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Session 199: Maintaining Digital Boundaries

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

Setting and maintaining boundaries is something we revisit often here on the podcast because I think for many of us there’s always work to be done in this area. One area that we haven’t discussed is what boundary setting looks like in the digital world. And who better to join us for this conversation than the woman who has literally written the book about boundaries, Nedra Glover Tawwab, LCSW. Nedra and I chatted about the 6 different types of boundaries, the differences between codependency and counterdependency, what it looks like to set boundaries in digital spaces, and she shared some reflection questions to help you to get in touch with the boundaries you may need to set.

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Grab a copy of Set Boundaries, Find Peace

Instagram: @nedratawwab

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Read Full Transcript

Session 199: Maintaining Digital Boundaries

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 199 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll dive into the episode right after a word from our sponsors.


Dr. Joy: Setting and maintaining boundaries is something we revisit often here at Therapy for Black Girls because, I think for many of us, there's always more work to be done in this area. Who better to join us for this conversation than the woman who has literally written the book about boundaries–Nedra Glover Tawwab? Nedra is a licensed therapist and sought-after relationship expert and has practiced relationship therapy for 12 years. She's the founder and owner of the group therapy practice–Kaleidoscope Counseling–and the author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself.

Nedra and I chatted about the six different types of boundaries, the differences between codependency and counter dependency, what it looks like to set boundaries in digital spaces, and she shared some reflection questions to help you get in touch with the boundaries you may need to set. If there's something that resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession. Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: I’m so excited to have you back today, Nedra.

Nedra: I am so, so excited to be here.

Dr. Joy: Congratulations, happy book release week, I am sure there's tons going on for you right now.

Nedra: Yes, it's such a fun time.

Dr. Joy: I bet. You have visited with us before, talking all about boundaries and codependency when you first came, and we of course talk a lot about boundaries on the podcast. Because in the book you talk about six different types of boundaries, can you tell us what they are?

Nedra: Yes. In the book, I talk about six types of boundaries and the first type of boundaries is physical boundaries and this has to do with your personal space, your physical touch. And violations for that might look like physical abuse or we're in the grocery store and someone is standing too close to you. The second type is sexual and that is touching someone's body or commenting. And of course, for that, violations... The number one is assault, abuse, molestation and inappropriate jokes about other folks’ body.

Number three is intellectual and that is your thoughts and ideas. And those boundaries are being violated when we are ridiculing other people for having views or opinions that aren’t unsafe but just something that we don't agree with. Number four would be your sharing of your feelings. So when we're in relationships with people, it’s important that they hear us, that they understand us, and we share a lot emotionally with other people. And so violating someone's emotional boundary would look like invalidating their feelings, telling them that what they're saying doesn't matter or minimizing what they’re saying.

Material boundaries, that's your possessions. I remember one time in college I let someone borrow my flat irons and they returned them back and the little plate was broke, like they violated my boundary. And they had the nerve to say “That’s how I found them,” aargh! So using someone's things and tearing it up or taking things without permission, those are all violations of someone's material boundaries.

And then the last one, which I think is the biggest, that's time boundaries. And that's where we manage our time, it's about how other people try to manage our time. And the really big violation that we have there is not practicing self-care or over committing ourselves or even asking other people to do things when we know that they may not have the capacity to do it. Those are ways that we violate other people's time. But mostly with the time boundary, it’s typically us doing it to ourselves.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. And you mentioned that that is a big violation. In the book, you make the distinction between little B versus big B violations. Can you talk more about the differences between the two? How can people identify those?

Nedra: Yeah, so little B is like the everyday little things that sort of pop in that don't penetrate your spirit. It's just like, oh, my gosh, I was talking to someone and they just told me a bunch of information that I wasn't ready for. That happens occasionally so it's like these little micro violations. The Big B's are the things that have eroded the relationship. Codependency, enmeshment, long term history of one-sided relationships. Those are those really big boundary violations and that requires a deeper level of work because we have to do more to repair the boundary issues in those relationships.

