Image: Exit sign

Feeling safe and secure means having a sense of control of yourself and the environment

Exploring, discovering and challenging your boundaries can be really fun, and can help you get to know who you are. The trick is to do this in a way that keeps you safe emotionally and physically.

Knowing your boundaries for safety and security – and sticking to them – means enjoying yourself while feeling confident that you’ve done all you can to avoid and manage distressing situations.

How does it feel?

Young people sometimes feel unsafe, or worry about getting hurt, feeling sick, or being sexually assaulted. And even though people don’t always talk about it, it’s common to worry about emotional situations (like getting off with someone without really wanting to) or social situations (like saying something embarrassing or insulting).

Here are some things young people did to feel more safe and secure


“My friends are there if anything does happen. I just feel very comfortable. But sometimes I know that if I get drunk, people are going to give me a hard time, and probably make me do something silly and embarrass me. My friends are probably going to look after me, but I don’t want to be in either of those places so I’m not going to drink.”
Joseph, moderate drinker

When you feel safe and secure, you can experiment or explore, but you still feel a sense of control about yourself and your environment, even if you’ve had a bit to drink. You’re confident to handle problems, and that there won’t be lasting negative effects on you, people you care about, or other things important to you – like your job or school. Image: Girls with phones outside

You feel like you’re not on your own – you’re connected to reliable people like supportive friends and family, or even medical professionals. And you’re in a location that isn’t threatening or unpredictable, even if it gets a bit wild.

What does it feel like to feel unsafe?

Some drinking situations can be overwhelming or unpredictable. It’s really intimidating to feel unsafe or insecure because of other people’s behaviour. Small amounts of alcohol can involve a loss of control that some people find enjoyable, but it can be frightening to feel like you’ve lost control over your body, or like you may embarrass, offend or hurt yourself or other people.

Here are some situations young people said made them feel uncomfortable or scared


What works?

Have an “exit strategy”

Image: Exit sign

Have an exit plan: what time might you leave? Who with? How?

Don’t stick around if you’re not having a good time

Plan ahead, especially at first. You might get carried away when you’re drinking. Stopping before that point will help you stay in your Sweet Spot. You can have a better time if you think honestly about whether you tend to get carried away in the moment, and plan what you can do:

  • Plan ahead how much and what you will drink
  • Take out a set amount of money
  • Take “time out” from tempting people and places for a few weeks
  • Keep a soft drink in your hand so you don’t feel out of place
“It gets you talking to people, you’ve got something to hold, so you don’t feel out of place.”
Gareth, moderate drinker

Talk with others about how to feel secure. Chat with friends about how to handle situations where one of you feels uncomfortable – friends want each other to feel secure enough to enjoy themselves.

  • Stick with your friends and watch out for each other
  • Be aware of how much others around you are drinking
  • Join up with a friend so neither of you drinks too much

Plan ahead to avoid uncontrollable or frightening situations. Sometimes bad situations happen that are outside of your control. But there’s a lot that you can do.

  • Drink less in situations where you feel uncomfortable or out of place (even if the temptation is to drink more).
  • Remove yourself from situations where you feel uncomfortable