It’s a biological fact that we are hardwired with a longing to belong.
Our brains process rejection much like they do physical pain. When we feel slighted, our brains release a chemical painkiller to try and inhibit our suffering. Despite the natural opioid now coursing through our veins, studies show that rejection has the power to confuse our thoughts and lower our IQ.
That feeling of not being able to think straight when we get snubbed? It’s real.
We all know what it feels like to be rejected by someone. That’s why we try to hold people with the greatest compassion in our hearts. But sometimes we come across a situation where we realize that we need to be more discerning. We cannot just let anyone or anything into our lives. We need healthy boundaries.
It’s not a decision any of us take lightly. After all, we are hardwired for connection. Our primal fear of rejection and abandonment is what motivates us to do our best to avoid relationship breakdown—even when we know the relationship is no longer serving us.
Recently, I decided that it was time to seriously reevaluate some relationships in my life. After a period of self-discovery, I came up with a framework of values that helped me decide who I would allow in my life and who I would need to reject, mindfully.
Here are the people I decided to cut ties with:
1. The people I can no longer trust.
To feel secure in any relationship, a person must have the freedom to truly express their deepest thoughts, feelings, and experiences. For the relationship to work, there must be a level of trust present. To me, trust is the knowledge that we will be accepted for who we are, and that what we express will remain confidential.
At some point, we’ve all had our trust tested in a relationship. Maybe our best friend revealed something we said to someone else, and that damaged our reputation. Maybe we discovered that we no longer felt safe in our relationship, or that our friends did not accept us or the choices we made, and so we no longer felt we could authentically express ourselves to them.
A lack of trust is a real barrier to authentic connection. After someone in my life revealed personal details about me to my employer, I decided to cut anyone who violates my trust. I realized that I have the right to feel safe in my relationships.
2. The people who do not respect me as a human being.
This one is a biggie. We are all socialized in certain ways. But as women, especially, we are taught that male attention is our biggest goal, and that we should always strive to be attractive and likable and do nothing to rock the boat—even if that means accepting abuse and disrespect from anyone.
I struggled with this. I still struggle with this. And that is why I set out to cut anyone out of my life who did not respect me as a human being.
If you make inappropriate sexual comments to me about myself or another woman, you do not have a place in my life. If you disrespect anyone’s bodily autonomy, you do not have a place in my life. If you want to be my friend, but in the back of your mind you want nothing more than to sleep with me, you do not have a place in my life.
If you think the word “no” is an invitation to negotiate, you do not have a place in my life. If you cannot respect that I am a human being with my own desires and needs, you do not have a place in my life. If you cannot respect my ability to make my own choices, you do not have a place in my life.
If you are a woman, and you consistently put other women down and disrespect their humanity, you also do not have a place in my life.
These boundaries are incredibly hard to set. The ways we interact with each other are heavily influenced by our culture, and sometimes we don’t even see the consequences of our own behavior. We all make mistakes. But if we work at it every day, we can build healthy boundaries that respect everyone involved.
3. The people who guilt trip us.
We all know those people, the ones who always try to make us feel guilty about something. When we are with people like this, we find ourselves feeling uncomfortable. We feel like we need to explain ourselves, and apologize every five seconds.
No. Full stop.
These people play dirty and like to press our buttons. They think it is our job to please them. Guilt can be a useful emotion—it tells us when we have done something wrong—but when we are in a relationship with someone who constantly has us feeling like we aren’t good enough, it can drain our energy and hurt our self-esteem.
We can be kind, but it is not our job to make other people feel comfortable all the time. Sometimes, life happens and we need to cancel plans or switch things up for a positive change, and that involves cutting ties with anyone who cannot take responsibility for their own emotions.
4. The people who never change.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and you get that déjà vu feeling? Like you could have sworn this exact conversation occurred about five years ago?
Everybody gets stuck in a rut sometimes. But when those around us have been stuck in the same rut for years, it is an indicator that something is not right. There are times when friends, family members, or partners get into sticky situations, and they ask for our help. It’s perfectly okay to lend a hand when someone is in need, but there are cases where we need to draw the line.
We can only help someone who wants to help themselves. Many people have a way of saying that they want to change, but their actions tell us otherwise. Maybe they always say how miserable and unhappy they are, but instead of trying to solve the problem, they would rather sit on the couch and watch Netflix all day. Maybe they’re dealing with substance abuse, but they refuse to seek out any services or resources to help them recover.
Nobody is required to be happy and positive all the time, and it is important to honor and process our negative feelings and experiences. But some people seem to thrive on the drama, and at a certain point, we must admit it is important to take care of our own well-being first.
5. The people who only show up when they need something from us.
The best thing about relationships is the way that we connect through sharing. I tend to believe my relationships are thriving if I get a sense of a reciprocity when I am with my friends and family. They share with me their heartbreaks and their triumphs, and with them I do the same. We walk together, even if sometimes we don’t spend as much time together as we would like.
Relationships like this matter because they allow us both to see ourselves more clearly. Then there are the people who seem to be at our doorstep every time they need something. If they are going through a rough time in their lives, they need to talk. And when they need a babysitter, they call us.
But when we are in need or going through a rough time? Radio silence.
Sometimes, people go through stuff. They need some time alone in reflection and that is perfectly fine. But if we consistently notice that someone is only there when they need something, then maybe it’s time to close the door and walk away.
6. The mean people.
Finally, we have the mean ones. It seems almost ridiculous to say that we don’t need mean people in our lives, but you might be surprised by how many people—maybe ourselves included—will continue to court a relationship with someone even though they have been rude or even cruel to them in the past.
I notice this most with people I knew as a teenager. There were girls out there who used to ignore me, low-key bully me, and gossip behind my back. But because of my desire to belong, I still tried.
This also happened to me later in life. I noticed that some of my friends were making mean-spirited comments in passing. When this happened, I would try to shrug it off and continue as if nothing had happened. But the comments added up and my self-esteem started taking a toll.
These days, I have learned to speak up. If someone says something that hurts my feelings, I try to point it out to them. And I ask myself why anyone would we want the approval of someone who is downright mean. It might be time to say goodbye to anyone who shows us this level of disrespect.
Cutting ties with people we care about is a difficult process. We long to hold them with compassion because we know how difficult rejection can be.
But we can’t let compassion turn us into a doormat. We have a right to feel safe and loved in our relationships. While it’s important to remember that we’re all human and make mistakes, if someone shows no signs of remorse or no willingness to reciprocate in our relationships, it might be time to let them go. If we’re no longer motivated to reciprocate in our relationships, that is another indicator that something is amiss.
Every relationship is unique, but we have the final say in whether it is healthy enough to hang onto.
In the end, always remember to have compassion for yourself first. You deserve respect. You are allowed to enforce your own boundaries. And once you do, you open the door for more positive, nourishing connections.