With a little B, if it's something like your coworker has asked for your help on a project, you told them no and they asked again, it's not a deep offense but it might be something worth addressing to make sure that the boundary is not continuing to be violated after you say no. But when we have those long histories with folks, of them violating boundaries, it's a really big violation.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. And you mentioned, I think you said enmeshment and codependence and I would just love for us to be able to have a conversation about what these topics are. Because I feel like these are things sometimes people talk about like either on social media, you will see it in an article, but we don't always have a good understanding of what they are and how each is different from the other. You identify four types of big B boundary violations; can you talk more in depth about each of those?

Nedra: Yes. Let's talk about codependency because I'm a content creator, I create a lot of stuff on Instagram and I do feel like codependency is a super buzzword and we apply it to “Oh my gosh, you're a codependent.” But really, we're supposed to be in relationships with people and help them at times and receive help from them. That behavior is not codependent. The relationship is codependent mostly when it is one sided. This person typically has some issues that are unhealthy for them and we're supporting them in continuing with these unhealthy issues. So for codependency, lots of times when we're codependent, we are not allowing people to sort of fix and work through some of the challenges that they can on their own. Have you seen, like, the reshaping of codependency on social media, Dr. Joy?

Dr. Joy: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Like you mentioned, people throw it around, it feels like, very casually and don't really know like the intricacies of it.

Nedra: Yes. I think codependency is becoming the new pomegranate like it's the cucumber melon of mental health right now where it's like “oh, they're codependent.” And it's like, yeah, sometimes they are but sometimes it is also a situation where things could be healthy or not. Codependency is a really big one. Trauma bonding, and that's when we start to make excuses for people mistreating us. That typically comes from childhoods where we've experienced some sort of unhealthy dynamic in relationships and we start to believe “it's my fault, I must have done something to contribute to this in some way.”

And so when we get into our adult relationships and we have partners and we have friends and all of these people who may be legitimately doing something to us, we kind of give them a pass. When they have a bad day, you can't talk to them, that's why they yelled at me. All of that sort of stuff of becoming a part of the abusive cycle. And so it's really important to acknowledge when you're being mistreated by someone and not to allow that to be your fault.

Another really big one is enmeshment and there is a big like, oh my gosh, what's the difference between enmeshment and the difference between codependency? Enmeshment, we typically... We don't know the difference between what we feel and what someone else is feeling. We hear this a lot when it's like I just take on everything and everything becomes our problem for other people. And we have to allow people the ability to manage their lives. You know, it's kind of like parenting–you always want to help your kid but as they get a little bit older, they want a little more freedom. And most adults are like that. Like they can do sometimes more than what we're allowing them to do.

Dr. Joy: You talked about enmeshment. When you gave the definition, it sounds like this other word that I hear people throwing around quite a lot in terms of being an empath.

Nedra: There are some people who are naturally like attuned to people feelings and a little more drained by them but it's very important to have boundaries and to have the separation between how I feel and how someone else is feeling. And if we're not able to do that, yeah, that could be very empathetic of us but it's also harmful to us because we're not able to operate in these relationships in a healthy way without feeling like this is something that I have to do.

When people identify as empaths, I think it’s a healthy term. I think the challenge is, even within that, how do we create boundaries around the behaviors of taking on other people's feelings? And so I'm always careful with my clients to not establish that as like an identity that limits them from saying, “I can't do this for you,” because they feel like well, that’s just a part of who I am. And it's like, yeah, but it seems like you're not in a position to help this person. If you have the resources, then that's fine. So we have to be very careful with using that term and not applying it to “I can't have any boundaries because this is who I am.” No, you can be a very empathetic person and still have boundaries.

