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Putting Yourself First- The What, Why, and How of Setting Boundaries With Friends


Boundaries help ensure your emotional and physical needs are met while also strengthening your connections with the people who matter most.

Establishing boundaries with your friends is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and your relationships. Boundaries help ensure your emotional and physical needs are met while also strengthening your connections with the people who matter most.

Sometimes you may find yourself always being there for your friends, no matter the time, or effort it requires. You will wake up at 2 am for their calls, drop them off at the airport if needed, and set your needs and tasks aside for them. Doing all of this might even feel good, but with time, as your needs and priorities keep shifting back, resentfulness gets space to set in, damaging your relationships. In situations like these, setting boundaries becomes a necessity.

Setting boundaries is challenging, but the rewards are well worth it. Make the courageous choice to put yourself first. Your true friends will understand and respect you all the more for it. And you'll find inner peace knowing you're taking care of the most important person in your life - yourself.


THE IMPORTANCE OF SAYING NO: HOW LACK OF BOUNDARIES WITH FRIENDS CAN HURT YOU


Saying "no" can be difficult, but it's critical for your well-being. Without boundaries, you risk being taken advantage of and sacrificing your own needs.

  • Lack of boundaries often stems from a desire to please others. But constantly putting others first leads to resentment, frustration, and burnout. You may feel obligated to always be available for friends, even when you're overwhelmed.

  • It's easy to feel guilty about saying no. But your true friends will understand if you can't always do what they want. No one can pour from an empty cup. By setting boundaries, you're able to recharge and show up as your best self for the people who matter most.

  • Manipulative or toxic friends prey on those without boundaries. They will continue to take and take, with no regard for your limits or needs. These unhealthy relationships can seriously damage your self-esteem and mental health.

  • When you're used to saying yes all the time, setting boundaries won't feel natural at first. Start small by declining minor requests that don't serve you. Be polite but firm. You don't need to justify your reasons or make excuses. A simple "no, I can't make it to happy hour tonight, but thanks for thinking of me!" will do.

Putting yourself first is a skill that takes practice. But with time and consistency, setting healthy boundaries will become second nature. You'll build stronger, balanced relationships and gain a sense of freedom to pursue self-care without guilt. Ultimately, you will be in a better position to be there for the people you care about.


TIPS FOR SETTING CLEAR BOUNDARIES IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS


To establish healthy boundaries in your friendships, you must first communicate them clearly. This means expressing your needs and limits openly and honestly to your friends. Here are some tips to help you set boundaries that will be respected:


1. KNOW YOUR LIMITS


Reflect on what you can reasonably handle in terms of time commitments, emotional support, and favors. You can't be everything to everyone, so decide what your capacities and limits are before communicating them to your friends.


2. START SMALL


Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to set boundaries for every area of your relationships at once. Pick one or two issues to start with, like not answering calls after 9 pm or not lending money. Be consistent with the boundaries you do establish.


3. BE DIRECT


When talking to your friends about your boundaries, be polite yet straightforward. Say something like "I care about you and our friendship, but I won't be able to (specific boundary) anymore." Give a brief, honest reason for the boundary without apologizing.


4. STAND FIRM


After expressing a boundary, your friends may test it to see if you really meant it. Gently but resolutely reiterate your needs. Be prepared to follow through with consequences if the boundary continues to be disrespected. Reciting your boundaries, either out loud or internally, will help strengthen your resolve.


5. BE CONSISTENT


Don't bend your boundaries unless absolutely necessary. Make sure your actions match your words. If you tell your friend you're limiting calls to once a week, don't answer their texts or calls more frequently. While it may be uncomfortable at first, consistently reinforcing your boundaries is the only way others will learn to respect them. You may need to remind them of your limits politely but confidently.


6. RE-EVALUATE AND REVISE


Once you've set initial boundaries, see how they're working and make adjustments as needed. You may need to tighten or loosen certain boundaries based on your experiences. Don't be afraid to re-communicate your needs to your friends. Setting boundaries is an ongoing process.

With practice, setting clear and healthy boundaries in your friendships can become second nature. Remember that you deserve relationships where your needs and limits are respected—and true friends will understand and support you in this.


7. SET BOUNDARIES WITH SELF-CARE IN MIND


The purpose of establishing boundaries is to make more space in your life for rest and the relationships/activities that energize you. Make sure any boundaries you set to align with this goal. For example, if you limit time with friends who drain you, use that time to engage in hobbies, connect with supportive loved ones, get extra sleep, or do another activity that replenishes you. Putting your needs first will make you a better friend and family member in the long run.


CHALLENGES OF SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH FRIENDS


1. FEAR OF UPSETTING OR LETTING DOWN FRIENDS


It's natural to worry that setting boundaries may hurt your friends' feelings or damage your relationship. However, boundaries are essential for healthy relationships and preventing resentment. Your true friends will understand that you need to take care of yourself. Explain your needs with kindness and empathy. For example, say "I care about you and our friendship, but I need to limit late-night phone calls during the week so I can focus on work." Focus on using "I" statements, speaking from your own experience, and framing the boundary as self-care rather than an attack.


2. DIFFICULTY BALANCING YOUR OWN NEEDS


Many of us are natural "people pleasers" and have a hard time saying no, especially to close friends. We may feel guilty putting our needs first. But you can't pour from an empty cup. Make sure to schedule time for yourself to recharge by doing things you enjoy. It will make you a better friend in the long run. Try saying something like, "I wish I could make it tonight, but I need a self-care night. Let's reschedule for this weekend." Don't feel bad about it - your needs matter too!


3. FEAR OF SEEMING DISRESPECTFUL


You may worry that setting clear boundaries will come across as rude or disrespectful. But communicating your limits in a caring, compassionate way shows you value both the friendship and yourself. Be honest but gentle, focusing on your own limits rather than attacking the other person's behavior. For example, say "I care about you, but I'm not comfortable with dropping by unannounced. Please call or text first." Make it clear you're setting the boundary to protect the relationship, not end it.


4. ADDITIONAL CHALLENGES

  • Guilt over past lack of boundaries: Don't beat yourself up over past mistakes. Just commit to doing better going forward.

  • Pushback from the other person: Stay calm and reiterate your boundary. You may need to limit contact if they continue to disrespect it.

  • Inconsistency in enforcing boundaries: Start with small boundaries and practice. Be patient with yourself as you build this skill.

With compassion and practice, you can overcome challenges to set healthy boundaries with your friends. Remember, boundaries protect relationships - they don't ruin them. And true friends will respect the boundaries you put in place.

So take a step back and evaluate how your friendships are serving you. Are there situations where you feel taken advantage of or find yourself sacrificing your own needs and priorities? Now is the time to make a change. Start small by communicating your limits with compassion and care. Let your friends know what you need to feel happy and fulfilled. If they truly care about you, they will understand and respect your boundaries. Setting boundaries will strengthen your self-confidence and empower you to build healthy, mutually supportive relationships. Put yourself first - you deserve to surround yourself with people who enrich your life as much as you enrich theirs. The journey begins today.

 

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