On today’s episode of The Best of You podcast, I’m talking with the wonderful and wise Toni Collier who shares bravely about finding herself stuck in the performance trap, and how she clawed her way out.
Toni's capability & high capacity helped her survive, but she also wound up exhausted, broken, and numbing.
As Toni says, “I had a source, which is God, but the resources I did not have.” And she had to learn to discover a more authentic, wholehearted way.
Here’s what we discuss:
2. Why we turn toward numbing as a way to cope with pain
3. What finally drove her to get help
4. How she started to find healthy relationships and find her way out of the pain.
5. Practical ways she keeps the performer part of her in check now.
6. What she would say to her young performer's heart now.
(Be ready for some tears on this one. . .)Grab a copy of Toni's new book Brave Enough to Be Broken wherever books are sold.
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Organifi —Go to www.organifi.com/bestofyou and use code BESTOFYOU for 20% off your order today!
Music by Andy Luiten
Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
- Learn more about the 7 P's of Managing Perceptions in Chapter 8 of The Best of You: Break Free From Painful Patterns, Mend Your Past, and Discover Your True Self in God, by Dr. Alison Cook
- Grab a copy of Toni Collier's new book Brave Enough to Be Broken wherever books are sold.
The Best of You Podcast: The Seven Ps of Managing Perceptions
Episode 28 with Dr. Alison Cook and Guest Toni J. Collier
Alison: Hey everyone, I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone. Welcome back to this week's episode of The Best of You podcast. Where we are going through The Seven Ps of Managing Perceptions. The ways that parts of us try to get us to cope. Try to get us to show up in our lives that keep us from authentic connection with others, with God, and with parts of ourselves that need our attention. And today we're going to talk about a performer part.
This is that part of you that can shape-shift, that can play different roles, that is adept at getting the job done. It might be a part of you that achieves, or it might be a part of you that just knows how to get the job done. And knows how to show up in whatever way is necessary in order to earn the approval, earn the affection of other people.
And my guest today, to talk about this performer part, is a new friend of mine, Toni Collier. Toni is an amazing woman who's the author of a brand new book called Brave Enough to Be Broken. And she's also got a very adept performer part of her, that did a lot to help her survive and almost got the best of her.
Toni is a coach and she's the founder of Broken Crayons Still Color. An international women's ministry that helps women process their brokenness and reclaim hope. And before we get started with Toni, I wanted to read you a few of these quotes from her new book. That really stood out to me and I just loved because they fit so well, they align so well with everything we talk about on this podcast.
That we have to trust God. We want to turn toward God in everything we're doing, especially, in this work of healing. And we also have to equip ourselves with the tools that God gives us, which is so much the focus of this podcast.
So here are some quotes, just to get started, before I bring Toni on.
"In the past, I would plead for God to take away the pain. Today I pray for God to be with me in the pain, as He and I journey toward hope."
Another quote, "I believe that Jesus is in the valleys with us. But even more than that, He wants to give us every tool to claw our way out. He's smart, and because He is the Creator of all and is working through and in everything. Not only is He spiritually present with us in every moment, but He's also giving us the practical tools to live redemption out day-by-day."
I just love that Toni, in this book, offers real spiritual wisdom as well as practical tools of how she dug herself out, and how you can dig yourself out too. So with that, Toni, welcome to The Best of You podcast. I'm so glad you're here.
Toni: I'm so grateful to be here, and I'm so excited to dive into the hard things and bring Jesus in it too.
Alison: You are just so open, and that's a big part of your path toward healing. But I want to just start a little bit at the beginning. In Brave Enough to Be Broken, in the very first chapter, you write, "I hadn't even begun to process the childhood wounds. that dug deep into my performer's heart."
Alison: It started with taking care of your mom after she'd suffered a massive stroke, when you were eight. And immediately, of course, the therapist in me, I was like, "What do you mean by performer's heart?" Tell us a little bit more about that performer part of you. That from what I read, stepped in really, legitimately, had to step in, but then got a little extreme, you were young. So tell me a little bit about what you mean by that.
Toni: When I first started my counseling journey. My counselor recommended a book called The Performer's Heart, and I started to dive into it, and I was like, "Man, this is me." Essentially what was happening was, and this is probably going to get just a little intense real fast.
