Boundaries are Protection

Boundaries are Protection

A reader responded to my previous post, “Believe Them the First Time” with the following:

Hi Cressida, this post of yours speaks right to me. I’ve been struggling with forgiveness and giving someone another chance. Yet they keep repeating the same abusive behaviour. And the only peace I receive, protecting my well-being, is when I distance myself from them completely. If only I had come across this post years ago, I would have not been so lenient. Thank you for the insight and encouragement to be braver.



Naomi’s comment made me think of boundaries and how important they are to create healthy relationships. It saddens me to see someone close to me not even realise when someone else is overstepping a personal boundary they have set for themselves and do not put in necessary consequences.


In the Sunday Times Style supplement, the last page, Dear Dolly answers a woman with an eating disorder struggling to help her friend that’s recently disclosed an eating disorder of her own and feels triggered by it.

I could relate to this in many ways. One way, how when someone chooses not to accept a boundary of mine yet expects me to respect theirs. Of course, I do so as I am well aware of how important boundaries become especially when in need of protecting myself. Towards the end of Dolly’s response, she stated:

‘I once heard Brené Brown talk about a study on empathy. The researcher examined highly empathetic people to find out what they had in common. There was one uniting factor: rock-solid boundaries. These were people who knew how to protect themselves. They knew when to say no. They preserved their emotional energy so that they were able to pour as much genuine love and patience in the places where they could be most useful. Hearing this was such an important lesson for me. People-pleasers are often liars – they keep everyone else happy at their own expense. They can end up resenting those they try to serve, and thieve themselves of their own compassion reserves.

“Boundaries” is one of those self-help words that is often misused or overused. Having boundaries doesn’t mean being self-absorbed, it means being truthful about what you can comfortably give. It means self-preservation and self-respect. It means deep intimacy with the people you love, because you’re being honest with each other. In order to be the best friend you can be, you have to keep yourself safe. You can support her and make her feel loved without entering into discussions about her eating disorder. You must never, ever feel guilty about making your recovery the number one priority…’


‘Setting healthy boundaries is a crucial part of life and an important aspect of any self-care practice. Someone who’s not used to setting boundaries might feel guilty or selfish when they first start out, but setting boundaries is necessary for mental health and well-being. Appropriate boundaries can look very different depending on the setting, and it’s important to set them in all aspects of one’s life.

‘Finally, while setting boundaries is crucial, it is even more crucial to respect the boundaries that others have set for themselves. This goes for parents, children, romantic partners, bosses, coworkers, and anyone who interacts with or has power over anyone else. Respect is a two-way street, and appreciating the boundaries others have set for themselves is as important as setting boundaries for oneself.’


‘This post is meant as a general overview: Relationships are complex and it may not be easy to deal with toxic people until you have learned from previous interactions. I understand that many relationships, especially familial ones, are more difficult because it’s not so easy to close the door and say goodbye. But the bottom line is that if you feel bad about yourself as a result of a relationship with another person, it’s time to sit down and assess the issue. They may be unlikely to change, but you can. Weigh the pros (if there are any) and the cons, make a decision to limit your time with this person or end the relationship—and don’t look back.’


You deserve friendships and relationships that will enhance your well-being and challenge you to grow and learn. Simply put, if anyone in your life brings you down more than they raise you up, then you need to let them go. Self-respecting people don’t allow anyone but themselves to control their lives, period.


If you know you’ve done your best, tried to repair the damage, given someone chance after chance to stop their disrespectful behaviour while treating them with respect, then it’s about putting in harsher boundaries and if that means ending the relationship then feel empowered to do so; it doesn’t matter who they are. And only look forward.


“You don’t ever have to tolerate people who treat you poorly. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend, a family member, or a partner. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known them for or how nice they may have been to you in the past – you’re allowed to call people out on their abusive behavior. You’re allowed to set boundaries about what you are and are not willing to tolerate. You’re allowed to vocalize how their abuse makes you feel. You’re allowed to share those feelings and experiences with other people. And if necessary, you’re allowed to leave and distance yourself. You have every right to stand up and say, “I love you and I really want you to be a part of my life, but I can’t continue to allow you to treat me this way. I can’t continue to sacrifice my wellbeing for the sake of maintaining this connection. So if things don’t change, I’m going to have to cut you out of my life. Not because I don’t care about you or respect you, but because I care about and respect myself.”

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