It’s hard as hell to stand up for yourself, but is being a doormat really the better option?
You might think you have your boundaries all figured out, and for the most part, you probably do. You know you don’t want someone else driving your car, you’re vocal about not letting siblings “borrow” your clothes, and you definitely speak your mind when people push your buttons and piss you off. Sure these seem like small things, but if this proves anything, it’s that actively expressing your boundaries isn’t foreign to you.
Obvious examples like these have clearly stated lines and easily enforced consequences. For example: If someone tries stealing your fries (dick move) after you specifically told them you weren’t sharing (boundary), naturally you’d chew them out (consequence). But what about those moments when things seem...less obvious and the consequences are non existent?
You know part of being friends means listening to their problems, but you find yourself aggravated because they constantly ignore your advice. They unintentionally use words that trigger you, but since you haven’t told them, you know they don’t mean it. Maybe they’re naturally really affectionate and though most people don’t think it’s a big deal, to you, it is.
It took me a while to turn advocating for myself into a habit, and it’s one I’m not ashamed to say I’m still working on it. There were so many things I had to learn and so many harsh truths I knew I had to accept. With all my experience, both the shitty and the great, here are 8 things you need to remember when dealing with boundaries for yourself, and for others.
1. Know why it’s there before you talk about it, but understand you don’t OWE them an explanation.
Maybe you don’t realize you have a boundary until a friend’s already crossed the line (I’ve been there, it happens). You don’t want to feel like the “bad guy” by speaking up without a “strong reason” so what do you end up doing? You over-empathize with them until you convince yourself it wasn’t a big deal, then shove your feelings in a box.
That, my friend, is toxic.
If this is the first time you’ve needed to assert your boundaries (be it in general or with them) you should take a moment to reflect on possible reasons why you feel the way you do. This makes it easier to hold your ground, and can help you actively prevent a boundary cross before it happens. On the other hand, if this is someone you’re comfortable talking to about boundaries and other mental health aspects, perhaps this is something you can figure out together.
With that being said, your explanation is exactly that. YOURS! Sometimes our boundaries are super personal, and that’s okay. Though being able to share your boundaries with the other person can help them understand you better, as well as make it easier for them to correct themselves in the future (muscle memory bro), if the reason is personal, you don’t HAVE to tell them.
It doesn’t matter WHY it hurts, if it hurts at all they need to stop. And if they push you for an explanation, they need to back off. This isn’t about them and making sure they are satisfied, it’s about YOU.
2. Choose your medium carefully.
A simple, yet crucial rule. Texting comes so naturally to us, but it’s not the best place to have in depth conversations about mental topics. Boundaries are no exception.
So much of what’s said is lost in translation because we don’t have three things: voice, words, and real time.
Not being able to hear how a person is saying what they’re typing is a huge part of miscommunication. We read things from our point of view so if the other person gets defensive, they’ll read your messages that way.
On top of that, texting puts too much pressure on you to pick and choose your words, and not being able to speak I.R.L can give people too much time to over think what something means. It’s not fair to either of you if you’re just spending the day, anxious as fuck waiting for a reply on a text you wrote, rewrote, reread, and rewrote again. In all honesty? It’s doing way too much.
It’s intimidating as fuck, but unless you have a super secure bond, try hopping on a call instead. They’ll be able to see the way you feel, your tone of voice, body language, and you’ll be able to clear up any confusion or misunderstandings in a snap.
Which leads me to my next point.
3. Remember why you’re there. They’re your friends and they love you.
Trust your friends. Most of the time the shit that happens is unintentional. The goal isn’t to blame anyone, it’s to talk about how you feel so it doesn’t happen again. Trust that they will understand and support you, and trust that you’re in a safe space! The same goes vice versa.
Confrontation isn’t easy on either end, so if someone is coming to you to talk about a line you crossed, it’s not because they want to be a dick. They’re taking a step towards trusting you and showing you that this friendship is important. You wouldn’t bother saying shit if you thought something was temporary or not worth your time.
Keep in mind, tone is everything. Make sure you’re in a calm and clear mindset when you chat. If they don’t understand something, or are genuinely trying to, but struggling (it be like that sometimes), be patient but know when to quit.
I’ll say it again, know when to quit, especially when dealing with rule number four.