Dr. Joy: You know, Nedra, as we're talking, I am aware that it feels like we are doing some education in terms of these terms that people often see on social media. And I think that there's a real excitement, right? Like I think people really want to know about themselves, they want to understand their reactions to certain things and so I think that there's just real excitement around learning some of these things. But I do think, like you're saying, we have to be careful not to take on some of these terms as identities or make it feel as if it's fixed and there's nothing we can do about it. Because most often, there are things that you can do about it.

Nedra: Mm hmm. Yeah, like you're not powerless over being codependent. You're not powerless over being an empath and so you have to remember that there are still things you could do. Is it going to be challenging? Absolutely, it’s going to be challenging. But you certainly can start to develop some limitations with yourself with other people, and not have those relationships so blended and unhealthy.

That *[inaudible 0:13:57] is very that way with mental health parents, too. You know, a lot of times, I tell people their diagnosis. Like as we're starting, we have to do maybe some paperwork or something, but every single session, I'm not bringing up the B word of bipolar, I'm not bringing up the D word of depression, because it's just a set of behaviors and so what we're working on is really treating behaviors. So we don't have to create this identity around the diagnosis; we just want to help you in these areas where you want help. So the term of what's happening, it’s relevant but it's not essential to you getting some change behaviors and resources.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. So you were about to dive into counter dependency. This is a newer one that I don't know that we talk very often about. What is counter dependency?

Nedra: Well, counter dependency, I liken it to being the strong one. Because so often with being the strong one, that has come from learning that people cannot be there for you and so you start to take on this identity of counter dependency. Other people can't help me. You start to be uncomfortable being vulnerable with people, you may start to not be able to accept help.

One of the exercises that I have my clients do, that are counter dependent, is the silliest thing and they be like, “Why do I have to do this?” But I say when you go to the grocery store and they say, “Do you want me to help you to your car?” Say yes. Say yes. It’s their whole job to help you but we get so in the mode of, no, I can do everything myself. That we have to start very small in saying, “Yes, I need help. Please come over here.” When it’s your birthday, just saying to people, like, “I'm celebrating my birthday this year. I'm accepting gifts.” Really putting yourself out there to not have people buy into this idea that you don't need them and you're the strong one.

And reshaping a lot of our conversations because sometimes people believe that because we are demonstrating that we don't need people and sometimes you're demonstrating that because we're not letting them in, and so we have to be very clear that we all need people. Everyone needs people, even the strong one. We need people and so that counter dependency, the boundary issues, they are usually rigid. There are so many walls built to keep people out, to keep you safe and not needing them, and it's just not a healthy way to function.

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Nedra, right after the break.


Dr. Joy: Nedra, is there a difference or any subtleties towards when someone might develop a strategy of being codependent versus counter dependent?

Nedra: I would say so. When we look at dysfunctional families, there are certainly some people in the family who are more comfortable being like everyone else in the family and then there are people who are cycle breakers, who are like, I don't want this thing. And I think sometimes when a person is the cycle breaker or they are stepping away from a system of something, it is easier to maybe develop “I don't need people” but you would step away and still need people.

Now, it may not be the system of support in your family, but it could be a system of support outside your family or a few people from your family. It really depends. But I think sometimes when you are becoming different than everyone else, it's kind of like that black sheep. You start to develop this identity of “I have to do everything by myself” and really starting to minimize the need of support from other people, which is an important step in being a healthy person. We need other people.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, and I can imagine that there are some people enjoying our conversation right now who are like kind of shaking at the idea of having to ask for help. And we know how often this does show up for black women specifically, like this identity of the strong woman. Whether that is something we claim ourselves or something other people put on us, it is very much a narrative that is kind of prevalent among black women. You've already offered the idea of like letting people help at the grocery store or probably sharing that it’s your birthday and you're accepting gifts. Are there are other things that people who struggle with asking for help could practice doing?

Nedra: Asking the right people is the biggest thing because sometimes we develop this mindset that nobody will help us but the nobody we're talking about are two people who won't help you and they've consistently not helped you. Meanwhile, you have 152 people in your life but relying on those two people who have proven that they cannot do it will make you think like nobody will do it. And it's typically not nobody, but we have to figure out who can help us, who is willing to help us?

