How To Open Up To People When It’s Not Easy

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated September 7, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The ability to open up to others can help you form meaningful, intimate relationships that can play an important role in overall well-being. However, being vulnerable and letting someone else see your true self can sometimes seem intimidating and difficult. If you’ve noticed that you have trouble opening up to people but you want to engage with others in your life more readily and authentically, the tips shared below might help.

Are You Noticing Symptoms Of Social Anxiety?

The Benefits Of Opening Up To Others

Vulnerability is considered to be a key component of emotional intimacy, upon which virtually all healthy relationships—whether romantic, platonic, or familial—are built. Without it, you may have difficulty building strong, trusting connections with others in your life.

This can be problematic, because loneliness and social isolation have been shown to play a role in health problems like dementia, heart disease, stroke, anxiety, and depression and even a shorter lifespan. In contrast, having strong social connections can contribute to overall health and well-being. Even if you have a variety of relationships with others, holding back from sharing your authentic self with any of them can make you feel isolated and lonely despite being surrounded by connections. Truly being known can be nourishing and empowering and allow you to form close bonds.

Opening up to others can also make them feel safe and comfortable in doing the same. Not only can this form a foundation for a strong, healthy relationship, but it can provide you with a wealth of learning opportunities too. Speaking openly about your thoughts, feelings, and challenges with someone you trust can help you heal, learn, gain motivation, and receive inspiration.

Why Opening Up To People Can Be Hard

As with many worthwhile endeavors, opening up to people in an authentic way can be difficult and intimidating. Reasons for this may include:

  • A fear of judgment
  • A fear of embarrassment
  • A fear of abandonment
  • A lack of practice
  • A disconnection from one’s emotions
  • Emotional numbness, possibly in connection to a physical or mental health condition

It’s true that sharing your genuine thoughts and feelings with another carries some emotional risk. The other person could judge you or feel turned off by what you tell them, which can increase feelings of isolation. You could form a strong bond with someone, but then be separated and feel the pain of that loss. Or, you might have trouble engaging in the act of opening up to someone at all, whether because you’re not used to sharing your emotions, you’ve experienced related past trauma, or you experience symptoms of a mental health condition like social anxiety disorder that makes interpersonal exchanges difficult. You may also find it challenging to meet and bond with new people as a result of social anxiety or a lack of social skills. 

iStock/Edwin Tan

Tips For Learning To Open Up To Others

While there are a variety of reasons you may have trouble opening up to others, there are also a variety of strategies you can try to get better at it so you can enjoy the benefits. 

Address Past Wounds

The experience of being physically and/or emotionally abandoned by a parent, caregiver, friend, or romantic partner in the past may make a person more emotionally guarded and hesitant to trust others going forward. Past experiences of abuse may also contribute to a lasting trust wound or an unhealthy attachment style that makes it hard to get close to someone new. If you’re not sure whether a past experience may be contributing to present difficulties opening up or if you’re looking for help in working through it, you might consider seeking the support of a therapist.

Improve Your Social Skills

While it’s true that some people seem to be more naturally charismatic, it’s also true that social skills are skills that can generally be developed and strengthened through practice like any others. Joining support groups for this purpose, consulting with a therapist or social-skills coach, and/or putting yourself in situations where you can practice engaging with others in meaningful ways can all be helpful if you’re looking to build your social skills. Examples of social skills you might work on include displaying positive body language, making conversation, setting personal boundaries, and learning to calmly resolve conflict.

Build Your Self-Confidence

In addition to working on your social skills, you might also work on your confidence. It can be easy, especially in the age of social media, to compare ourselves to others and lose sight of what makes each of us valuable and unique. If you feel that your self-confidence could use a boost, you might consider trying techniques like:

  • Practicing self-compassion which research suggests may offer “similar mental health benefits as self-esteem, but with fewer downsides”
  • Spending time with diverse groups of people, which can help you recognize the wide array of contributions each and every individual can bring to the table—including yourself
  • Engaging in positive self-talk, which studies indicate may “help people regulate their thoughts, feelings, and behavior under social stress”

Get Treatment For Mental Health Issues

Certain mental health issues may make authentically engaging with others in social situations difficult or even impossible. For example:

  • Depression can result in low energy and a lack of interest in activities once enjoyed, which can make it hard for a person to engage socially with others.
  • Social anxiety can manifest as a fear of being judged or embarrassed in social situations that’s so intense that it may prevent an individual from participating in such situations at all.
  • Panic disorder is characterized by the frequent experience of panic attacks along with the intense fear of experiencing another, which can make putting oneself in unfamiliar situations nerve wracking because of the possibility of having an attack.
  • Agoraphobia refers to the fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or embarrassment might be likely—and in severe cases, an individual may find it hard to leave the house at all.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of any of these or another mental health condition, it can be difficult to form or maintain healthy social connections. That’s why seeking treatment from a qualified mental health professional can be important. They can help you learn to manage your symptoms so that you can improve your daily functioning, relationships, and overall well-being.

Getty/Luis Alvarez
Are You Noticing Symptoms Of Social Anxiety?

Seek Support From A Therapist

Meeting with a therapist can also help those who are having trouble opening up to others. A trained counselor can help you get to the root of this difficulty and work with you on overcoming it. If it’s due to a mental health condition or past trauma, they can assist you in managing symptoms or finding healing. If it’s a case of low self-esteem or a lack of social skills, they can help you in developing these. Regardless, a therapist is trained to offer a safe, non-judgmental space where you can express your emotions and work through challenges with their professional support.

Some people who have trouble opening up may find doing so with a therapist in person to be difficult. In cases like these, online therapy may represent a more comfortable option. In one study, participants who engaged in video-based therapy reported feeling less intimidated, less awkward, and less judged, allowing them to more easily open up to their providers through this medium. If you’re interested in trying virtual therapy, you might consider a platform like BetterHelp. You can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can connect with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing. For client reviews of BetterHelp therapists, see below.

Counselor Reviews

“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.


There are various reasons why an individual may find it hard to open up and be vulnerable with others, but doing so can lead to positive impacts on health and well-being. The tips on this list may help you learn to open up more easily, as may connecting with a qualified therapist.

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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