Are you setting boundaries or pushing people away? 7 differences to note

boundaries or pushing friends away

It’s important to create boundaries that should not be crossed by friends, family, and colleagues. But then, how can you be sure that it’s boundaries you’re setting and not walls? How can you tell if you are setting boundaries or pushing people away?  That’s something I ve always wondered and perhaps you have too, if so then you’re in the right place. I want to share with you how to tell the difference between the two.

Are you setting boundaries?

When it comes to setting boundaries, you have to create limits to what people can do to you or things they can do around you. The moment you set boundaries, you teach others how to treat you; you allow room for healthy and mutually respectful relationships. But at times it can become more of a defense mechanism, if you find that these supposed boundaries are actually causing you unhappiness, stress and driving the very people you want in your life away. At this point you need to evaluate if this is more self protection than creating healthy boundaries.

setting boundaries and pushing friends away

Why is it important to know the difference between creating boundaries and pushing people away?

Boundaries should not keep the right people out of your life, in fact it often attracts other healthy positive individuals who understand and respect this value. Barriers on the other hand keep everyone out, it also stops you growing beyond the fear that caused you to build that barrier in the first instance.

Because, that’s what healthy relationships do; they often act as a mirror enabling us to understand ourselves better and see the areas that require attention. Keeping people out means we halt our growth, we stop taking risks and instead live in denial that everything wrong in our lives is due to others.

Living in defensive mode is not only stressful, it can lead to anxiety and prevent you from having meaningful connections with others.

Knowing this difference will also make it easier to make difficult decisions when for instance family or close friends cross your boundaries. When you are aware deep within that this is a boundary you set in alignment with your values, although it may be hard to tell your loved ones who just crossed it this, but in doing so you feel a sense of freedom. One of being able to be your truest self and truly practising self love.

Having boundaries is one of the greatest act of self love you can make

If like me you love giving and being open, having boundaries can seem like you are closing others off. It can seem selfish to you, but healthy boundaries prevent you from having your kindness taken advantage of.

Having boundaries requires you having trust in yourself and trusting that the right people, those you want closer will respect these. Being able to stand firm by your boundaries can be tough and it takes discipline. 

That’s why I’ve created a list of differences between setting boundaries and pushing people away to help you on your journey to a happy and healthy relationship with others.

Before I get to these though here are some signs you may have a problem setting boundaries:


  • You have issues saying ‘no’ to people?
  • Often do things because others say you should even when you don’t want to 
  • You constantly feel like you ought to the saviour or that you are the victim 

If you were nodding to any of these, then you may struggle with setting boundaries with people around you. The same goes for falling to the opposite side of the spectrum–always saying no to things, not willing to compromise, shutting people down, and feeling you know everything all the time will also definitely push people away. 

The difference between setting a boundary and pushing people away

Most of the time, when you detach yourself from people around you, they begin to make assumptions about you and accuse you of having extremely rigid boundaries. However, one of the key ways to avoid these mistakes is to understand the differences between setting boundaries and pushing friends, family away in order to maintain healthy relationships. 

So here are the differences between setting boundaries and pushing people away:

1.  Protective versus Preventative

Like I mentioned before, boundaries are created so you can achieve healthy relationships. Boundaries are protective in nature; it’s created to protect your feelings, get the respect you deserve and enjoy a happy relationship with friends and family. This is sometimes confusing, because what protects us, may also prevent us from something as well. When you push people away though, you avoid them at all cost. You work on the premise of pushing people away to prevent pain, being hurt.

2. Seek clarity 

Most reactions occur with only part of the message. One useful approach to determine when and how to create a boundary, and avoid pushing the world away, is to ask more questions such as, “Did you mean to say that in this way?” or, “Did you intend to offend me with this?”

When the response is “no,” then you and this person can talk and uncover the actual message, reach an understanding, and hopefully mutual, social contentment. This is what setting a boundary is all about.

On the other hand, if you snap at someone about what they said to you without clarity of the intention of their words, not only will you destroy bridges but you will always be on the defensive. Which results in people pulling away and both of you feeling unheard and without closure in an easily avoidable situation that just required open communication. 

So clarify what their intention was, reinforce your boundary if needed but always remain open and receptive to an alternative explanation.