And sometimes that's stepping away from the people that you think should be helping you and moving towards some of these other people who are more capable. Because it might not be everybody but we have to set ourselves up for success. And so if we go to a few people and they are consistently unavailable, perhaps just thinking of other people and not stopping there and saying, you know, there's no one to help me. It's not those people. So what other people can you find to have supportive relationships with?

Dr. Joy: Yeah, and I think that that's important to explore because I wonder if the same two people you're going to are the same two people that you're always showing up for. So the idea is that, of course, they're going to be there for me because I'm always there for them, when that of course might not be the case.

Nedra: Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes in that scenario, I think that people may be able to be supportive to us in different ways. Perhaps they're a good person to talk to but they may not be able to babysit your kids. Perhaps they are the person that you call for a good laugh after a long day. And so we have to be very clear about the capacity of the people that we love, because everybody doesn't have the same skill set. And so if we're going to this person who doesn't have a financial resource and asking to borrow money, yeah, that might be a no from them. So we have to really think about capacity and not relationship, because sometimes we really get focused on “Well, this is my mother, this is my brother, so they should be able to X.” But they may not be in the situation to help you in the way that you're needing.

Dr. Joy: That is a great point, thank you for sharing it. I want to shift a little bit to talk more about boundaries in terms of technology. We know, especially this year, it feels like technology really has just kind of taken over our lives. We are working from home, relaxing at home, having happy hours at home, celebrating birthday parties at home, like just all of the things at home. So I would love to hear your thoughts about how we manage technology when it feels like it really is just bleeding into all of the areas of our lives.

Nedra: One of my favorite things is the Do Not Disturb feature. My ringer is literally like never on, partially because I'm a therapist and anytime I've left it on and it rings in session, I'm like “Oh!” I’m so, oh, like... So now I just keep it off to not disturb anyone but it's really peaceful because my mindset is: if I am on my phone, I'm using my phone and if I'm not, I'm not using my phone. And so I like having that separation of like phone time and TV time and, you know, time with my kids or those sorts of things. But I do think that with phones now, because there's email, text messaging, DMing and all of these things, there is this almost expectation that everyone is available all the time.

I don't know how many times I've heard people say, “Did you see my text?” And it's like, yeah, I didn't check it. I saw it but I didn't look at it. It's an expectation of like having to always be engaged. And so we, as the consumer of technology, we have the power to say I'm going to disengage. This time is not working for me. I will only spend two hours on social media, whatever your time frame is. I will (blank). Like you have the power to make those accommodations that sort of serve you. Because 20 years ago, it seems like you can't even imagine a world without the technology now, that’s why I’m like what year was it? I don't remember.

Like in the 1900s when people had like*[inaudible 0:24:50] or stuff, you know, if you left your house, people couldn't get in touch with you. And there was no expectation that they would try. Like they respected that when you got back home, you had a voicemail or whatnot. And now that we have cell phones, it’s like, no, you always have to be available. But it's a beautiful space to say that there are some times that I'm on and there are some times that I'm off, and I can create those times for myself.

Dr. Joy: So how do we counter that? Because you're right. I mean, previously (in another lifetime, it feels like) you could just leave the house, there was no phone. Or if you had a phone, it was like a huge bag in your trunk, only to be used for emergencies, not like the little ones that fit in our pockets. So how do we counter this expectation from others that we will always be available and engaged?

Nedra: Part of it is telling people that you're not. Just simply saying like if you have someone who's calling you during the work day–which has been a big thing in the pandemic where people just went back to it was like a Saturday every day, where people are just contacting you all day and this sort of thing. And just having to reestablish those boundaries of “Hey, I am at home but still from 10 to four o’clock, I’m working and I’m not able to talk on my phone or respond to text messages.” So saying to people that I'm not available.

