Why we should set healthy boundaries in friendships
Boundaries are psychological demarcations that protect the integrity of a person or help them set realistic limits on participation in a relationship or activity. In other words, boundaries establish where your space ends and someone else's begins, like an invisible fence around the perimeter of a yard.
Due in part to media exposure and conventional therapy, our minds have been socially conditioned to think of boundaries in the context of romantic and professional relationships only. Boundaries often feel abstract, especially when it comes to platonic relationships.
Friendships can be taxing when they have no bounds. Healthy boundaries in friendships are the limits we place around our time, emotions, body, and mental health to stay resilient and content with who we are. But how do we know when to set boundaries?
Like an internal compass, boundaries all tend to begin with a gut feeling that tells us when we have the time or energy to devote to something, and when we need to say no.
Before we begin to set boundaries, it is important to delineate them to ourselves concretely. A good way to go about visualising our boundaries can be to write them down, as this can help us achieve greater clarity on where we want to draw the line between us and other people.
Setting up boundaries in our mind and assuming the people around us would know them instinctively, without us actually sharing them with the people, is a grave mistake we often tend to make.
Boundaries are rooted in clear communication. And fortunately, once someone is aware of them, most people will respect them and apologise if they accidentally cross the line. Not everyone will understand or respect our boundaries initially, but it is essential to stand firm in our own decision while kindly reminding people of our needs.
Saying no doesn't always require an apology or an explanation. However, it is important to pay attention to how we can shift these conversations to clearly draw a boundary instead of leaving the person hanging.
However, setting boundaries is in no way an easy task. It can be uncomfortable to talk about seemingly small issues. Things go up a notch for people pleasers with an innate fear of rejection.
Even though it can be an intimidating concept, any relationship that's good for us will likely flourish after we set healthy boundaries. A friend worth keeping will understand our need to have appropriate boundaries, and the process is integral for any friendship that's going to withstand the test of time.
If a friend continues to overstep our boundaries after we've spelt it out to them countless times, it may be time to acknowledge that the friendship might not be worth another shot. For the sake of our mental well-being, it is crucial to understand that after all the work from our end, there should be no regrets in taking a step back from the friendship for good.
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