4. Not everyone is mature enough.
If stating your boundaries is a threat to someone else, you're not the fucking problem, they are.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known them. If they don’t respect you taking the time out of your day to want to talk about how they hurt you so you can both heal and be better, they’re immature and need to be called out or dropped. Hopefully by now you’ve surrounded yourself with some good ass people, but a few bad apples can still fall into your life.
Some people have an ego and instead of being able to understand the pain/discomfort they’ve caused, they’d rather be ignorant or try and make you feel bad. It takes strength to advocate for yourself but it takes guts to own up to what you did (mass respect to the people who can do this). If you’re faced with someone you realize you can’t talk to, it’s time to think about walking away. It may seem harsh, but sacrificing how you feel for someone else’s pride, is too high a price to pay for ANYONE.
Life’s a long game, you’ll meet so many people before the end, hold out for the good, because I promise, the bad isn’t worth it.
5. How you feel is non-negotiable.
To a certain extent, this isn’t a discussion. You can chat afterwards about whatever the fuck you want, but your boundary is. Not. Negotiable.
No, they can’t debate you on it.
No, they don’t get to prod and bait you to say why you feel that way.
And no, they don’t get to start by saying “I’m sorry, but” because I swear on Captain America’s ass, whatever comes next is a fucking excuse.
Hold your ground. You know what you feel, don’t be pressured to diminish that.
6. FOLLOW. THROUGH. ON. YOUR. CONSEQUENCE. Sometimes that means leaving.
In the end, your self worth needs to be stronger than your emotions.
It sucks to have your boundaries invaded (even in small ways), it’s worse when it happens repeatedly. Suddenly you find yourself subconsciously putting distance between you and them. Maybe it’s by not hanging out as much, or maybe it’s by “subtly” changing the subject, and if that works for you great! But do you seriously want to keep that up the whole friendship? The correct answer is no.
If they’ve done it even after you’ve had an in depth conversation, you need to follow through on your consequence, especially if that means leaving.
We’re all human. Slip ups happen and one conversation won’t fix everything, so try to normalize casually calling them out in the moment. You also need to follow through on helping your space, which means if they mess up here and there, tell them. It doesn’t have to be a hardcore sit down, conversation, just a simple, “Hey dude, we talked about this,” can do wonders (and that’s my new favorite experience).
7. Practice talking about your friend’s boundaries, it’s not just you.
This will help normalize future conversations and make them feel like they have a space to talk about what bothers them.
Trust me, shit gets easier the more open, comfortable, honest, and frequently you talk about it. It’s all about mutuality.
Relationships don’t work if it’s only good for one person, so it’s important to build a habit of understanding your friend’s perspective and be receptive. Once you realize many of us don’t walk around with the intention of hurting each other, it becomes easier to talk about the shit that bothers us, and the shit that bothers them.
8. Don’t let the fear of the past keep you from the right track.
I’ll be honest, I’ve had shit experiences with self-advocating that make me want to hide in a hole and never come out. I’ve had people be so strung up on their ego that they’d rather go out of their way to call my mental health “bullshit” and refuse to talk about things. In the end I knew I was right to speak up, but I won’t act like that experience was something I could just brush off (I cut them off btw, rule 6 baby).
Recently I’ve been lucky enough to make some new, genuine, good ass friends, one of which came in contact with a boundary I have. I knew they didn’t mean it, and since we’re such new friends there was no way they’d know how I felt, so I had a choice.
On one hand, since it was a small boundary, I could just ignore it and not say anything. I was still reeling from the last time I advocated for myself and all it got me was a proverbial slap in the face.
On the other hand, I could do what I’ve always done. Stand up for myself and choose to respect my boundary.
I went with the latter, and I’m so thankful I did. They were nothing but kind and respectful, letting me explain what I wanted and not prodding when I didn’t say more. Our bond is stronger and the space we created is safer than ever.
I’ve learned that sometimes the failures of the past set you three steps back and make choosing yourself feel like a punishment. Despite that though, you need to keep going.
The people who love you will be there for you. When we say through the good times and bad, we don’t just mean the shit that that happens to us separately.
Boundaries are important, they never won’t be, remember to stay true to yourself and the journey you’re on. I promise, the right people will fall into your orbit.
Don’t stop evolving,