Or after eight o'clock, I'll have the Do Not Disturb on my phone because I really like to wind down and get ready for bed. Or I don't talk on the phone during the week. Weekends are the best time for me. If you send me a message, I will respond when I am available. One beautiful thing that I heard about email is someone putting like in their signature: I check emails at 12 and four every day. They just wrote the boundary there. Like these are the times where you can expect that I'll be responding to email, but I'm not treating this email like an emergency. And removing it from your phone and really making that point to other people.

Technology is not the problem. It’s not Instagram, Facebook, these things are not the problem. It is us using these things in a way that could be harmful to us. And those restrictions or expectations, limitations we set around social media, it’s really going to be based on our lifestyles, what we need to do. There are some people who can text all day when they're at work so it's not a clear cut “you cannot do this” but really figuring out what works for your life.

Dr. Joy: Something else that of course has happened during the pandemic is that people want to stay informed. And a primary way where people are doing that is through news on social media or kind of checking out news sites, but I do think that there is a point at which you become overloaded by information. Can you talk a little bit about how you might set boundaries around things that you do need to know but of course there still needs to be a boundary?

Nedra: Well, Instagram has some wonderful features like mute, block, that we need to utilize more. I get a lot of questions from people who say, “My friend keeps posting news stories; how do I stop them?” And it's always how do you mute them? How do you unfollow them? Because it's not always getting people to change their content. Because other people might really like it, they want the news but if you don't want the news, you can mute it. Or even at a particular time. Like when things happen in the world, I noticed that there are some people who will just post, post, post, and it's like, wow, I only need one story about this. I don't need like up to the minute, you know, updates and that sort of thing. And so for those times, I may mute people just because it feels better for me.

Not following some news accounts could be good for you as well or just going to a resource like New York Times, Huffington Post, or wherever you find your news, and checking that for 10 minutes a day and not relying on social media for the news portion. So I think there are a lot of controls that we can put in place without saying people need to stop posting these things on social media. But how do I manage the people that I follow and engage with online?

Dr. Joy: You know, you made the comment about the social media platforms are not the problem: we are the ones that need to look at our own behavior. But I do think it is important to talk about how these platforms are set up. So we know they have huge teams of researchers, that (their) entire job is to make sure that we are on there as much as possible and we know how the algorithm works. So the algorithms typically are designed to kind of take you through a wave of emotions. Can you talk about why it's important for us to remember this and how we can do a better job of like regulating our own emotions as we kind of surf?

Nedra: Yes, you're absolutely right. Like they are appealing to your senses, they're trying to get you emotionally attached. And for most of us, it works. And I think at some point, social media is not completely bad for us and we have to think about how much can we be in this space. And so if we know that they're setting it up so when we get a like or we get a comment, we're more like, “Oh my gosh.” They say likes is almost like a drug. Like another person liked. Oh, another person liked it, like that sort of thing. So if you've noticed that that's keeping you in that space for longer than you want to be in that space, set a timer. They have it within most of the social media platforms.

And then I have an iPhone, the app will just shut off. And it was so funny, the other day I was doing a live with someone and the app just shut off. And we were talking about boundaries and I said, okay, okay, I'm back. And she was like what happened? I said I have a timer on here, so... After a certain time, my app just cut off, so boundaries, right? I'm practicing them like you just said. It shut off Instagram.

So, you know, just being really mindful of how you feel because that's how we know we need boundaries with stuff. When we start to look at social media and we're anxious, we're getting upset at people we don't know, we're getting upset at people we do know because they're posting certain types of content, we're upset that people are demanding that we text them back. Those are indicators that boundaries are necessary. And it's not that you should never feel like that about anything, but if you're chronically feeling that way about a relationship, about social media and technology, about work, *[inaudible 0:31:43] why and then really considering what a boundary could be in that situation that might make you feel a little bit better.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. More from Nedra, after the break.


