Setting boundaries

Looking down on red haired person viewing mobile screen in video call

All we want is connection. All we want is to feel close to those around us

Author: Grace

But every now and again, we can find ourselves making choices for the benefit of others and, sometimes, at our own cost. This week, the Safer Campus Community messages reminded me of the challenges I have sometimes experienced when it comes to setting boundaries, particularly with friends.

Despite their importance, boundaries have been a scary thing to build. I don’t want to be judged, I don’t want to be seen as someone who is over-reacting or dramatic and I don’t want to lose relationships and feel alone. In reality, I didn’t know where to start with some friends. I felt so lost and clueless on the best way to start talking about boundaries. On reflection, these are the key tools I learned I needed to make them work.

Be private.

One of my biggest fears in life is unintentionally making someone feel bad about themselves. I’m glad I have a great support circle around me that tells me, ‘You are not responsible for other's feelings and reactions-- you are responsible only for yourself.’ I really try to have discussions with people in a private place where other people aren’t around. In my past encounters, I’ve found this to be a good way to reduce any feelings of embarrassment or shame and have an honest conversation.

Know how the person communicates.

Out of everyone in my social circle, not a single person communicates in the same way. One speaks more confidently over phone-calls, another one is infinitely more open over text, and I barely speak to another unless we can see each other in-person. If I want to talk about any serious topics with my friends, I need to consider the best method of communication to get my message across clearly. It took a bit of trial and error for me. Be prepared that you may have to remind the person a couple of times before they understand where your boundary is, and perhaps convey the same message in different ways.

Stand your ground.

In my fear of hurting people’s feelings, I often soften my words with a ‘lol’, ‘sorry,’ or even ‘It’s not your fault, it’s me.’ It took me years to realise that my boundaries were not being respected because the strength of my words was instantly weakened by this security blanket I would add on top. When I eventually forced myself to stop, my message was clear and the difference was evident.

Boundaries don't have to be a big scary confrontation. All it takes is a casual conversation of understanding what you are and aren't okay with. I’m still friends with all the people I’ve had to ‘have a chat’ with from years ago, and I’ve actually found that having boundaries strengthened my relationships. Being open and strong tells the other person that you value honesty and communication, as well as your relationship with them above all else. It's a win-win!

If your boundaries keep getting crossed, no matter how many times you tell someone they shouldn't, it might be time to rethink your relationship. It can be hard to let go of certain people but in the long run, not only might you feel a weight lifted in the present, but your future self will love you all the more for it.

Tagged in What messes with your head, boundaries