I can remember how difficult it was to show up at work. The place I loved had become my worst enemy. Every passing day was a struggle. If you’ve experienced a stressful period at work, you could relate to this feeling.
My to-do list was mounting and there was absolutely no appreciation from the management’s side. In fact, it was only unjust criticism. I was forced to feel incapable of rising to meet expectations. Soon I was sacrificing my personal time to keep up with my own goals and someone else’s ‘not so logical’ expectations.
There was a phase when I was struggling with ‘the professional syndrome.’ I couldn’t figure out what more should be done to come across as a professional employee. I wasn’t a procrastinator, but I was forced to feel like one. I tried everything to keep up with the rising unrealistic hopes and soon I found myself burned out.
No amount of work or meeting deadlines improved my situation. Unproductive thoughts took up most of my energy and I was working 6 days a week long after my regular shift which eventually prevented me from enjoying life.
What I didn’t realize was at a deeper level, my problem was the lack of ‘boundaries.’ Yes, I had been fooled to become a workaholic! Sadly, we overlook our personal boundaries to meet our professional performance indicators. Trouble begins when we push our boundaries and turn to the ruthless corporate world for approval whether in the form of appreciation or chasing someone else’s version of success. Each time I said yes to impossible deadlines when I really should have said No! And this perhaps was my biggest mistake.
Later I realized it’s not just important to set limits on spending money or having junk food. You must have boundaries to protect your sanity at work. Yes, your bosses, friends, and co-workers are important, but your peace of mind comes first.
There are two types of boundaries – internal and external. External boundaries are pretty clear which include setting work hours, and of course, personal space. That’s right. Your co-workers have no right to be nosey and pokey. Understanding internal boundaries, however, is tricky.
I had failed to set clear internal boundaries. In fact, I kept pushing myself to achieve unrealistic standards of excellence which were never achievable in the first place. I wasted time trying to explain myself to people who loved jumping to ‘premature’ conclusions. But thankfully, I took control of my life.
When I said goodbye to toxic people and situations.
One day I made a promise to myself. I will remain consistent with my goals and more importantly, will detach myself from worries, negativity and unrealistic pressure.
Whenever I received criticism at work, instead of looking at it as a sign of failure (which I was doing – remember professional syndrome I mentioned earlier), I acted more rationally. Are there any possible (hidden) opportunities of growth? Do I really need to get emotionally carried away? Am I respecting my boundaries?
Well, honestly defining internal boundaries wasn’t easy. Being a ‘highly sensitive’ person, I always took other people’s reactions way too seriously. I foolishly did everything possible to fix their problems as my own. The desire to meet deadlines was great, but it drained me to an extent where I could no longer function.
Figure out where limits need to be set.
Trying to keep up with fake success standards can lead you to compromise your boundaries to the point where your physical and emotional health is at risk. While pushing through the ‘burnout’ process personally, I learned a rule that served me well:
If you are not happy even after giving your 100%, it’s a sign that a boundary must be redefined. A strong feeling of hopelessness and constant stress is a sign you’ve probably let an issue go on for too long without addressing it.
If you want a good relationship with yourself, you need to practice kindness. Talk to yourself as you rewire your brain to set new emotional boundaries. Remember, putting yourself first will be new and uncomfortable, but remind yourself that it’s okay to preserve your emotional energy.
As long as you give your 100% at work and are dedicated, you’re doing a good job. Don’t try to please everyone and never feel sad, guilty or upset when you think about yourself.
Never weaken your boundaries
Every time we take on too much responsibility at work or fail to speak up when we should, we only put ourselves under pressure.
Ask yourself: What’s my responsibility in this situation?
While you can never control what your bosses and colleagues will think about you and how they will react, just deliver your best. Also, never let negative people suck your energy.
Last, always trust your gut. Your intuition – even though it sounds cheesy – is an important part of rational decision making. Learn how and when to set physical and emotional limits at work and respect them.