I didn’t know how much I actually sucked at maintaining boundaries until my anxiety began to overwhelm me over a year ago. You’re expected to play so many roles as a person, both personally and professionally, that the lines between the two can blur to the point of non-existence.
Growing up, I was surrounded by messages of pride and confidence having to arise majorly from the work you do and the career you have. Landing a government job was tooted ubiquitously as the be-all and end-all of making a living but I never subscribed to it. “So you’re a black sheep of the family, huh?” someone said to me once. Yes. Yes, I wholeheartedly am. But not with ease.
I think the fact that I eschewed working towards a position in the government made me work that much more harder – too hard, in fact, as a way to prove that by doing so, I’m not a complete and utter idiot. I studied hard, became obsessed with doing assignments just so and my brain literally crumbled in the process.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I became harder on myself than anyone else could be. Nothing I did was ever good enough. If I didn’t do well by other people’s definition then I was failing.
I’ve had to learn to put up boundaries between my own expectations and those of others after what you could call a breakdown after graduating university. Partial seizures, anxiety and panic attacks formed my daily life for months on end.
I have always been an ambitious and intense person. My work-mode consists of me starting on a piece of work and forgetting to eat or breathe until everything is done. Start-stop is just not how I’m wired, which is why when the work day is done, I literally need to switch off; otherwise it starts to feel like a never-ending circle and I break down. So yes, I have had to work on those boundaries and make an effort to slow down by a lot.
I’ve been extremely lucky of the understanding that has been shown towards me when I do set my boundaries. I understand how competitive our world is and how much we have to sacrifice in order to meet the definition of “hustling” or working hard. But I’m just no longer willing to sacrifice my actual mind to it all anymore.