But what was happening was, yes, my mom was so sick, she had a massive stroke when I was eight years old. She was paralyzed on her left side. We found out she had a blood clot, she lost her large intestine, I mean, really life-threatening things. And because my father went to overdrive at work, and he really started to kind of hide in his work, and my brothers went to drugs, and all the things, it was just me and my mom.
And, so, there were moments where if I didn't know how to drive my mom to the doctors she may have died. And, so, now, I'm growing up with this idea that if I don't take care of something. That if I don't lead something, if I'm not the one that shows up, then, things will die. That's how extreme my body was processing it. Is, "I have to be in charge, I have to do it. I have to protect everyone or they'll die."
And, so, what happened was, obviously, that leaked over into all of these other areas of my life. I also wanted to make my dad proud because if I did really well if I performed really well, he would show up. He would come back. He would say he's proud. He would leave work to come to my cheerleading competition or my acting competition.
And, so, there was just this ping-pong of like, "I'm performing to make sure that everyone stays safe and alive. I'm also performing for attention. For someone to just look at me and say, 'We're proud of you. We see you working so hard to keep everything afloat.'" And, obviously, that then manifests into college, and then it leaked over into ministry. What does that look like?
Well, you stand on stages and you perform and you don't share what's actually happening. So you don't get healed, and then you are an unhealthy leader in ministry because you're just performing. So, yes, all that.
Alison: It's unbelievable, I mean, just to put the juxtaposition I, probably, already am bent in you toward being very capable, high-achieving, I'm sure that was already in there. But then you overlay the trauma of what happened to your mom, probably other traumas, where you, literally, had to step up. You had to step up and perform beyond what any child should have to do.
Alison: You're still performing at school. You're still all the things you just said, you're getting affirmed for all. It makes so much sense, to me, that the message, what I'm hearing you say, is there's a message this part of you picked up. That was like, "Well, I can do it, I am doing it, and no one else is going to do it either." To some degree.
Alison: Oh, yes, 100%.
Alison: And no one was taking you aside, Toni, and saying, "This isn't your job." It sounds like there wasn't really anyone stepping in.
Toni: Yes, I think that's what I would say hurts the most, when I'm in counseling, when I'm processing with my counselor. The thing that gets that frog up in my throat, it gets me a little eyes to tear is the question like, "Where was everybody? Where were the school counselors? Where were my other family members? And, of course, where were you, God?"
Toni: In my deepest, darkest moments, at the beginning of my healing journey, I was like, "God, where were you? Why weren't you protecting me?" Which then manifested into the lie that God doesn't protect you.
But all along, He actually was right there protecting me from so many things, and bottling up every single one of my tears. His 'Withness' was not the question. It was, well, what do you do when everyone around you is not with you? How do you reconcile that? And it was tough, so tough.
Alison: Yes, I talk a lot of time about being spiritually strong. We have all the belief in God but, absolutely, no one, I mean, we still need the skills, the tools to learn how to live that. Now, the sense I get from your book, Toni, without spoiling it for anybody. Just the vulnerability that you share in the book is you go between, and I talk about this a lot in Boundaries for Your Soul. So you go between this over-performing, and over-producing, getting the job done, all the things on one hand, and then numbing. Which makes sense, "Let's shut it down."
Because those tender, vulnerable, sweet young parts of you were not getting the care that they needed. So tell me a little bit about that. At what point, I'm sure that's not a conscious choice. "Gee, I'm over-performing, so, golly, let's numb it down." How did that happen? If you put yourself back in young Toni when you started numbing. I don't know if there's a story that comes to mind or a first moment where it was just...
Were you conscious? I mean, reading your story, now, it's like, "of course you did. Of course, you shut yourself down. It makes perfect sense." But at the time, I'm just curious if you were conscious of it or if it was more just kind of desperation, "And I'm just doing what I need to do in the moment to survive."
Toni: Yes, 100%. I mean, I think it's the latter. I think, as children, as teens, we're so young, we're so resilient, but we are doing what we can to survive. And the very things that we've used to cope, growing up, becomes the things that take us out as adults. It's like, "Whoa, that is not a good behavior girls and boys." But I was just doing the best I could.
Alison: Oh, yes.
Toni: And the moment was when I was 13, I'll never forget it, I went over the summer to stay with my godparents and I just loved their life so much. They had a whole family, no one was sick. They had these fun things that they did. They went to basketball games, and football games and all their kids were able to be kids. And, so, of course, when you catch a glimpse of that, it's almost like a mirror to your pain and you're like, "Darn it, I want my life to be like this." And I did not want to go home at all.
