5 Reasons Why You Need to Set Boundaries Even If It’s Hard

Over the weekend, my friend and travel buddy for the last five weeks tried to tell me that he liked me. I was already in bed when I was wrangled out to have this conversation. For context, feelings were not reciprocated on my end, and in the process, the talk somehow morphed into some very hurtful things thrown my way.

“You’re difficult to talk to.” Ouch.

“You have walls up. You haven’t opened up to me.” Yeah, because trust is earned, not given.

“You think you’re better than me.” Another ouch.

“You overanalyze. You think too much. You even have a spreadsheet of your dates.” Wow, okay.

The entire context to the situation won’t fit here and every story does have two sides, but the fact of the matter is that I felt attacked, hurt, and emotionally exhausted to have to deal with a tirade of insults against my character in a way that was so uncalled for and originated from defensiveness and a bruised ego.

After the slew of emotional dumping and blaming, he casually declared “well, I’m going to bed now” and got up and walked off. I was left brewing with a storm of emotions I couldn’t quite name.

The next day, he sent an apology over text and asked to meet up in person to say goodbye, as we were parting ways with our travels. My immediate instinct was to say “yes, sure, of course, let’s meet up later” but in processing and reflecting with a friend, she helped me realize that I could say no.

Saying no was something that didn’t even occur to me. I didn’t know I could say no to meeting up. I felt like to be a good friend and do what was socially acceptable, the question wasn’t “do I want to meet up or not?” but rather “sure, what time should we meet?”

But no matter the situation, you can always say no. Setting boundaries, whatever that looks like, is (as I’ve come to see it now) an act of kindness, self-compassion, and trust for yourself and others.

Here’s why you need to set some for yourself.

1. Boundaries help the other person know they’ve done something wrong

In this case, the awareness that he had been hurtful had already occurred, as illustrated by the follow-up apology texts.

But not everyone will know they’ve crossed lines or hurt you. Whenever someone treats you in a way that doesn’t feel right to you or crosses your lines, setting up boundaries helps them know what they did wasn’t okay and sends the message that they need to do better in the future. Without addressing it, they might continue to repeat the behavior, which only perpetuates a cycle of hurting you.

Boundaries let others know how you don’t want to be treated and signal to them how you do want to be treated.

2. Boundaries are needed to maintain relationships

Even though I received an apology over text, I was not ready to meet in person. I frankly had nothing to say at that point and was afraid that if I did take that face-to-face meeting so early after the heat of the moment, I would be entering the space with resentment, when I wanted to be able to show up with kindness and understanding.

It may seem counterintuitive, but setting up boundaries can actually preserve and maintain relationships. If you show up when you’re not mentally ready, you might say things or act out in ways that are not in line with your character and who you are.

Setting boundaries, whether it’s saying no or protecting your time and space, can be a way to maintain relationships that could otherwise fracture.

3. Setting boundaries as self-compassion

So many times, especially as women, we give to others and we hold onto our emotions to keep the peace and tranquility. But when you keep peace outside, you break peace within yourself.

If I had said yes to meeting up, I’d have been saying yes because of the expectation to say yes, but not because I actually wanted to say yes. I’d have said yes to keep the peace outside.

If you always put others first and don’t listen to yourself and what you really want, you only hurt yourself. You need to extend self-compassion and understanding to yourself, and one way you can do that is through boundaries.

4. Setting boundaries as an act of kindness

If you’re on the receiving end of someone setting up boundaries, you might not think it’s a very kind thing. But in fact, boundaries can be one of the kindest things you do for not only yourself but also the other person.

As I said, I wouldn’t have been very kind or thoughtful had I met up in person. While my friend expressed he’d rather meet up in person and that I didn’t have to say anything at all, I couldn’t fathom how awkward it would be if I showed up, listened, said nothing, and walked away.

It just didn’t seem like a very kind way to show up, so the kinder thing was not showing up at all. Showing up as the lesser version of myself wasn’t how I wanted to be. Sometimes, setting boundaries is an act of kindness.

5. Setting boundaries as an act of trust

I get it, setting up boundaries is hella difficult. I had such a hard time saying no to meeting up. But here’s the thing — I only set up boundaries with people who are worth it.

We tell them no and that things are not okay because they are worth telling and because we trust them to understand. If I didn’t care about my friend, I’d just go with it, let it slide, and I’d have shown up as not the best version of myself.

So while many might not see it, setting boundaries is something you set only with people you trust and who you want to continue a relationship with. The next time someone sets boundaries with you, I encourage you to see it as an act of trust, among other things.

Having grown up as an Asian female, I’ve always had a hard time saying no. I was always taught to give, to keep the peace, to put others first. And saying no this time was uncomfortable and so difficult.

But no matter what situation you’re in, you always have the right to take care of yourself and extend yourself the same kindness and compassion as you extend to others.

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