As I move through life I find that, due to my past experiences, I can be very closed off when I shouldn’t be and very open in times it may not be appropriate. Somehow, after experiencing trauma growing up, it threw off my balance of when to trust people and when to withhold trust. I went through countless patterns of trusting the “wrong” people and not giving the “right” people a chance. Then, I realized how much of life involves reading the room and learning to open and close myself on a regular basis, at times being vulnerable and at times putting up a guard. So, if people regularly tell you that you are “closed off” or comment that you are hard to get to know, it may be time to check in with yourself. Think about how to open yourself up in the right moments to the right people.
Why do we put up a guard?
I’ve found that the main reason we put up a guard in life is due to past experiences that have left a lasting impression on us. I have a history of getting close to people and letting down my guard only to have them not actually like me for who I am. In middle school, in high school, and even later into my adult life, I have had friends who got to know me, then told me they just don’t click with me and don’t want to be friends. That hurts. The pain that I experienced in those moments left a lasting mark. I now find myself closing off more and more each time. Instead of opening up and letting in people I have a lot in common with, I find myself closing them out, pushing them away.
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to give everyone a chance, but we should slowly and delicately build relationships, not just jump “all in” with people we aren’t that close with yet.
Knowing when to be open
In theory, being open, fluid and ready to let people in seems like an overall positive, admirable trait. However, it’s important to note that we naturally feel uncomfortable and put up barriers as a defense mechanism because we don’t exactly feel “safe.” It’s always important to acknowledge that natural feeling of discomfort because it is there to warn you to be cautious when you step out of your comfort zone. However, it’s important to receive that feeling and to either accept it and stay closed off or to recognize that there’s no reason to be closed off and release it.
I find that, now, when I meet new people, I have discovered a balance of recognizing that general feeling of discomfort, acknowledging it, asking why it’s there, and then releasing it (not dismissing it; rather, pushing it aside). Most people do not want or mean to hurt you. It’s okay to be open in life and welcome people in if they are exhibiting positive traits or looking to be your friend. I think it’s a good idea in most circumstances to start openly welcoming people into your life and slowly close them out if it seems they are not a good match for you. You can do this by slowly and methodically closing the door in a kind way. But, in theory, giving everyone a chance at the beginning is a good idea!
Knowing when to back off and close yourself
Now, especially for those of us who are naturally empathic, it’s important not to walk around fully open, letting all energy and all people in. We do need to learn how to set barriers that block out any bad energy or people while allowing those with good intentions and positive energy in. This can be much easier said than done. I’ve spent roughly 18 years trying to facilitate that balance in my life. As I mentioned above, if your gut is telling you to be cautious, there is likely a reason. If you just can’t shake a feeling, it’s probably a good idea to listen to it. So, if you’re just extremely uncomfortable in a situation or just aren’t clicking with someone, it’s completely healthy and okay to listen to yourself and keep up a guard until you feel safe to release it.
It really is all about balance. Through personal experience, intuition, and trust, you can slowly teach yourself how to best balance when you be open with people and when to keep a block up. A good way to start discovering this balance is to meditate with the intention to reveal your feelings on a particular person when you first meet them. The feeling you have when you focus your thoughts on them can help direct you down the right path.
The most important advice I can give you on this is to listen to your intuition, understand why you feel a certain way, and use both your logic and your feelings to make the best judgement in each situation. After a while of doing this, you will become more fluid in this action. Life is always about learning, living, and growing, so be sure to keep this in the forefront of your mind as you continue to live and grow in your life.