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How To Open Up To Others When You’re Afraid Of Being Hurt

by Lily Low. |

I have been reading a popular psychology book titled Reinventing Your Life. Through case studies and the basis of their therapy approach, I learned about the connections and differences between us as children, and us as adults. This book presents the idea that our childhood experiences influence how we are as adults. For example, our level of trust in others may change. We may start to open up more, or we fear opening up out of rejection or getting hurt. How do we get past this? How do we open up to someone without getting hurt? These are some of the things we can keep in mind to help circumvent this mental block:

1. Do not depend on someone else for your own happiness

When we depend on someone else for our own happiness, we will get hurt and disappointed if the person does not turn out to be who we hope for them to be. It is good to be around people who give good energy, have the same vision and outlook for life, and people who strive to live with kindness and love. However, they are not responsible for your happiness. Remember what you stand for, what makes you feel fulfilled. It could be faith, passion, a hobby, a career you enjoy. Appreciate the people in your lives who you can trust in, but do not depend on someone else to create your happiness.

2. Be mindful of the people you confide in

In order to not get hurt, we have to be mindful of who we confide in, as well as potentially damaging and harmful behaviour. If we confide in someone who is notoriously a tattletale, a possible outcome is that our ‘personal stories’ won’t end up being so personal. If we confide in someone who respects that we are confiding in them because we trust them, the end result would be different.

There is a difference between having a difference of opinion and intentionally hurtful behaviour. Be aware of the differences between ‘gaslighting’ versus ‘constructive criticism’.

Gaslighting is the action of “manipulating someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.” If you are confiding in someone about what you feel, but the other person tells you that you are crazy or they back up their opinion with comments like “this person knows that you are not right either” against you – these people are the ones who will wear you down over time. If someone belittles your problem or tries to blame you for remembering incorrectly, those are also telltale signs!

Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is when ‘an individual expresses his or her well-reasoned opinions about a particular thing, subject, person or action whether involving both positive or negative comments in a pleasant manner.’ In comparison to gaslighting, constructive criticism does not shove aside a person’s feelings. For example, a friend complains about their job. Constructive criticism could be a suggestion to figure out what exactly is causing their unhappiness and to search for other jobs simultaneously. Gaslighting might be demeaning the other person for “being ungrateful” or how they are “lucky to even get a job.”

3. Do not wait for someone else to validate your emotions

Know that your feelings are valid. Understand that though not everyone is going to understand or relate to your pain, their reaction does not invalidate what you feel. If you are seeking for validation before allowing yourself to feel, you would constantly start to guilt yourself for feeling anything at all.

It is okay to feel negative emotions. You do not have to put a positive spin on things all the time! Otherwise, that would be ‘toxic positivity’. Dr Jaime Zuckerman defines it as the assumption that a person should only have a positive mindset despite their emotional pain or difficult situation. The reality is that there are both ups and downs in life, and it is more than okay to feel them both.

4. Start with light questions. If you are comfortable, you can share more if you would like to!

Not everyone is comfortable to immediately start sharing about their problems or what they are going through. Starting off with light conversations, catching up on what each other has been doing since the last time you met, could help! Talking about a shared interest before naturally going into conversation about what has been your mind could help to ease the burden of sharing about something more intimate.

5. Remind yourself why you are opening up to someone

We open up to others out of trust, it could help to lift a burden, or sometimes we just appreciate their presence. Remember that neither you nor your friend should be ‘playing God’. Do not expect that your friend is able to ‘solve’ your problem. There may be many things that remain uncertain, things that we may not be able to solve till much later, or things that only the person themselves have to journey through to get the answer. A conversation with a loved one should not be treated as an instant solution. It takes time, energy, effort, and discipline to work on ourselves. In the meantime, we can enjoy and appreciate the company of our loved ones who are willing to offer their love and support.

I am thankful for the people I can trust and love dearly. However, opening up can still be scary! I am still trying to find a balance between my persona (the public image) in comparison to what I really feel. I hope these tips can serve as a reminder to everyone to be gentle with themselves, as all of us may be at different stages in learning to open up and be vulnerable with the people in our lives.

You can find out more about the author on Instagram.

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