What are boundaries and why does it matter?
Everyone should have their own set of explicit rules regarding personal boundaries. Personal boundaries include material boundaries, physical boundaries, mental boundaries, emotional boundaries, and even sexual boundaries. Personally, I know people who have a lack of personal boundaries which translates into a lack of respect for themselves. I also know generous people who are easily taken advantage of and are unable to stick up for themselves. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people who have a very firm understanding of their boundaries and ultimately, respect themselves and their personal rights. In an ideal world, we should all learn how to stick up for ourselves when our boundaries are crossed. We should also learn how to let go of toxic friends who are sucking the energy and joy out of our lives. For the majority of my life, I was easily taken advantage of because I am a people pleaser by default. I was afraid of losing friends if I were to upset them in any way. Being blunt towards a crappy friend is a messy process and it is probably going to hurt you in one way or another. This is all part of growing up and behaving like an adult, and it’s time that we start being adults.
Settling for crappy friends is better than being alone, right?
I let people take advantage of me for years and still have a very hard time standing up for myself. To this day, I don’t like confronting people face to face but have no problems sending a very blunt email or letter. Over the years, however, I learned that being a doormat in order to please others is actually harmful to my psyche. Just like being taken advantage of is a learned behavior, learning to stick up for yourself because you actually respect yourself is also a learned behavior – and a much healthier one!
If something doesn’t feel right, then why do you keep doing it?
After pondering this question for years, I have concluded that if something is causing you pain, then the best thing to do is to walk away. Often times, people do not want to change themselves and you cannot expect them to change for you. You can rip the bandage off now or peel the bandage off slowly, but it has to come off. You need to set yourself free of these toxic people. The initial pain of cutting them out of your life will hurt, but you are doing yourself a huge favor by practicing self-care.
It’s Not Me, It’s YOU!
These people face many problems of their own and likely come from broken pasts. We all have problems and deep psychological issues but the difference between us and them is our level of self-awareness and our ability to take full responsibility for our actions. Usually, these people are initially harmless and probably want someone who will give them the time of day, but the biggest conflict arises when they translate your kindness as some kind of love interest or booty call. This topic is taboo for me, and I do not want to pursue a friendship with anyone who believes that I am sexually available. I am a married woman and I feel that Millenials don’t take marriage as seriously as previous generations. Despite that, what really sickens me is the lack of respect for not only myself but also my marriage. The most frustrating aspect of this type of friendship occurs when [he] continues to seek validation by questioning whether or not I’m still friends with [him]. You should know where you stand with me, and if you can sense that I am annoyed, then you should be aware that you’re being a tool. This type of behavior becomes toxic when the person continues to cling to you like cat hair and continues to seek your approval regarding their thoughts and actions. They may ask you questions like, “Is this okay/Am I good enough/What do you think of… etc.?” as a way to confirm that their thoughts and actions are in line with yours. And if they frequently rub you the wrong way by saying or doing disturbing things on a daily/weekly basis, prepare for the avalanche of “I’m sorr[ies].” When adults make mistakes, we handle these issues on an emotional, and conscious level. “I’m sorry” is the shallowest form of an apology and lacks any kind of deeper meaning, especially on a mature level.
Guilt and Resentment
Anger and anxiety are usually the first indicators that something is wrong in a platonic friendship. To this day, I still struggle with feelings of guilt and resentment towards people who have wronged me. I hate tension and dislike upsetting people even if they may be toxic in the long-run. By walking away, I am not only setting myself free from pain but I am also setting the other person free from being misled by an unauthentic friendship that I have established with them. In this way, I am setting them free from being misled. Instead of enduring several more months or even years of anger, guilt, and resentment, I can rip off the bandage now and start healing today. This healing process starts as soon as you have walked away from the toxic parasite.
When will you know when it is time to let them go?
If you tell someone time and time again to back off, and they still don’t get it or can’t take the hint, it is okay to excuse yourself and walk away from the friendship. It is okay to nicely tell them that you cannot stay friends with them because they repeatedly disrespect your boundaries and that you feel uncomfortable being around them. If someone crosses my line, whether it’s through inappropriate actions or vulgar language, then I will question my friendship with this person. Often, I give people too many chances with the hopes that they will somehow smarten up and start treating me with respect. Sadly, these people are unlikely to change their ways because they don’t think anything is wrong with their behavior. Remember, disrespect is a learned behavior, but that does not exempt them from being a shitty friend because their personality sucks. Moral of the story: Find better friends.