Dr. Joy: Nedra, you mentioned messages in your DMs and I think that this is something else I like to talk about. We know that a lot of people make their living kind of doing internet work, whether that be influencer marketing or content creation. And so there is a certain piece of you that you are sharing with the world through your social media channels, but I think that that also then becomes difficult when you see people wanting to set boundaries. So maybe I’m comfortable sharing some information about my kids but not a ton of information but then the audience is requesting more information. And I've seen lots of people (who have like larger social media followings) talk about like the difficulty setting boundaries. Can you speak to that?

Nedra: Yes. And I think that's another space where you really have to own your boundaries. And it may be uncomfortable to let people know that there are just certain parts of you that you're not sharing, but it's your choice to share certain things. It’s so interesting, because I'm a mother of two and I never shared my kids on social media. It’s not my thing. And part of it is because I know people will start asking me more questions about it. I don't want to answer. I don't want to answer.

And so there are certain parts of your life that you can share more on. Like it’s by choice and so people can show you what they want you to see. It's like when you see these influencers and they're on a jet and all of this sort of stuff, they're showing you what they want you to see. They're not showing videos of tripping or a hole in their pant–they’re showing you exactly what they want you to see. And as a mental health person, I understand the impact of people creating a story about you. You know, as a therapist, you get that where people have this like transference and they'll say like, oh, Dr. Joy, you must be such a great friend. Or you’re a great mother. And it's really based on you having a picture of your kid up in your office and you being nice to them.

And so I know I can't control how people perceive that, but I certainly don't want to give people something else to be worried and concerned about. I'm very careful about what I share and how I share it, for myself, for my family. And I'm sure people who engage in some ways, I've heard people say like, “Oh my gosh, they said this about my kids.” Or people have asked me to do things I'm not comfortable with. And we really have to come up with those boundaries and it's tough because some of us are comfortable sharing more than others, and I think we have to determine what that is.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. And to know, I think overall, not even with just this conversation, to know that our boundaries can always change. Maybe at one point you were... Like, maybe before you had children, you were more comfortable sharing more about yourself and maybe after children, you decide that you don't want to. And so that it is always up to us to renegotiate our boundaries in any area of our lives.

Nedra: Absolutely. And, furthermore with DMs, you can answer any question you want to and you don't have to answer questions that you don't want to. That's a really powerful thing that I've learned because people will ask you questions and it’s up to me to respond or not. And I've even gotten where people will be like, “Hey, I asked you this in your comment and I see you didn't respond.” And I'm like, oh, gosh, like... Wow, they're really pushing for that answer. And sometimes it's something I'm just not comfortable answering and so I have the power to determine my comfort level.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. And I think we didn't talk about this as much today, Nedra, but I'm pretty sure we talked about it last time, just the discomfort that sometimes comes with you feeling like you're letting somebody down or disappointing someone. And that is, I think, where people often mess up with the boundaries. Is that they feel like they get this pushback and then it's like, okay, well, maybe I'm being too harsh or too critical.

Nedra: Yeah. I think the number one reason we don't set boundaries is guilt. We feel really bad for having boundaries with people. I don't enjoy or receive any pleasure from having to set boundaries and it's still a challenging practice but what's more challenging is feeling uncomfortable, feeling taken advantage of, being disrespected. In some instances, people may be abused. I think that's more challenging than the discomfort of setting that boundary.

And it doesn't have to be perfect, but just saying something to someone can really change the course of your relationship or how you're feeling in a certain situation. It really does just make you feel a little bit better. I don't know about you but there's been some times where I set some boundaries and I have to call a friend afterward just to, like, “You'll never believe what I said. I just told so and so...” Just, like I feel good when I advocate for myself and I think we all do. Even if leading up to what we say or do is uncomfortable, it still feels really good to do it because we know that we are taking care of ourselves.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. Yeah, you're right about that. The question we get asked all the time, Nedra, is how do you manage that guilt? Because I think for some people the guilt feels so overwhelming and that's why they really struggle with setting the boundaries, like you mentioned. Do you have any tips or strategies for managing the guilt that comes up with boundary setting?

