The Boundary You Didn’t Know You Were Missing

Setting personal limits complementary to your needs and desires can strengthen your self-trust and identity

Melody Wilding, LMSW

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Photo by Mitchel Lensink on Unsplash

I can remember the agony of checking email, as if my inbox — a completely innocuous tech tool — had become my worst enemy. Each refresh was like a Russian roulette of impending crisis or criticism. If you’ve experienced a stressful period at work or gone through a difficult time in your career, then you may be able to relate to this pit-in-your-stomach feeling. Every new request gets mounted on your ever-growing to-do list. You worry you’re incapable of rising to meet expectations (whether they’re your own or someone else’s). And pretty soon, you’re losing sleep and sacrificing personal time to keep up with it all.

At the time, I was really struggling through imposter syndrome, the sinking feeling that you’re a fake or a fraud. My brand of imposter syndrome came with a heap of self-doubt and overextension of myself to compensate for my insecurities. Soon, my eroding self-trust translated to other areas of my life, including dating and friendships, until I found myself burned out and feeling like the shell of a person.

In my case, no amount of productivity or time management hacks helped. Unhelpful thoughts and emotions took up most of my energy, distracting me from enjoying my life. Even if I could get some distance by taking a weekend off or a short vacation, I still found myself feeling strung out, ruminating about situations.

Call it workaholism, but what I came to realize is that, at a deeper level, my problems stemmed from a lack of internal boundaries.

The word boundaries might bring to mind common advice you’ve heard about setting limits around social media use or avoiding having junk food in the house so you’re forced to eat healthfully. What doesn’t get talked about enough are the boundaries we need to protect our inner worlds. Physical and logistical boundaries fail unless they’re fortified by strong internal boundaries and a foundation of self-trust.

Boundaries and Self-Trust

Broadly speaking, a boundary defines a limit. Personal boundaries outline our desires, needs, and preferences, serving…

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Melody Wilding, LMSW

Author of TRUST YOURSELF. Executive coach to Sensitive Strivers. Human behavior professor. Featured in NYT, NBC, CNN. https://melodywilding.com/book