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Setting Boundaries vs. Pushing People Away

Maintaining healthy relationships can be a delicate balancing act. While setting boundaries to protect our well-being and foster healthy connections is essential, it's equally important to avoid unintentionally pushing people away. How can we ensure we are setting a boundary and not putting up a wall? Striking the right balance between setting boundaries and preserving relationships can be challenging, but it is achievable with self-awareness, communication, and empathy. In this blog, we will explore the key differences between setting boundaries and pushing people away and how to navigate these aspects in our relationships.

Understanding Boundaries:

Boundaries are the emotional and physical limits we set to protect our well-being, maintain our individuality, and define our personal space. They are not meant to distance us from others but rather to create a healthy framework for interaction. Boundaries enable us to establish our needs, values, and limits, promoting self-respect and preserving our mental and emotional health.

Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries:

  1. Resentment and frustration from unmet needs. This occurs when we abandon ourselves because we prioritize others' needs and feelings over our own.

  2. Overextending ourselves and feeling drained. This occurs when we do not say "no" to others.

  3. Compromising our values and priorities. This occurs when we neglect or abandon our beliefs and values to please others.

  4. Allowing others to take advantage of us. This happens when we feel responsible for "fixing" or "saving" others.

Signs of Healthy Boundaries:

  • Self-awareness: Understanding our emotions, needs, and limits helps us communicate effectively and assertively. Emotions like overwhelm, anger, and resentment can be helpful signals to when, where, and with whom to set boundaries. Asking yourself, "What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way? What do I need to feel safe?

  • Clear communication: Expressing our boundaries openly and respectfully allows others to understand our expectations. Explain to others why setting boundaries is important and beneficial to you.

  • Consistency: Maintaining consistent boundaries reinforces our values and promotes mutual respect. Be gentle with yourself as you learn to set boundaries, acknowledging that it is a learned skill that takes time to develop.

  • Mutual understanding: Recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others fosters trust and healthy relationships. Often when we have trouble setting boundaries for ourselves, we have trouble respecting boundaries set by others.

  • Self-care: Prioritizing self-care and honoring our personal needs without guilt ensures our well-being. We have the right to say no without feeling guilty. Practice saying "No, thank you" without excuse or creating a false reason that can leave you feeling guilty.

The Pitfalls of Pushing People Away:

Pushing people away, on the other hand, is often a defense mechanism that arises from past traumas, insecurities, or fear of intimacy. It involves creating emotional distance from others to protect ourselves from potential hurt or rejection. While it may provide temporary relief, pushing people away can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, resentment, and missed opportunities for personal growth and deep connections with others in the long run.

Some signs that you may be pushing people away are:

  1. Avoiding deep emotional connections.

  2. Keeping conversations superficial and avoiding vulnerability.

  3. Frequently canceling plans or isolating oneself.

  4. Becoming overly critical or defensive in relationships.

  5. Sabotaging relationships when they start getting serious.

Differentiating Between Boundaries and Pushing People Away:

  • Intention: Boundaries are established consciously and assertively, aiming to create healthy relationships. Pushing people away is often an unconscious defense mechanism driven by unresolved issues or emotional wounds.

  • Communication: Setting boundaries involves clear and respectful communication, allowing others to understand and respect our needs. Pushing people away, on the other hand, often involves withdrawal, avoidance, or creating emotional barriers, making it difficult for others to engage with us.

  • Emotional impact: Boundaries promote self-care and emotional well-being without causing harm to ourselves or others. Pushing people away causes emotional distance, hinders vulnerability, and limits the potential for deeper connections.

  • Flexibility: Boundaries can be adjusted and renegotiated as relationships evolve, whereas pushing people away tends to be a rigid and self-protective stance that inhibits growth and connection.

Setting boundaries is essential to maintaining healthy relationships, allowing us to protect our well-being and foster meaningful connections. While it's necessary to establish and communicate our boundaries, we must also address the underlying reasons behind pushing people away. By cultivating self-awareness, effective communication, and empathy, we can strike the right balance and create enriching relationships that respect both our individuality and the needs of others. Remember, seeking support from friends, family, or a professional counsellor can be instrumental in helping you navigate the complexities of relationships and personal growth.

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