There’s only so much crap that one person can take from other people at any time.
Everyone has their limits and it is important to know where to draw the line.
It’s called setting boundaries. Some people are naturally much better at doing this than others and never have a problem. Others are constantly being taken advantage of and treated like crap by their families, friends and colleagues. Most of the rest of us fall somewhere in between, navigating the murky waters of people who put us down, make fun of us, try to control us or use us up.
It’s important to set boundaries to ensure our relationships with others are mutually respectful, supportive and caring. Setting the limits of acceptable behaviour from those around you helps to protect you from exploitative relationships from those people who ultimately do not have your best interests at heart.
If you are often uncomfortable with the way other people treat you, it might be time to re-evaluate your boundaries. It’s okay to have self-respect and refuse to have other people treat you poorly. You will find resistance to boundary setting from people who just don’t respect you, but that might be the eye-opener you need that they’re no good in your life anyway.
Here are a few important things to keep in mind when setting boundaries:
1. Toxic people will HATE it.
I’ve had to set some pretty firm boundaries over the years to deal with some really toxic people in my life. I always liken it to the scene in Wizard of Oz where Dorothy throws the water on the Wicked Witch of the West and she’s disintegrating, yelling “I’m melting! I’m melting!” When you put up boundaries and refuse to take any more shit from toxic people who have been making your life miserable, for whatever reason, they HATE it. They are metaphorically melting because they can no longer do what they do.
Healthy people will respect your boundaries, because they are genuinely concerned about your well-being and understand your need to have them. They probably have their own boundaries.
But toxic people? They really don’t get it. They are incapable of having healthy relationships with other people. They’ll tell you that your new-fangled boundaries are disrespectful to them, mean you don’t love them, you’re ungrateful, you’re selfish, you’re whatever suits their toxic narrative, really. In fact, by doing this, they just further demonstrate how toxic they are by attempting to manipulate you and by invalidating your own thoughts and feelings.
So initially, you’ll get some blowback. It’s their death throes. Stay strong. Because the bliss you will feel when they are no longer railroading your life and treating you like garbage is totally worth it.
Bottom line is, it’s your life, not theirs. You get to dictate the space you need, the terms under which you are willing to have relationships, and what you will and will not put up with from others.
2. People will have their feelings hurt.
People pleasers are often most at risk of having toxic people trample all over them. They hate letting people down. They hate upsetting people. They don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and speaking up for themselves can make them feel majorly conflicted and anxious. There’s never going to be a time where you can set boundaries without stepping on someone’s toes or hurting their feelings. People who disagree with your boundaries will see it as a personal attack. You cannot avoid this. But the long-term benefit of putting those boundaries down is worth it. So take a deep breath, accept that you might temporarily hurt someone’s feelings, and just do it. Your own self-worth and self-esteem is important.
3. You will need to re-enforce your boundaries.
They are boundaries and they are in place for a reason… and people will try to cross them. You need to be prepared for this.
Toxic people especially are going to try to push those boundaries over and over again, and as far as you will let them go. That’s how they roll.They aren’t going to see that they are there. They are an invisible, intangible thing. You will need to say “hey, back off, that’s enough!” Nobody else will patrol them for you.