Toni: I remember returning, and that was the first time that I'd really fallen vulnerable to a much older guy in high school. Who was very sexually manipulative for my entire freshman year, in high school. He would just perform these sexual acts on me until I lost my virginity at 13 in my bedroom when my parents were gone.
And it was the first time, I think, that I had found something to numb with and it was just this escape, that sex gave to me. And he also introduced me to marijuana and drinking. And, so, that just added to the numbing. I look back now and I'm like, "Yes, it was that summer when I experienced a whole family or what looked like a whole family, and I just got so sad and I didn't want to feel that anymore. And, so, that's when I started numbing, absolutely.
Alison: That makes so much sense, the juxtaposition is so... and I hear this a lot, almost tasting, or glimpse this beauty, or this safety in this family where you maybe could even be a kid.
Alison: Where you didn't have to be the adult, you could just be. A glimpse of it, while beautiful and good, also stirred up all that pain and all that sadness. And what 13-year-old knows how to deal with that? You were not equipped. And, so, someone comes in with a pseudo-false version, and it makes so much sense.
Toni: I like what you said about a 13-year-old not being equipped. And what I'm excited about in this book, is that I think we have a lot of adults that aren't equipped either.
Toni: I was numbing from 13 all the way up until 24. I got a divorce, I finally, decided to clean my life up, but I didn't have the tools and the resources to really claw my way out. I had to go get them. I had a source, which was God, but the resources, I didn't. And it's unfortunate because we have so many 25, 30, 50, 60, 70, year olds who also aren't equipped to heal, and to get into counseling, and have all these other resources.
I think that's something that we should pay attention to. I bet there's someone that's like, "Ooh, snap, I'm 35 years old, am I equipped?" And it's like, yes, we should be asking ourselves that question right now.
Alison: A 100%, I love that, that you're saying because part of the reason you weren't equipped is because the adults who were supposed to be caring for you, weren't equipped.
Alison: And, so, again, we always talk about this. I always want to add the caveat, all the moms listening, all the dads listening, all the parents, we don't say this to shame. As our friend, Curt Thompson, says, "We say this to name what's true." Not to shame, but to name. When those caregivers are not there and not equipped, there is a fallout for that that we have to be real about.
Toni: And I say this all the time, and this was a huge part of my healing journey with my parents, is that there is a difference between people that are wicked and those that are weak. And the truth is, my mom could have done nothing.
There was nothing else that she could have done with her health. It was not her fault that she got sick, that she had all these medical issues. There was nothing else she could have done. And, for my dad, when I started healing from things in my past, with my father. I realized that he had never had another example of parenting then. His dad and his dad...
And, so, I think that's so good, Alison, we've got to give people the grace to be imperfect as we all are. And from that place, I think, it's honestly so much easier to forgive if we're being honest. So many things were reconciled in my past, from just understanding that my parents were just broken, imperfect human beings. That needed the same grace that I ended up needing as well.
Alison: And we could hold true things in our own healing journey, as adults, of, "I didn't get what I needed." And that is true, there is a reason for that. And sometimes we're more there. Sometimes we go through phases of anger, we go through phases, and that's valid. And then we get to this point of, "And here are the reasons that I didn't get what I needed." And it sounds like you've done a lot of that work.
I'm curious, Toni, so you're numbing all the way through 23. But from what I understand, as you tell the story, you're also high-performing all the way through too well, you're doing both at a high level. First of all, were you aware of that divide? Were you aware of that split? And was anybody around you or could you keep it hidden?
Toni: Oh, I don't know, first of all, I thought I was going to be a lawyer. Which is probably why I kept it hidden so well, and no, I did not recognize it in the moment. I say this all the time, though, "I was living, legitimately, two different lives."
I mean, I really was, my counselor calls it my ability to be a chameleon. I can just bend, and move, and be everything everybody wants me to be, which is a part of that performer part. And I was 16, I graduated high school, but I was also, literally, sneaking out of my parents' house, stealing the car, going to smoke weed, all the stuff.
I was captain of the cheerleading team. I was in the debate team, thespian society as an actress. I was winning awards and setting records in high school because, again, there was this back and forth of, "I got to make my dad proud. I want him to say he's proud so bad, so I got to fight."
