Finding comfort in setting boundaries

Hey, collegiates! 


As a student ambassador for my college’s freshmen, I just want to address something I wish all students knew: You do not have to be the typical confident and loud type of personality to set boundaries! We will explore this through self- advocacy and I have some tips for ending situations and dealing with situations- because NO ONE should EVER be uncomfortable in ANY situation! (Note: potentially triggering topics are referenced through dialogue suggestions). 

The most important skill you will learn through your life experiences is self- advocacy. 

When something happens in your life that upsets you to your core- how you were treated, how someone made you feel, or what someone did to you- you will never let it happen again. 

The majority of collegiates already learned this skill and can stand up for themselves. If you are shy or more sheltered you may feel thrown into a chaotic world with many bold voices in the room. It can be minor like declining a drink or major like setting personal or emotional boundaries. It can even be prioritizing your mental health over socializing or blocking so-called friends who harm your mental stability. It can even be academic or club related such as speaking confidently and professionally to a professor who you feel assigned the wrong grade score. Or escalating an uncomfortable situation to reach a resolution. 

College is the time to put yourself first. Your boundaries, your sense of security, and your desires always come first. And if they aren’t, you might just need to learn some self advocacy. 

SO, without further ado, here are some tips to get more comfortable with yourself and expressing your comfort zones- because, babes, you matter the most!  


Now, I hear ya, I hate confrontation. But that isn’t what this is about! I won’t tell you to fight anyone or scream at someone. This is about maturely handling a situation so you feel comfortable and respected by everyone you are around. (Note: this is not the same as the unrealistic but fantastic hope that everyone will like/agree with you).


First, the easiest, is nonverbal. Maybe you two aren’t close enough to have a sit down if it’s major or even make a lighthearted hinting comment. That’s OK! You still can be comfortable. You can avoid the situation in the moment and reassess how you feel. 

  • Step away from where the individual(s) are sitting/talking

  • Text a bold friend that you are uncomfortable and ask them to intervene for you 

  • Shy away- inch away from them or make an excuse to leave the area 

  • Ask to leave the area if it’s a meeting or if you went with friends. If that feels uncomfortable too, try to leave as others walk out/leave. 


The second way is definitely for more comfortable students. If you are new to your boundaries or social settings where you need to express them clearly, this will be a growing process. Don’t push yourself before you’re ready, but you may need to go to this to make sure you’re understood! Remember you only know how you are feeling and thinking!! Help others know that too!!

  • Jokingly/ sarcastically comment that you would rather not (e.g., “as if I need more to drink tonight”, “haha I’m all set” or “yeah, you wish you could”). This indicates you’re generally having a good time but have firm boundaries. Jokingly stating how you feel is a great way to make how you’re feeling known without ruining any moods or gatherings. 

  • Physically motion: slide their hand off of your body/ make an emphasized movement away from them. You can also say something like “yea… no though” while you do this if you’re comfortable. 


The third way is most likely only going to be easy for you if you’ve been comfortable with yourself for a bit now and have no problem letting others know how you feel! That is a great thing! The people you socialize with and choose to hang out with likely appreciate how clear and genuine you are- just make sure you’re being considerate of their feelings while you express yourself. 

  • Have a one-on-one talk with them for serious things. Use “I” statements and don’t raise your voice in order to have a mature conversation. For serious things you can also have a third person present- whether it be a friend, professor, member of your college’s health department or community standards. Remember, you are the priority here and it is OK if you don’t want to face them alone! 

  • Pull them aside in the moment: If you decide to go this route make sure you are not worked up. Often, individuals try to do this while drinking. That rarely ends well because they are not in the headspace to have a mature and rational conversation. Try to keep it simple and direct like “hey, I didn’t appreciate that” or “we don’t need to bring that up right now”.


Extra Tips to keep in mind:

Keep it simple and honest- say what is really bothering you and just stick to facts and how you feel! Should go without saying, but do not lie! Especially as the situation evolves or people interact with you more, it will become apparent. 


Avoid personal attacks- always. It is just mean and is an avoidant tactic.


Put it to rest. Once you the issue is dealt with, let it go. 


If you need to do more contemplating, meditation, yoga, or therapy for yourself- DO IT! 


Keep personal matters personal. Half of the campus does not want or need to hear everything you endure. (You might also be triggering them and making them uncomfortable!)


Remember you are only one part of at least a two sided story. Which leads into:


Be considerate. How you feel is likely not how they intended you to feel. In fact, they may not even realize it was an issue. Try to assume the best until you know everything going on (this is mostly for minor things or roommate disagreements type situations).


But handle it head on. Do not let the issue fester for days. If you need a day to collect your thoughts, that is fine. But handle it soon, so you can continue on your personal growth and everyone involved is aware of what is happening. 


I want to just leave you with a couple of personal beliefs I hope you can find comfort in:

  • I believe:

  •  no one should be made to feel uncomfortable for any reason. 

  • You do not deserve to be mistreated or made uncomfortable by anyone for any reason whatsoever. 

  • It does not matter if you “led them on” or “got their hopes up” or “looked a certain way”. 

  • You are not responsible for someone else’s decisions or actions. 

  • Whatever happened, happened. But how you handle it, is a representation of your character also. 

  • BUT. You DO have to be clear and express how you are feeling. 

  • Take responsibility for your interactions and the role you have (expressing if you are Ok with it or not). No one can read your mind, but most everyone you interact with will want to respect you- so make it easy for everyone to do that and encourage more positive social experiences! 


If something does happen or you want to explore these thoughts more your college has great resources! Keep in mind that with some services, they are either confidential or not. Essentially, some safe places are required to alert someone higher if there is a real risk/danger to anyone’s safety. Others are just resources to speak to and vent about how you are feeling. 

  • Counseling services (great for your mental health anyways)

  • Peers, especially peer mentors/ leadership programs or TA’s or RA’s

  • Professors/ your academic advisor 

  • Religious services on campus or near campus 

  • Campus police, residence life, or community standards

Be comfortable and grow your confidence, babes. Your life is yours. 

Personal growth is hard, but it always pays off! Keep working to become your best self! 


Your HC Stonehill contributer, Olivia