Nedra: Absolutely. One is check your mindset. The thing about guilt is we typically feel it for two reasons. One, we are actually doing something bad. We're stealing, we're taking advantage of something, we’re hurting somebody, we're doing something bad and then you may feel a little guilty. The other reason, which is the majority of why we feel guilty, it's just we have been told that doing this thing is not nice. We feel bad about taking care of ourselves. We feel bad for not being there for so and so. We feel bad for not saying yes to taking on one more project. But you haven't actually done anything wrong.

No one has been harmed. There is no crime being committed. So it's really the mindset of am I being a nice person? And nice people say no. They do it in a pleasant way. I'll tell you, when I was writing this book, the way my editor said, “Oh, have you thought about this?” It was so nice, she was disagreeing with me. It was still kind but it was just like, okay. I mean, she didn't yell at me. It was just, “I wonder if this portion would look better in this part of the book.” It was so gentle, I wasn't offended. It was just like, wow, she has a way of saying “this doesn't work, you need to move it,” but it's so delicate that you can't help but respect it.

And so I think sometimes we think just saying the simple sentence or making the request of someone is going to break them down so much, they won't be able to recover. But really, setting the boundary is a caring act. Because I'll tell you, in relationships when we don't care anymore, we don't set boundaries. We leave them. And so me setting a boundary in a relationship is really an indicator that I'm trying to be in the relationship. And so you can respect the boundary, that will be great for the relationship, and if not, I might stop caring about the boundaries and not have the relationship. And so the boundary piece is just a really wonderful way of trying to stay in a relationship with someone.

Dr. Joy: I think that that's a good reminder for people. Like the work of boundary setting is an indication that there is still health in the relationship. Like there's still time for something to be done.

Nedra: Mm hmm.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. So we've talked about parenting a little bit and I want to get some information, because we do have lots of parents who listen to the podcast, around working and helping our kids set boundaries around technology. Do you have any tips for that?

Nedra: Yes. I think one of the things is just setting some parameters like no tablets at the dinner table. Or when you're with your friends, you cannot bring out an iPad. Or I've seen a lot of parents say Monday through Friday, no electronics, then on Saturday-Sunday you can use them. And so really figuring out what works for you and your family is really helpful and not letting the kid determine that because some kids will just do endless tablet, endless TV.

But giving them some other options. And I know in the pandemic, that has been a really tough one for parents because at the beginning, so many of us ran out and we bought all of the outdoor stuff. We bought all of the play doughs and all. And then after a few months, it's like go get your tablet. It’s like go get your tablet. I've been on 72 walks and I've played Barbie, I've done all the things and now I just... Just get your tablet. And so I get it and I think you have to figure out what works for your family and really pull your kids away from those areas that you don't want them to be in. So just mixing it up some, you know, having some individual playtime, some tablet time. And modeling that behavior because now, we as adults, we may not be on a tablet, but maybe we're on our phones and so kids are seeing like I always have to be engaged.

And *[inaudible 0:43:46] movement is good for you. That's how we get writers, that’s how we get dancers. You just come up with a little something when you’re bored. So just giving them a little space to get creative in what they can do, giving them some time to do it, some really dedicated time–from this time to this time, you just need to go outside and figure it out for an hour of two. Just helping them to stay away from it and really modeling for them that “Look, I'm doing this thing and I'm not using my device.” Really modeling some behaviors so that they can pick up on it, and not allowing them to just use the tablet always when bored.

Because there are so many things to do outside of technology that have advanced. There are all sorts of toys and books and all sorts of things kids could be doing, so definitely just giving them some time to do that. And also have, like some people I know it's like no more than two hours, and that's fine. But I would say what works for you and what works for your family. Because there are some kids where they could do four hours and they don't have a difference in their behavior, they're still able to do everything that they're supposed to do. And then there are others where even two hours might be too much. So it’s really important to take a look at your family.

