The Role of Boundaries in Stress Management

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Imposter Syndrome Backstage. The Role of Boundaries in Stress Management. Sharon is a rock star at work. She is simultaneously feared, admired, and respected. Her ability to keep numerous plates spinning is legendary.  Others aspire to be her but feel woefully inept. Meanwhile, as Sharon allocates time to her morning journaling, she pens, “I’m still not good enough; I’m not who they think I am. 

I’m going to get passed over for promotion! I’ve got to be better, more productive, more efficient but my wheels are falling off! How long can I keep this up? I’m about to lose it but everyone depends on me.  

How much longer can I continue breaking records at work and get groceries, provide nutritious meals, wash clothes, keep the house clean, and get the kids to their activities? I feel like a shell of a person, but I must keep going somehow. Maybe if I up my antidepressant…”

Let’s be honest, many people in leadership roles struggle with feeling “enough,” as if others perceive them to be something they are not.

This is a type of Imposter Syndrome and is exacerbated by stress mismanagement. On the one hand, the struggle can elicit a “eustress” situation where pressure-induced adrenaline creates positive stress necessary for optimal performance. Eustress is amazing. Uncomfortable but amazing. Watch any professional athlete pacing prior to his/her event; you’re witnessing eustress in literal motion.  

Visit Broadway actors in the warren of messy backstage rooms as they apply makeup and run voice scales prior to their debut. You’ll see the eustress manifested in their trembling hands and in the sheen of sweat coating their skin.  This level of stress, of craving so badly to be “good enough,” will catapult them to stardom onstage. 

There is another type of stress, the type we typically reference. This is actually “distress.”  

Distress does not elevate, inspire, or propel us to higher levels of success. This is where “I’m never going to be good enough and everyone will see me for the failure I am” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is where practicing healthy boundaries provides a lifeline, an island of protection amidst the battering waves of insecurity and fear of failure.

  1. First, we must separate our own thoughts, feelings, opinions, and actions from others’. 
    Second, we must acknowledge that we are human, thus fallible, and begin not only accepting our mistakes but transforming our view of them into vehicles of strength. How can we possibly ascend to the apex of our performance without the wisdom our mistakes provide?  Mavericks do not settle into comfortable complacency but strain into areas of challenge and novelty. In so doing, mistakes are not only the fee for admission but also the stairway to peak performance. 
    Third, we must accept that others will criticise and judge our mistakes. Trying to avoid that is a waste of mental bandwidth.  In setting healthy boundaries, we acknowledge this dynamic and release others to have whatever opinion they wish about us. There is a tremendous amount of freedom in that release. Let others think what they want. 

Mavericks will push, challenge, make mistakes, and become smarter and stronger from the struggle. 

Practicing healthy boundaries ensures effective stress management which clears the way for optimal performance. 

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Dana Skaggs
I have a master’s degree in clinical psychology and am a licensed psychotherapist. I have been in private practice for 15 years specializing in anxiety and adjustment issues along with trauma work. I have been a board member for the Intermountain Psychological Association for 4 years and have been elected for 2 more. I am a frequent guest on WJHL Daytime Tri-Cities discussing how to navigate the emotional terrain of everyday problems. I also contributed to the article “Second Opinions: How You Can Leverage Mindset to Change Behaviour” in the Journal “A Plus” from the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The podcast I launched in 2020, Phoenix and Flame (tagline: “pushing through and transforming even when you feel like a pile of ash”), is globally ranked in the top 5% and is also consistently ranked in the top 5% on PodMatch, a podcast booking platform. Due to my personal and professional experience, I have earned the moniker, “The Queen of Boundaries” and have developed several online boundaries courses as well as workshops.

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