Opening up to others can be a difficult task. Sharing our inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences can make us feel psychologically naked, vulnerable, and insecure. When inviting others in to learn about us on a deeper level, we tend to worry about whether or not we will be accepted, rejected, or if we can trust. This is especially true if we were abandoned or hurt by someone we loved early in life.
Is it hard for you to open up to people? Do you ever wish you were better at making new friends? It's not unusual for some introverted or shy people to have difficulty in social situations. Individuals on the autism spectrum can also struggle with communication and socialization. And then there are those of us with social anxiety or who have opened up in the past only to end up hurt and disappointed.
Regardless of the root cause, learning how to reach out to people or allow others to become close to you isn't as impossible as it might seem. In many cases, a qualified therapist may be needed to provide support and assistance. But if you're not ready to take that leap just yet, there are steps you can take to make opening up to people easier on your own.
Address Your Open Wounds
Most of the time, the inability to open up to others is related to a wound or trust issue that hasn't been healed. Many of these trust-related scars are connected to childhood or your relationship with your parents. Were there traumatic events in your past that might be making you emotionally guarded, like your parents' divorce or being abused? Being abandoned or neglected by a parent early on can cause unhealthy attachment styles that make it difficult for us to align ourselves with others.
But it isn't just childhood trauma that can make it difficult for us to open up to others. Maybe the scars on your heart occurred later through betrayal at the hands of a friend or a spouse. Regardless of the source, if you're harboring emotional pain or resentment, it must be addressed.
Although they say time heals all wounds, this just isn't true when it comes to recovering from the past. You must come to terms with the things that have hurt you and work on moving on from the trauma. If you don't know where to begin, this is where your therapist can offer suggestions.
Work On Your Social Skills
Once you've addressed any past issues that might be holding you back from learning how to open up to people, changing your habits comes next. Learning to talk to new people and making friends can be difficult, especially if you have struggled in these areas in the past. It helps to take an honest look at yourself and acknowledge areas for self-improvement.
First things first: sit down and take a self-assessment of your hang-ups. Maybe you're nervous in social situations.You talk to people with your shoulders hunched forward, arms crossed coldly, and barely make eye contact. You could be an amazing, kind, funny, and compassionate person but your body language may not convey this.
Being mindful of your eye contact, tone of voice, and posture are all ways to improve your social skills. With these enhanced skills, your interactions with new people won't feel so strained, and you will likely have a much easier time making friends.
Nurture Your Self-Confidence
In addition to working on your social skills, you might also work on your confidence. Sometimes, we get so caught up in comparing ourselves to other people that we forget what makes us special and unique. Think about the things that you are good at, things you are passionate about, what makes you a good friend, or makes you fun to be around.
Don't be afraid to acknowledge what you bring to the table instead of your perception of why you aren't good enough. By allowing those positive thoughts to enter, you can start to connect with your authentic self and grow more confident.
Ways to improve your self-confidence so you can become more open include:
Maybe you want to stop drinking soda, spend less money on clothing, stop biting your fingernails, or kick that nasty smoking habit once and for all. Set your goal and accomplish what you set out to do. Just don't take on too many changes at once. Otherwise, you'll end up feeling overwhelmed and defeated.
Now it's time to put all of your hard work into practice and put yourself out there. Truthfully, this is the hardest part. Just like with the change we discussed above, you should start out small. Try talking to someone at a bar. Go to a social event and challenge yourself to talk to one new person or maybe two if you're feeling really brave. Call up a family member or friend and have a conversation that's not shallow. Tell them something that you've never shared with anyone before. If it feels scary, then you're on the right track. Challenging your fears is the only way to tackle them for good.
Seek Advice FromA Counselor
If you have been struggling with social problems for a long time and working through it by yourself isn't working, help is available. Counseling is one option that gives you a place to work through your concerns in a safe and understanding environment.
A counselor can help you pinpoint where your interactions with other people are going wrong and offer suggestions to take to make things better. Online counseling services like BetterHelp even offer ongoing monthly support from a professional counselor that is picked to suit your unique needs.
If you’re trying to figure out how what path is the right one for you, it will probably help to know more about online therapy. Some people are still concerned that online therapy may not be as effective as traditional in-person therapy. Social anxiety disorder has been found to be most successfully treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a common type of talk therapy. CBT is so common that a lot of studies have been done comparing the online version to the traditional version. One study that directly compared groups found that folks in the online group did just as well as those in face-to-face therapy, and both groups had maintained those positive results after six months.
If you’re someone with social anxiety, the draw of online therapy may seem obvious. If leaving your home to go to a new place and meet a stranger is intimidating, online therapy can be an easier step. You can contact your counselor through the medium you find most comfortable and in a familiar space as long as you have a secure, reliable internet connection. BetterHelp also provides assistance in matching you to the right person so you can find someone you can trust. They provide smart matching and, if you want to switch counselors for whatever reason, more than 14,000 are associated with BetterHelp.
Here are some recent reviews by BetterHelp users about their counselors:
“Natalie is a great listener and is incredibly easy to talk to. I was extremely nervous to start video sessions but she made them low stress and easy to open up in. It's rare to immediately find a therapist you click with and I count myself very lucky to have matched with Natalie.” Read more on Natalie Thwing.
“Ms. Natalie is so sweet, caring, understanding and has a demeanor in which I felt comfortable being able to open up to her right away. I always feel better after our therapy sessions and I’m confident that I’ll be able to grow and reach my goals with her help.” Read more on Natalie Bouffard-Lewis.
If you have been having a difficult time because it's hard for you to open up to people, there is hope. You can learn to be more comfortable in social situations and open up to people without anxiety or fear of being judged. Give yourself the time you need to work through any issues. In the end, it will be worth it. It only takes a few great relationships to bring joy and meaning into your life. Once you let your personality show, the right people will notice.
Are you ready to start this new chapter?