me/marie.
Marie Forleo: Wonderful. Thanks again, Terri. I love you.
Terri Cole: I love you too. And thank you so much for having me. I so appreciate your support.
Marie Forleo: What a fantastic conversation, am I right? Now, Terri and I would love to hear from you. I’m curious. We talked about a lot of different things. What’s the biggest insight that you are taking away from this conversation? And most importantly, how can you put that insight into action in your life starting right now. I want you to leave a comment below and let me know. Now, as always, the best conversations happen over at the magical land of marieforleo.com. So, go there and leave a comment now.
And if you’re not yet subscribed to our email list, I don’t know what you’re thinking about. I send awesome, inspiring emails every single Tuesday and you don’t want to miss out so hop on that list. Until next time, stay on your game and keep going for your big dreams, because the world really does need that very special gift that only you have. Thank you so much for tuning in. And I’ll catch you next time on MarieTV and The Marie Forleo Podcast.
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