But the only way for me to have the strength to endure, to actually push forward, is to numb all the painful parts. They cannot come in the room because they're going to freaking destroy me. And, so, I just pushed them all underneath the rug. And, unfortunately, as you know and we know, and we should all know you leak until you implode and then you explode.
And that's what happened at 23 and 24 it just all bubbled up to the surface and it was like, "Oh, I can't do both. I've got to find some health here. I've got to stop allowing the pendulum to swing back and forth between these two extremes and find a rhythm, that's healthy for my life."
Alison: It's unbelievable. I mean, as we always say, "I honor the parts of you that we're working so hard. To keep you going by performing, achieving, and numbing." That's how you survived. Talk us through a little bit that moment when you realized, "This isn't going to work anymore."
Toni: Oh, my gosh, first of all, I lost everything. I'd gotten into a marriage at 19. Gotten engaged, moved to a whole different state, it was a crazy guy. I knew him for like three months, it was crazy. But I was performing. I was like, "Look at me, I'm young, I'm about to get married. I'm an adult, here I am, look at me go." And I ended up being in a really toxic and verbally abusive marriage.
But I had a daughter in that and it took me a while to leave and I finally left. And then I was also in a really spiritually abusive church, and I transitioned out of that church as well. And next thing you know I am a single mom, I am living with another single mom. Because I can't afford a place for myself, looking for a job. I had been in ministry, I'd been on stages and now I hadn't and I just lost everything.
And I also decided to stop numbing. I'm like, "I want to start over. I want a new life. I want to get it together." Well, when you stop numbing, it's when really all the things start to come to the surface. I was doing drugs, smoking, alcohol to numb, and anxiety set in. And I was like, "Whoa, what's this?"
And it's like, "Oh, well, you've always been battling with anxiety. You just didn't know it because you were numbing it and hiding it so much." And, so, in that moment, I just remember pleading with God to take the pain away. Because it was almost like I had woken up to the reality that I had a really hard first 20 somewhat years of my life. Because numbing keeps you from that, it tries to keep you safe until it doesn't anymore.
And I just crumbled. I had to send my daughter to be with my parents for that summer, so that I could rebuild my life and figure out what was next. And I knew that I needed to go into counseling, I just was so scared to. Because in our culture, in the African-American culture, it was like, "What are you even talking about? Why are you going to go see a shrink? Are you crazy?"
I remember when I told my mom, I was like, "Hey, I think, I'm going to go to counseling." She, literally, picked up the phone and called me. She was like, "Are you bipolar? What's going on girl?" And I'm like, "Well, okay, I actually don't know if I'm bipolar or not. However, I would love to go find out."
But it was just this big stigma of like, "You've got to be crazy psychotic to even think about going to a counselor's office." And, so, I just focused on getting my finances together. But more than anything, I wanted to be a healthy mom, that's what drove me. I don't even think I had the confidence in myself to heal for me, it was for my daughter. I didn't want her to go through what I went through. And, so, I just went and did my work, but it was extremely painful. Extremely painful.
Alison: I just want to say, Toni, the word brave, the fact that brave is in the title of this book. I just have tears in my eyes, I mean, the performer part of you that was so bravely taking care of your mom. That was so bravely showing up at school, getting all the stuff done. The numbing part of you honestly and truly, that was so bravely trying to help you cope, in whatever way it knew how.
But honestly, then, just what you just described, the bravery to go, "I've got a little girl and I got to stop, and I don't even know how." Here's what I love, you say this in the book and it just blessed me, and I want to read it.
You say you prayed, "Please, please take the pain away. Please, God, why does my life have to be so hard? Please take the pain away."
And then you describe feeling a moment of relief, which is beautiful. And then your next sentence is, "That was also the day that I decided to find a counselor."
Alison: I just thought that was so fascinating. You cried out and then you did that brave step of saying, "I got to look at all this stuff."
Alison: Tell me a little bit about that. When you reached out for that support, how did that go, initially? Was it scary? Was it pretty quickly like, "Oh, no, this is working." How did that go?
Toni: Yes, it's interesting because everything was happening at one time. So I had experienced this really a toxic church. And I was like, "Oh, gosh, ugh, am I going to go to another church again?" I was like, "No, I'm not." And then, all of a sudden, I was like, "Man, I just really want to be in church." And, so, I visited North Point Ministries and messed around, and found an incredible church community, with a healthy pastor and all kinds of great things. And, so, that was happening at one time.
