The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
If you’ve grown up putting others’ needs before your own and taking that to the extreme of disregarding your own needs, it’s really hard to assert yourself when it comes to friendships. We love to put our friends before ourselves, and while that can be a wonderful thing, you have to be a great friend to yourself before you can be a great friend to others. You should treat yourself the way you treat your friends, which is hopefully quite well. You are your closest friend, and if you would respect your best friend’s boundaries, why are you not respecting your own?
The Negative Effect of Neglecting Boundaries
If you are much like me, you have found yourself too many times offering yourself up to your friends as someone who can fulfill whatever they need you to be in that moment. You may tend to offer up as much time as they need, put the energy into them that they want you to, and do the things that they want to do. You put so much energy into making sure they are happy that you risk forgetting what makes you happy. Putting all or most of your energy into making sure you are everything someone else needs you to be can cause you to lose your sense of self. When you’re constantly shapeshifting your personality to suit someone else’s unique set of needs, you’re not staying true to yourself, whoever that may be.
A few examples of healthy boundaries to bring into your friendships
Knowing where to start may be hard. Boundaries are typically born from feelings of discomfort within certain aspects of a relationship. If you are unsure of how to start formulating the proper boundaries with your friends, here are a few examples of where you can start.
If you’re someone who seems to thrive off of alone time, you may need to establish proper boundaries with your friends on how much interaction you can handle before you need some time to yourself. This can look like explicitly telling your friends you will be leaving at a certain time and knowing when that is needed for you.
If you value your personal space and you feel as though some of your friends cross that boundary in ways that make you uncomfortable, you may need to express that to them and set a boundary. That could look like letting physical touch be initiated by you, or asking them to ask you before they get in your personal space so you’re not caught off guard.
At times, your friends may be going through a lot mentally, and this can take an emotional toll on you in a lot of ways, especially if you are going through your own struggles. We all need friends to be there for us, and filling that role is very valuable within a friendship. However, you are not responsible for your friend’s mental state. Setting boundaries on what you can handle talking about is important for both you and them. Your friends are valid in what they are going through, and you should validate that while also communicating where you are able to help and what is beyond your capabilities. Knowing what you are able to take on is important to both you and your friends.
When Your Friends Have a Poor Reaction to your Boundaries
Speaking from personal experience, it really sucks to finally begin to set the boundaries you’ve needed all along only for your friends to have a poor reaction. If you’ve been giving so much of yourself to other people’s wants and desires for so long, shifting some of that energy to allow yourself to breathe can be confusing for friends that have relied on you for so long. Your friends may be so used to you overexerting yourself that they’ve become dependent on it in some sense. Setting boundaries can feel uncomfortable to both parties at first because it’s not how either of you are used to the relationship operating. If they are good friends, communicating why you are making the changes you are making should allow them to see your perspective and encourage you to give yourself a chance to live healthy and balanced. Good friends will want to pour into you in the ways they can as you have poured into them. Friends should build you up and support your decision to make your boundaries a priority. They should not make you feel guilty or selfish for setting boundaries that are to benefit the health of a friendship.
Your boundaries are so important not only for making you a better friend to yourself and to others but also to helping you find who you are apart from the roles you play for everyone else. Just like your friends, you are a whole person who has a unique set of needs and wants for friendship that are just as valuable to consider and should not be neglected by others at the expense of yourself.