Entering adulthood is this weird and interesting phase of life in which one truly has the power to make choices. These choices range from the dinner that you can make or the person with whom you grab coffee. Suddenly, life is full of decisions that for years you didn’t make for yourself, the biggest of which being the people that you surround yourself with. For many of us, we didn’t have the option to choose the high school that we attended due to zoning, and we all know that we don’t pick our family—so when you move out of your childhood home and to a large university the possibilities seem endless. When initially entering this phase of my life after transitioning from a tiny high school states away from my family to a large university in a completely different part of the country, I personally struggled with finding the words and ability to set boundaries with those in my life and was forfeiting my joy to do so. I can say with full confidence that learning to set boundaries, along with the realization that setting these boundaries isn’t mean, has completely changed my life.
As a person who struggles with being a people pleaser and obsesses over what people think of me, this was a hard concept to swallow. Before learning how to set boundaries it felt like I was simply putting a wall up between me and the person with whom I was setting said boundary, pushing them further away from me and ultimately making them feel as though my love for them had somehow diminished. I felt like I was making myself less emotionally available to these people and in the end making them mad at me. This led to insecurity about how to handle situations in which saying no or “choosing myself” became so challenging for me. It got to the point that I was often completely ignoring my needs in order to make sure that the other person was happy, which led me to be more annoyed at the situation and eventually mad at the other person for no reason at all.
About eight months ago, when speaking with my therapist about how it was time that I set some serious boundaries with my parents and friends in my life, who, although meant well, were crossing into unhealthy relationships. I expressed my insecurity about choosing what was best for me rather than what others wanted, my fear of them being angry with me, and over all how uncomfortable the situation made me feel. My therapist said something that made me push past my fear and it was incredibly simple:
“Setting boundaries isn’t mean.”
It’s that simple.
Boundaries are not mean. They are not meant to be mean. They are not about making the other person feel bad, or unwanted. It’s not about creating distance or making yourself unavailable to the other person. It’s not about lack of love for the other person. Honestly, it’s about the exact opposite. Through this journey I have learned that setting boundaries is about showing your love for another person in a healthy manner and genuinely leads to happier relationships.
Setting boundaries has changed so many relationships in my life for the better and created love in relationships where I thought there was no longer any left. Although the start of setting boundaries was usually followed by tears and apologies, and was one of the scariest things to start doing in my life, it has ultimately increased my happiness by tenfold. It not only has bettered the relationships that I have and created environments of respect and love, it has also shown me that how I feel matters and emphasized my worth.
Rather than allowing people to walk all over me and to give up my happiness for the possibility of making someone else happy, I say no. I choose who I am friends with. I walk away from unhealthy situations. I remind myself that friendship is a two-way street and I deserve friends that feel the same. I remind those that I care about that my boundaries are not a limit to my love. I live setting healthy boundaries for myself. I live happier and healthier and I will never, never go back.