Identifying Boundaries

Ryder Carroll
6 min readApr 29, 2022

On Boundaries: Part 1

Image by Robin Wersich

The Inner Garden

In our hyper connected world, the distance from one mind to another narrows in every moment. The boundaries separating us steadily fall away, giving rise to the age of hyper-reactivity. The more reactive we become, the less we’re able to understand each other. What if this alarming decline in productive communication isn’t due to how connected we are with one another, but rather how disconnected we are from ourselves?

Most of us struggle to identify our own boundaries let alone those of others. We usually become aware of them only after someone has crossed ours, or we’ve trespassed others. Trespassed what though? What is this mysterious demarcation that delineates the acceptable from the unacceptable?

New York times best-selling author Dr. Henry Cloud likens personal boundaries to property lines. I like this analogy because it grounds a somewhat nebulous emotional concept: If boundaries are property lines, that makes us all property owners. The question is, what property do we own?

Within our property lines lays the space where we cultivate our lives. This inner garden is where we tend to our rest, values, intentions, goals, ideas, beliefs, feelings, and dreams. This is where all the things that we’re capable of bringing into this world come from. It’s the most valuable real-estate we will ever own.

Unfortunately, most of us never received the memo that we’re gardeners. We have no idea what we’re supposed grow, or how, or where, or when, or even why.

In this series of articles I will focus on arguably one of the most important skills when it comes to tending our inner garden: learning how and why to protect it.

Why boundaries matter

Dr. Brené Brown, who studied thousands of people on this subject, defines boundaries as the difference between “what’s ok” and “what’s not okay.” Conceptually, there’s a bright line separating the two. In reality that line is often nearly invisible.

How often do we agree to things we don’t want to do? How often do we let things slide, over and over again to avoid problems or conflict? How far do we bend to feel needed or loved? In other words how often do we…

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Ryder Carroll

Creator of the Bullet Journal®. NYT Best-selling author and digital product designer, living in Brooklyn, NY.