And then I started realizing that the people that I had surrounded myself with, I just couldn't anymore. If I wanted a life change, I actually had to change my community as well. And, so, honestly, I think I stumbled into this because I just cut everybody off. I was like, "Okay, nobody talks to me, I need to get my life together."
But what it did was it made room for a healthy community. Because, oftentimes, we want new friends, but we've got all these other friends that are in our inner circle and they're like, "Well, how do I transition them out? What do I do?" And I talk about that in the book, too. How do you transition people to save space for you?
And, so, that was happening at once, and then later down the line, I met my, now, husband, Sam, and I was like, "Who is this guy?" And he just loved me so much and I was like, "Dude, what's happening?" He was so emotionally aware. He was like, "Hey, I want to talk to you about my feelings."
I'm like, "You're a guy, you don't have feelings." Which is what I learned from my dad. All of it was happening at one time. What was great about starting to experience a healthy community, a healthy church, a healthy boyfriend, was that it was a mirror that showed me that what I had been doing wasn't healthy, and I think, for many of us, that's what really helps.
When we start to pursue health, it starts to overflow in all areas of our lives. And then it starts to show the very things that you're battling with, and that's what was happening. As I sat in the counseling office, no, it wasn't cute at first.
As a matter of fact, I went up in there with my arms crossed and I was like, "What are you going to do girl?" And she's like, "Tell me your whole life." And I gave her my whole little story and I spit it off all fast like nothing's happened at all.
And she's like, "Are you okay?"
And I was like, "Yes, I'm fine. What do you even mean? I'm good to go." I was very standoffish. I felt very unprotected, and then I realized that I had a part to play in counseling. If I wanted to actually heal, then I needed to open up. And, again, it was because I had friends, now, that were like, "Oh, I went to counseling and I've got this homework I've got to do."
And I'm like, "You do your homework? What?"
It's like, "Yes, you actually need to go and do your work outside of the counseling office." And I was like, "Oh, okay, I'm going to do that." And, so, it was just this process of all this revelation and witnessing healthy people, and just owning it for myself.
Alison: I love that. There are a couple of things you said in there. Again, first of all, just this partnership with you doing the work and, obviously, with God. But there are a couple of words you said that I just want to pause on because I love it. I think you said, stumbling. You said, "I'm stumbling my way. I'm stumbling around, stumbling my way, I happened upon this church."
And what I hear in that is, and I think you say this in the book, but so many people are like, "What is my five-step plan?" And it's just you had a new direction. You're like, "I'm going to move toward healing. I don't know where to get it, so I'm going to stumble around, happened upon." And I hear this all the time: toxic church, toxic church. . . "Oh, my golly, this is a healthy church." It's just, "There's some health here. There's some health in this man that I'm dating."
It's messy that process, and I really appreciate that you're saying, "I was doing a lot of different things at once. I just knew I had to change. And, so, I threw a lot of things at the wall and noticed what stuck, noticed what was healthy." And I really appreciate just that honesty about that because the process is not always easy. Especially as, to use your words, we're clawing our way out. It's just trying to go in the right direction. Trying to go in a healthier direction.
Toni: I love that you bring that up, too, because that was the reason why I even started my women's organization, Broken Crayons Still Color. Because healing isn't, I mean, we know this, we've heard the quote, "Healing is not linear." It's this weird, windy, tight-squeezed process. And I really wanted to try a little bit to put legs to some of this healing stuff.
A roadmap, if you will, of what I did because I know that there are people out there that are just like, "I don't even know how to find counseling. I don't even know what it means to have a healthy friend. I don't know what boundaries are. I don't know how to put those up and have those hard conversations."
And I just think it's good to have a roadmap. It's good to have a one, two, three-step. But just like you're saying, if you're just going towards hope, I just believe that you'll get there.
Toni: If you're just like, "I just want a brighter day. I want to do better." If you're humble enough to say, "I'm not getting everything right. I've contributed to some of these situations. I've contributed to some of my pain. I've been a victim maybe in the past, but I don't have to stay a victim." Those hope-filled statements and declarations, I think we'll get there. I really do believe that.
Alison: And it can be messy. I love what you're saying, even with the boundaries. I talk a lot to people about scripts, and how to do it, and how to say it, and it's all helpful. And, then, sometimes, there's a part of me that's like, "And just do it the best you can." And sometimes we do it real sloppily. It's okay, especially when you're at rock bottom, you just figure out how to get out and get out. It's not always pretty, and you can always go back later if you need to.
