How To Open Up To People When It’s Not Easy
By Sarah Fader
Updated January 25, 2019
Reviewer Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
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 that 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 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:
- Focusing on self-care. Groom yourself, dress nicely and take care of your physical and mental health. Go to the doctor for your check-up, make a dentist appointment to get your teeth cleaned, and do any of the much-needed things that you've been letting go to the wayside.
- Change a small habit. One of the reasons we suffer from a lack of confidence is because we don't like and believe in ourselves. Somewhere along the way, the trust and faith we should have in ourselves and our own abilities have been lost. We can fight these negative outlooks through positive change. The trick though is to change on small thing at a time.
Maybe you want to stop drinking soda or spending so much 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.
- Get to know yourself. This may sound cliché, but getting to know yourself is a critical way to improve your connections with others. How can you share details about your likes, loves, wants, and needs with others if you don't know exactly what they are? Spend a little time each day exploring your own interests and investing in things that you enjoy. Do you like being outdoors? Maybe you should start a garden. Like to read? Join a local book club. By focusing on yourself first, you are really increasing the chance that you will be able to open up to others down the road.
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 head-on is the only way to tackle them for good.
Seek Advice from a 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 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?