Is it me, or are we becoming more and more guarded? We were guarded before covid – how are we supposed to be after? Letting people in feels like a herculean task at this point!
Letting people in can happen in small ways (like starting up conversations at the neighborhood block party) or significant ways (welcoming intimate closeness with others).
Before we begin, let’s start by discussing why you’re guarded in the first place:
Why do you protect yourself?
Megan Pierce of tracking happiness says, “I believe most of us are born wanting to trust others and let people in, but unfortunately, life experience teaches us otherwise. Numerous factors can lead to distrust, including:
I agree with what Pierce is saying. On witnessing a room full of three-year-olds playing, it becomes clear very quickly that we aren’t born distrustful. As small children, we were fascinated by others, were curious, and wanted to play. So what exactly happens to us?
We create defense mechanisms and build walls to protect ourselves, and we find it hard to let people in.
How can we move past our walls?
1. Manage your inner judge by giving everyone an equal chance.
Imagine you’re at an after-work cocktail party. And you find yourself in a crowded room full of people you do not know.
As your eyes scan the crowd, you become anxious and think, “This person isn’t my type” or “I have nothing in common with this person!”
What massive defense mechanisms we have in place! Before even giving anyone a chance, we decided that we didn’t fit it.
But is that true? Or are you foreclosing on the opportunity to meet someone new?
2. Let people in by breaking the ice. Then choose who you want to take that next step with.
Practice different ways to start a conversation. You can read about tips for doing that here.
Practicing your skills is worthwhile, regardless of the outcome.
When I first moved to Boston in 2011, I didn’t know anyone. I had to force myself to network at various events. Whenever I went to an event, I was confronted by multiple groups of women who all seemed to know each other already. It felt awkward for me at first.
But after a while, I became skilled at meeting new people. I learned how to chat with the older women in the coffee line. And I found it easier to break into groups by introducing myself to one person who would welcome me to join their group.
3. Choose who you’re going to let in a bit more.
This is where good old-fashioned instincts come in.
“Letting new people into your life doesn’t mean that you have to let just anyone in. There’s nothing wrong with having standards; in fact, you should have standards. You deserve to have individuals in your life that respect you and with whom you can get along.” says Lauren Pickens of Inspiyr.
So you get to decide whom you’d like a closer connection to in your life.
How can you do that?
4. Let people in by sharing both sides of yourself.
“The secret to opening up and letting someone in is to share wins and struggles. So when you get on the phone with an old friend or go on a coffee date with a newer friend, go ahead and share something you’re proud of or excited about,” says Michaela from Introvert Spring.
I found this interesting. Sometimes it feels easier to connect over common challenges, but sharing a win is also a sign of intimacy.
And remember, as my therapist once wisely told me, “You get to choose how intimate you want to be at any given moment.” You can share as much or as little as you want.
Embracing your whole self and sharing it with others in a way you’re comfortable with is the key.
5. Walking around with a sense of openness benefits you.
A painful and eye-opening lesson I recently learned is that it’s truly the state of my heart that matters most.
If I’m generous with the energy I give to any situation, I feel a sense of contentment. When I leave a problem with my heart closed, I feel sad and isolated, like I missed out.
And when my heart is open, I welcome the chance for a real energetic connection with someone. The only way to find out is when both people are open!
I will win if I can generate the vibe I’m hoping to feel.
6. Let people in by remembering that everyone feels insecure at times.
Brene Brown shares in her newest book Atlas of the Heart, that “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.”
It’s brave to overcome feelings of insecurity and risk, open up and be yourself. But that risk offers the chance for you to experience one of the greatest blessings in life.
Recognizing that we’ve all been hurt and a bit guarded.
And remember, as Maya Angelou said,” ‘We are more alike, my friends than we are unalike.” Ain’t that the truth?
So start letting people in, one tiny moment at a time.
Did you like this story? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share in the comments below.
Also, share this story with someone today. You never know! This might be exactly what they need :-)