Toni: Hey, I didn't say that right. . .
Alison: Yes, right, if the person is someone who was worthy, they'll be there in the long run. If they weren't then. Now, a couple of more questions I want to touch on. Now you're a speaker, you are an author, you've had another baby, you're married. You've got all this stuff going on. You've got this organization.
That performer part of you, how do you keep that part of you? You're clearly an incredibly capable woman, it's a gift, it's a talent, it's beautiful. How do you keep that part of you in check? So that you're also making sure to stay in balance, stay in touch with the ongoing work of healing, and the hard things that we continue to face in life?
Toni: Yes, absolutely, this was a real journey because the performer was deeply in me. It was in the fabric of my being. The first step was, I remember starting Broken Crayons Still Color, for the first time, and it was just a one-man show. It was just me a blog, I'm doing my thing. And, literally, a month after I started it, I started to feel the Lord's say to shut it down.
And I was like, "Oh, no, sir. No, you're not about to embarrass me out here. I have started something. I've got my name on it, I don't know what you're talking about." And He was like, "Shut it down." And I submitted to that and not only did He say, "Shut it down." But I also took a break off of social media.
Now, before that, if people can scroll all the way down on my Instagram, I was posting pictures of me on stage, "And look at my life now and look at who I am." I mean highlight reel all the way. After I took a three-month break off of social media, I came back and I realized that I was healing, I was doing a great job, but I had really just refocused the performer. The performer before was in a really toxic marriage and just pretending that it wasn't happening.
Now, I wasn't pretending more than I was just glamorizing. I was just showing this very beautiful part. This now redeemed, still coloring part of my life. And the Lord was like, "Mm-hmm, sweetie pie, nothing is wasted. You have not walked through all of that for nothing."
And, so, what I started doing was anytime I would post on social media, I would put it in my notes first. So I called this method like slowing down on the highway. So you know when you have to get off on the highway, and you're about to pass up your exit. The one thing my mom always told me is, "Don't try to speed to the exit if you're about to miss it, slow down. Slow down, get over, give yourself some time, slow down."
I slow down now in everything that I do. In the way that I lead, in the way that I parent. I have to slow myself down, and I write my captions in notes and I pray over them, and I think about it, "Is this about me?"
I ask myself really hard and honest questions. "Is this about me, are we trying to perform, or is this pointing people to Jesus? Is this really authentic or what are you doing here, sweet girl? Are you just trying to be somebody that you're not?" And it's that way in my whole entire life.
Toni: One of my sayings that we have in our organization is "We don't get ahead of God. Because it is when we get ahead of God, then, we're performing out of our idols, out of our own confidence, all the things. And, so, it's just a lifestyle of slowing down, of asking God, of being certain that I'm doing it out of the overflow of who I am. It's breaking up with balance, having a hundred tabs open versus marrying priorities.
Toni: Where am I right now?
Toni: And I think that's just awareness is, probably, what we call it.
Alison: I love that.
Toni: Just knowing myself; I know what it feels like to perform
Toni: And, so, if I start to drift into that, I got to check myself and slow it on down, and shut it down.
Alison: I love that. What would you say, Toni, to that young, I don't know whether she's eight, 13, or 23, that young.
Toni: Look, you already cried about this, Alison, so I'm strong now.
Alison: What would you say to that young performer part of you now?
Toni: Yes, I think I would just tell her two things. I would say number one God is kind. That means a lot to me because I grew up thinking God was this big mean God. And that He was at the end of the tunnel saying, "You have to get it right before you have access to Me."
When, now, I know that He's really the God that's lighting up the tunnel to get me through. And eight-year-old Toni, 13-year-old Toni, even 19-year-old Toni needed to know that God is really kind.
Our friend Dr. Curt Thompson says this as well, "Sometimes, it's not even the things that we go through, the brokenness that we go through, the grief that we have to carry. It's the pain and fear of doing it alone." A kind God is with you, and I just think I would tell her that. And then I would also say to her, "If you didn't do another thing. If you didn't do another thing in the world, you are so worthy."
Toni: And as simple as that is to hear, now. Now I don't even think it would impact me because I'm like, "Dang, I am a worthy." But nine-year-old Toni needed to hear that no one told her that. No one told her that she didn't have to perform for her worth, and I would tell her that.