Dr. Joy: You know, Nedra, the conversation around modeling I think is particularly timely. Of course there's a new social media app that has come out called Clubhouse–are you familiar with it?

Nedra: Mm hmm.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, so a lot of people, I think especially right now, have found real interest in using Clubhouse because it is like a great way to spend some time, really interesting conversations. And I have heard lots of parents on the app talk about just looking up and like they've been on there for four hours. And so it feels like there's this emerging technology like Clubhouse, like other things that we probably don't even know about yet, that have the potential to kind of really suck you in. Do you have any ideas or thoughts about how people can kind of pay attention to their boundaries around technology that might be emerging?

Nedra: Yeah, when anything new comes out, it is like this “oh my gosh, I really like it,” and you have to start all over with Clubhouse. I did download Clubhouse and I used it for a little bit but I too realized I'm like, wow, this is listening to like a podcast but like all day.

Dr. Joy: Right, and no pause.

Nedra: And no pause. It’s like next show, next show, next show. And so any time we step into these new places, we have to think about the boundaries. And again, it comes from us having really porous boundaries with something, where they are just like weak and we do this thing. You know, oh, my gosh, I used that thing for 10 hours. And it's don't do it again. Like how do you correct that behavior? How do you step back and say, you know, I do have a break in my day between 6:00 and 8:00 a.m., and that could be my Clubhouse time. Or at night time, I can do Clubhouse from eight until bedtime, whatever that is.

But it is an ongoing platform and so we have to be okay with missing out on stuff. We have to be okay with not having all of the information. Most information is repeated in some place at some time and we may have to get it later at a time when we can really dig into it. Now, if you have a job where you’re typing all day and you literally can listen to a lot of things happening throughout the day, okay. But if you have a job where you know you can't do that, you do have to create those boundaries to keep you employed.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. Yes, absolutely. Yeah, and I think even if it is something that you can kind of have it on in the background all day, that is still something to be mindful of because it is still like noise, so to speak. I think it is also important to pay attention to, like, is there something wrong with silence? Do you need to have something like Clubhouse, like a podcast or whatever, running all day to kind of help you avoid something? Like what's the purpose of it?

Nedra: Yeah, that's really good. To really be tuned into why you're using this thing in this way for such a long period of time. Absolutely. Just being mindful of that is so important, yeah.

Dr. Joy: So when we can, Nedra, we like to have a Press Pause moment to share with the community. And this could be an exercise or additional strategies or some kind of challenge you'd like to offer, based on our conversation, to kind of help them take it a little further. Is there anything you'd like to share for that?


Nedra: Yes. As we're setting boundaries, I think one of the biggest things to consider is what is your biggest fear around setting boundaries in your relationships with people? And as you think about that, think about the way you're thinking it might go: is that something that you are referencing from the past or is that something that you sort of made up in your head as the worst-case scenario? And then I think it’s really important to consider how might having some boundaries in this relationship improve the relationship?

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for that. I think that a lot of people will appreciate being able to reflect on that and perhaps journal on that. I think that can be a good one to take to your journal this week to kind of reflect on. Nedra, tell us where we can find you. Where can we find the book? How can people be in touch?

Nedra: Yes, so I am most present on Instagram. Because of my boundaries, I cannot use multiple social media. I can't keep up, I’m like ... So Instagram and on Instagram, I am @NedraTawwab. I have a website that has some wonderful resources and my website is My book, Set Boundaries, Find Peace, is available everywhere books are sold so I hope you enjoy the book and I hope that you become more boundaried.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for that, Nedra. We really appreciate you sharing with us again.

Nedra: You're welcome.

Dr. Joy: I'm so glad Nedra was able to join us for today's conversation. To learn more about her or to grab a copy of her book, visit the show notes at And please text two sisters right now and tell them to check out the episode. Don't forget that if you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at

And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Thank y'all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all, real soon. Take good care.


Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
Order Now

Looking for the UK Edition?
Order here

Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Order here