Self respect and setting boundaries in friendships

29th April, 2017   |    By Bethwyn   |    4 min read

I think the only time parents and other adults used to talk to me about self-respect when I was younger was when the word ‘sex’ was introduced into conversation, or even ‘ relationships’. For that reason, I always thought that self-respect and setting boundaries were only something you did when you were a bit older – a bit more experienced in the world of relationships.

Well, if you share this view, I’m here to tell you that it’s just a little wrong. Okay, a lot wrong. Self-respect definitely doesn’t just come into things when you reach sexual maturity, and setting boundaries are things that you do not just in romantic relationships, but with friends, with your family, and with strangers. And they’re kind of all tied up in the same general thing – self-love.

When you respect yourself, you are just a short step away from showing yourself compassion and love. And when you love yourself, you show that by setting boundaries.

Let me give you an example..

Say one of your closest friends is amazing when you’re spending time with her, but you don’t see her often at all, and she hardly ever responds to messages. The only time you see her is when she bothers to contact you (perhaps months apart) and assumes that you will just have the time to see her right then and there.

Okay, here are your options:

a) enjoy the time you have with her, but feel angry and resentful whenever she’s not around and not responding
b) get angry and yell at her, wasting the time you have, and perhaps causing a rift between the two of you that can’t be fixed
c) talk to her calmly about how you’re feeling and what you need from her.

I don’t think it comes as much of a surprise that I would recommend option c. The thing is, I have personally been in this situation with three separate friends, and it took me quite a while to realise that it was partly my own actions that were making me feel so hurt. Friendships, I realised, weren’t always going to be easy and full of fun. Sometimes they required hard discussions, like any relationship. And to be honest, I’m still working on this. One thing I’ve realised is that when something in a friendship goes a little wrong, there aren’t many people that are willing to go into the dark to try and fix things – it’s unmarked territory for a lot of us.

What I learned..

When I respected myself enough to tell my friend that the way they were acting was hurting me, and that I still wanted to be their friend, I just needed things to be a little different, I felt better about myself. I felt better about the friendship. And I felt like just opening that communication was an amazing step towards loving myself more.

Of course, it works both ways. Sometimes when you have these kinds of hard discussions, your friend comes up with something that you might be inadvertently doing that is hurting them. It can be hard to hear that, but provided the information is coming from a place of compassion, you must realise that it takes two to tango – everyone deserves to have a say in how a friendship operates.

Finally, I have to note here that sometimes people don’t want to talk about the friendship, or the fact that you’re getting hurt. Sometimes this leads to that friend needing to be released from your life to avoid further pain. Yes – that’s really hard. Sometimes they’ll come back into your life later on, when you’re both a little more capable of dealing with the uncharted territory. Sometimes they won’t, and you might be left wondering. But wouldn’t you rather be friends with people that make you feel good about yourself?

I wish everyone happy and healthy friendships!

Also check the related topics:  

Managing friendships

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