Alison: I love that, that's beautiful. What would you say to another woman, right now, who is feeling at the bottom of that pit and desperate to start clawing her way out?
Toni: I think the one thing that I have been saying here, recently, is giving yourself permission to feel the pain and to be right there in that valley. I think that people can mistake this idea of being brave enough to be broken for, "Put your superhero cap on and go and do the hard thing no matter what."
But the truth is there were ebbs and flows, in my healing journey. There were moments when I had to call my counselor and say, "Listen, every week I need a break, let's go biweekly. Right now, I need a break. This hurt, this last thing that we talked about, it was a lot for me." And even with my organization, I can recognize that there were moments where I used it as a crutch. The Broken Crayons Still Color and it's like, "Okay, it's broken it's okay. Let's keep it going and let's fix it, it's all good. Everybody just clean it all up."
But really there is power in that valley that you're in right now. The pain that you're feeling right now, and there's grace for it, and there's patience for it. And, so, I would encourage that person, right now, to be in that valley, but know that we are not going to leave you there. God's not going to leave you there. There are mountains of hope to claw your way to and it is worth it. It is worth the work. And, so, I just want us to the kindness, just balance it both.
Alison: I love that. I love that the valley is painful, it's hard, and it is a season, it's not forever, and I love that. Almost to the slowing down and even just being able to name that you're in it, is part of the movement toward healing.
I also love, I want to underscore what you said about the pacing that you needed to do with your therapy. You get to say, "Every week is too much for me. I need to slow it down or I need to."
I love that you had the courage to say, "I got to go at my own pace here." And I want to tell people, we talk a lot on here about even therapists can push or try to get you to do. You have to advocate for yourself and say, "I'm in it, I'm doing the work and this is the pace that's working for me right now." So I really appreciate that you highlighted that.
All right, Toni, I just so appreciate you. Question I ask all of my guests, two questions, one, what or who is bringing out the best of you right now?
Toni: Oh, can I be honest, my little four-month old is. I mean, the way he even looks at me and holds onto my hair. There is just this tenderness that I think babies give, that just reminds you that you can still be tender, too, as an adult, and vulnerable, and not able to feed yourself. He just reminds me that I can do that too.
I can just lay and not be able to hold my head up. And I think that's just such a beautiful picture of who God is. Just the God that made our little heads all wobbly and we can't even hold our neck up, and just so innocent, and fragile, and he's just like, "I've got you in the palm in my hand." So my little four-month old is doing a work in me right now.
Alison: I love that. That's beautiful. And what needs and desires are you working to protect?
Toni: Oh, I mean this is good because I am, literally, in a season, right now, now where I'm planning out my next year, and I've got to put some really hard boundaries around my time. One of the things that's been consistent in my life is that everyone said, "Oh, you have so much capacity."
And I'm learning now that just because I have a lot of capacity doesn't mean I need to use it all. There can just be a season where we're just running on 60%. Now, it's not to say that 40% ain't there because I will crush it if I need to at a 100%.
However, I think I'm starting to convince myself and really believe that even 40% is okay. It's okay, it's just I'm only going to do 40% this week. And, so, yes, I want to get to a place where I can really protect that I need rest and I need the freedom to not fill up, and not be a performer all the way to a 100% percent all the time.
Alison: I love that you're setting some gentle boundaries with that performer part of you, for the good of all of you. And I love this idea, we talk about all the time on here, this idea of creating some spaciousness. Just some space for margin and is what I hear you saying. Like, "Just because I can doesn't mean I have to. Just because I can doesn't mean I should."
Alison: So I love that. Tell people where to find you. How to look you up and-
Toni: All the things.
Alison: Yes, all the things.
Toni: So, it's Toni J Collier on everything, t-o-n-i-j-c-o-l-l-i-e-r. The book is called Brave Enough to Be Broken. I love it that you can order it anywhere where all the books are sold, all the things and, yes, that's what's happening.
Alison: Well thank you so much for being here, today, and thanks for sharing your story so bravely, it's going to help a lot of people.
Toni: Thanks Alison. Dr. Alison, thanks for having me.
Alison: You're awesome.[00:37:18] < Outro >
Alison: Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show. You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one L- cook.com.
Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you'd go ahead and leave a review. It helps so much to get the word out. I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.[00:37:56] < Music >