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Setting Boundaries and Sticking Up for Yourself In College

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois State chapter.

If you’re anything like me, it can seem like one of the most daunting, embarrassing and monstrous tasks out there. That is… sticking up for yourself. Frankly, it’s a lot easier mentally to make excuses for others. Maybe it’s something small like what your sister said to you over the phone that upset you or a mean text from someone you thought was a friend. Maybe it is a really big deal, like an issue with your living situation that impacts your mental health or a continuous “friend” who feels more like a high school mean girl. Whatever the case, however deep or shallow you think your situation is, you never have to feel like you’re drowning. 

Sometimes people don’t know how badly they are hurting you, or crossing a line. While there may be a good reason as to why they are acting the way that they are, it doesn’t automatically excuse their behavior. The people you choose to have in your life are not there to hurt you. Addressing these events or behaviors can be hard. They’ll get upset, you’ll get upset, and oftentimes, true colors are shown.

In my experience, how a person reacts to a boundary says more about them than you, especially when the boundary is reasonable. Perhaps addressing what’s bothering you doesn’t even involve a boundary, yet they will still find a way to manipulate you into thinking you’re being unreasonable – *hint* you aren’t. If people aren’t willing to adjust a single thing about their attitude, words or behavior to stop hurting you, they aren’t the kind of people you need in your life anyway. 

Anyway, here are 3 things to keep in mind when sticking up for yourself and setting boundaries.

1. Be Clear:

Beating around the bush is cute when you’re asking your boyfriend for food, but when you’re addressing a serious conflict with someone, be clear. This doesn’t mean be brutal, but be honest, and make sure to point out their behavior, action or words, and the direct reason why it’s hurting you. No more “kinda,” “sorta” or “sometimes.” If you want a change, you have to be direct. 

2. Put yourself in their shoes: 

Obviously, it would be great if the person you’re dealing with could do this too, because then maybe they could see how their actions impact others, but oftentimes they don’t see what they are doing. So, put yourself in their shoes and attempt to figure out why they are doing the things they are. This will help you navigate how to approach the boundary you want to set or a solution to a problem that is hurting you. Oftentimes, I’ve found, the person has never had their poor behavior explained, and that’s why they are the way they are. 

3. Remember you have EVERY right to your feelings:

As I mentioned earlier, it can be very easy to excuse your own feelings to make room for others. To those of us who overthink, the thoughts of “Am I overreacting?” “Maybe I should just let it go…” or even “If it happens again then I’ll say something.” Although we all know that time never comes. So, know that how you feel is valid, no matter how small other people make it seem, or feel. You deserve to be happy, have people in your life that make you happy and most of all: you deserve to be heard. If there are people in your life who chose to ignore your feelings time and time again, the chances are they will never come around. You aren’t here to continuously live for other people, especially at the expense of yourself. 

College is a time of meeting a lot of new people, and growing exponentially as a person. This means that conflict, feelings and situations will arise, and not all of them will be positive. Knowing that you can (and should) stick up for yourself gives you the confidence to address the “hard stuff” most people would rather avoid. But, if you are sincere, clear and empathetic, then the ball is in their court. There is always one person you can count on: you. Don’t let them down. 

Here’s to setting boundaries and kicking the trash out to the curb.

Emma Julian

Illinois State '25

Hi! My name is Emma and I am a Sophomore at Illinois State! I am majoring in Marketing, but have a huge love for writing and sharing experiences with others. I enjoy writing about mental health, fashion, lifestyle, and wellness. I love writing for Her Campus since, to me, life is all about learning and sharing. Feel free to follow my Instagram: emmarosee13 :)