I wrote last week about boundaries and how important they are to building a happy and healthy life. This week, I wanted to push further on the part about how having boundaries can help you choose the people you surround yourself with.
Your circle matters.
By your circle, I’m referring to the people you surround yourself with. Those who you let into your life and spend time with will have a strong effect on how you think and feel, especially about yourself. Because of this, it’s essential to make sure that those people have your best interests at heart. One of the best ways to figure out who those people are is to set boundaries and pay attention to people’s reactions.
The right people will applaud your boundaries.
If they actually care about you, they will want you to be strong and happy and will support your attempts at being so. These people are the ones that you want to hold onto. While changes in relationships may take some adjusting and some compromises may be necessary, ultimately, these people will be the ones who stay by your side and adhere to your new personal rules. If a boundary confuses them or bothers them at all, they’ll most likely bring it to your attention in an honest way and work towards coming to an understanding. In the end, since they want what’s best for you and want to maintain a relationship with you, they will learn to respect your boundaries and will not make you feel guilty for choosing yourself.
The wrong people will be offended.
These people are the ones you need to look out for. The people who get angry about your boundaries and try to make you feel guilty or selfish for having them. These people cannot accept that you are standing up for yourself and will most likely turn against you. The reason for this is most likely because they can no longer use you or treat you poorly without consequence. A good rule of thumb is that if someone is offended by your boundaries, it’s often because they benefit from you having none.
Losing someone because of your boundaries isn’t really a loss.
This was a hard truth for me to accept at first, but now that time has passed, I’m realizing how true it is. You see, a few years back when I first started to set and enforce my boundaries, I ‘lost’ a few people; a handful of friends as well as a few family members. It was really painful and I remember crying a lot. In fact, I almost backed down in order to keep the peace and started second guessing myself because of those ‘wrong people’. But in the end, I decided that I deserved better and I stuck to my guns. It’s been years now and not only do I not miss these people, but I feel so much lighter for not having them around.
I owed it to myself.
Ultimatums were never really my thing, but I realized there was one that I needed to put forth in order to have any self worth. Simple really: treat me better or you’re out of my life. The fact that someone might be offended by that just proved that they weren’t good for me. And I definitely do not regret walking away from that relationship. Was it hard? Yes, absolutely. But you know what would have been harder? Staying in that relationship and spending a life time being made to feel like I was only as good as the services I could offer, being treated poorly and constantly put down or manipulated.
They don’t always go quietly.
When a relationship ends because of your boundaries, be prepared for some blowback. Odds are if the person is shitty enough to get offended out of you asking to be treated with decency, they’re probably not the type to walk away quietly when they don’t get their way. First, there will probably be some gaslighting. And then, if they can no longer manipulate you, they will probably try to manipulate your surroundings and the way people see you.
When I put my foot down with a family member and set some pretty basic boundaries (Stop trashing my mom and sisters to me all of the time, stop trying to interfere in my marriage, and expecting me to give 100% without you ever giving in return), suddenly I was a crazy person. Everyone was told how dramatic I was and how I had clearly been so fake for years and I was a bad influence on the children. I was mean spirited and manipulative and threw a fit out of no where in order to get attention.
Never was there any mention of the actions that led to me asking to be treated better- other than denial and lies. (“I didn’t even say anything or raise my voice, I’m not sure why she flipped out.”) My defending myself was treated like a criminal offence to anyone who would listen. And if anyone tried to defend me, well they were clearly a problem too!
It’s best to just cut ties.
When all of this drama started to go down, I felt it pretty hard. This was a person I had considered myself close to and yet I was being attacked. I considered backing down and saying sorry despite knowing that I had done nothing wrong, just to make peace and not cause a stir- especially when mutual contacts complained about things being uncomfortable. But I knew that if I did that, things would go back to the way that they had been in the past. I’d feel used and manipulated and guilty, not allowed to share my feelings or ask for anything at all. Constantly walking on eggshells, being afraid to say the wrong thing, fake laughing at all of the mean spirited jokes that weren’t actually jokes, and being nervous about what which boundary they might cross next. I knew that I couldn’t do it anymore.
Next I considered telling everyone my side of the story. Sharing all of the instances in which she’d hurt me or manipulated me and giving the details of exactly how the boundary conversation went down. Exposing the lies and manipulation and defending myself in the process. But I decided that it wasn’t worth it. Because for every lie I countered, I knew there would be another one. And for every time I shared my own feelings, I was sure she’d be right there with another knife to stick in my back.
My peace of mind was more important.
I realized that spending time thinking about her or about what I had ‘lost’ was only another way of letting her win. Every second thinking about the hurt she’d caused me or defending myself against the lies was a moment of peace stolen from me. Instead, I decided that anyone who could believe the lies being spread about me was probably never in my corner in the first place. I blocked her number and decided I was done. Instead, I focused on the relationships in my life that were good for me. Eventually, I realized how much more peaceful life was without her (along with the other toxic ‘friends’ that I removed from my life.
If anything, the way that she and other ex-friends reacted to my boundaries proved to me that those boundaries were long overdue. And the peace I felt once they were no longer in my life made those feelings even stronger. I realized that for too long, I had been forcing myself to be what other people wanted me to be. By having my boundaries, I was starting to be myself instead and it allowed me to see who other people really were as well.
Your circle should make you feel good.
The people you trust with room in your life (and therefore in your heart and in your mind) should be people who make you feel good about yourself. They should build you up, empower you and support you. I’m not saying every moment should be rainbows and sunshine- they should absolutely call you out on your shit when needed. And yes there will be hard moments. But with the right people, working through those moments leads to better mental health and being more confident in your own skin.
Surround yourself with people who are aiming to succeed. Those who set goals and work to achieve them. The people who celebrate little moments and who work through their problems rather than blaming them for misfortunes (or worse, blaming you). This mindset is contagious, the same way a negative attitude is contagious. Ditch the people who are constantly pulling you down and making you question yourself and build a supportive tribe instead. I promise, you won’t regret it.
And as always, remember that you matter. (That’s why your boundaries matter.)