3. Humility is necessary

When we feel bad, sad, or terrified, we usually condemn the attitude of someone else and form our emotional boundaries around that condemnation. But usually, this seemingly irrational or intrusive friend is rarely trying to upset us, and just doing the best they can with what they have in their social climate.

Truth is, whatever anybody else does or says usually does not have much to do with us but rather them.

We constantly think we are the focus of the universe, the only performer in the drama called life. We fret about how others see us, how others treat us, and how we are being perceived in each situation.  When actually we are just one of a few billion ordinary humans who all wish for the same things like care, recognition, and joy.

When we create boundaries with the understanding that we all make mistakes, being sympathetic becomes easier. We see it all the time: “No one is perfect.” This also includes us, and when we learn this, then the attitude of people becomes less disturbing to our ego, and we can behave out of kindness rather than resentment.

4. Calm vs. Reactive

It’s so much easier often to react than to stay calm and seek a situation beyond  how we feel.

All too often we want to lash out when we feel hurt and ‘get back’ so to speak at the other person.

I understand this- it’s self preservation on speed. It’s the mind having you believe that the actions of another has a direct effect on your identity. Rather than acting calmly to resolve the situation or to respectfully reinforce how you wish to be treated, it convinces you that you must claim back your honour and show them. 

Being reactive never serves a good purpose unless in a life threatening situation and the ego is never in that position no matter how much it will try to convince you otherwise.

5. We vs. Me Mindset

The ‘we’ mindset is an important ingredient in every healthy relationship and even though “I” statements will come up while explaining your stance to people, ‘we’ is also just as important because the end goal of setting boundaries isn’t to alienate everyone nor is it to prevent them expressing their point of view of the situation being discussed. 

The moment you start thinking about ‘me’, you won’t get a solution, you won’t communicate and you will be pushing people away. 

Unlike the ‘we’ mindset, the ‘me’ only mindset is often uncompromising and fault finding. When addressing the issues, you tend to accuse the other person and the aim is often to be right than to resolve. Taking only the ‘me’ point of view causes others to also become defensive and close off to anything you may have to suggest on how to resolve the matter.

6. Love vs. Fear Mode

The healthy and right way to set boundaries is when you talk about the issues that concern you from a place of love. You show concern and understanding and give them a chance to speak their mind. 

This removes fear of hurting them or rejection from telling people how you feel because it comes from a place of love, honesty, and loyalty. 

But when you operate from fear, you create an emotional wall around yourself. You see when you approach setting boundaries from fear, where you don’t want the person to get mad, leave you, or see you as selfish so you keep allowing them to cross your boundaries, there will come a point when you will reach your limit. And this often leads to an explosion of building resentment and can damage the relationship irreparably. 

It no longer is an act of love and care to understand the other’s reasons and intentions behind the action; you instead encourage an environment whereby neither party is able to be themselves. You further give yourself reason to believe that you are unworthy of the love you want nor to be respected. 

5 surefire ways to feel worthy of love

When you continue to allow fear to control your mindset, that very fear of losing them becomes reality but worse you lose your sense of self in the process too.

7. Apology is a perfect last resort

Often the only thing you can say is “sorry”.  Sorry for not taking a moment to see your point of view, or of making you feel you couldn’t express it. Apologising when you get it wrong is a sign of strength not weakness. It not only frees them but you and gives you both permission to be vulnerable and love fully.

Having the understanding that most people are doing their best to navigate this complex, confusing world or that not everyone purposely steps on our ‘triggers’ allows room for what each and everyone of us seeks in our relationships- deep meaningful, loving communication. 

As a Doctor I have found that most people just want to be heard, they want to feel understood and accepted as they are; an imperfect human being. Being aware of this whilst compassionately making your boundaries known fosters with the right people mutually respectful relationships.

I hope this helps you recognise how important it is to keep your boundaries whilst being mindful that it doesn’t become a wall keeping out potentially beautiful connections.

 I would love to know how this post resonates with you.  Have you found yourself in this situation of struggling between setting boundaries and pushing other people away?

  I’ll love you to check out these problem solving strategies: 7 holistic ways to do it 


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Hi! I'm Dr Jessica

I share my expertise as a Family Physician to provide you with the support and tools to a holistic lifestyle.

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