Why Do You Find It Difficult to Open Up to Others?

Would you like to have a more open attitude with the people around you, but don't know how to achieve it? Do you feel that you have a kind of block that makes you too defensive? We'll tell you about some measures you can take to solve this problem.
Why Do You Find It Difficult to Open Up to Others?
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 23 September, 2022

The world of emotions and their management can be difficult. If someone says “It’s hard for me to open up to others”, we might assume that they’re really shy, have trouble connecting with their emotions, or even both. However, in reality, it doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, there are multiple reasons that might prevent us from sharing our emotional worlds with others.

Before exploring these reasons, it’s worth remembering that a sustained attitude of pushing others away will end up hurting us in the long run. Indeed, while dealing with difficulties with defensive strategies may be the smartest thing to do in isolated circumstances, it’s not generally the case.

Social relationships are sources of health and happiness. However, to build them with a solid foundation we need to create intimacy, and this can only be achieved through self-disclosure. It means exposing what we think, how we feel, and how we see the world.

In order to process and overcome negative and complicated emotions, we must let them breathe. In other words, recognize them, identify what they’re trying to tell us, and channel their energy through the routes that interest us the most. If we’re not able to do so, they can become entrenched, thus prolonging the discomfort and even leading to somatic illnesses.

If you find you have a hard time opening up to others, read on.

Man talking to his partner
Most people who find it difficult to open up to others have a great emotional disconnection from themselves.

Why is it difficult for you to open up to others?

Here are some of the main reasons why you may find it difficult to share your inner world with others. You may find you identify with several of them.

1. You have little connection with your emotions

There are many people who aren’t in touch with what they feel on a daily basis. For instance, they may feel anxious, stressed, sad, or frustrated, but pay no attention to their internal state and don’t stop to reflect on it. In effect, they just live on autopilot.

If this sounds like you, you probably won’t even understand what’s happening to you. After all, if you don’t share your feelings with yourself, you’ll find it really hard to share them with others. Consequently, your emotional expression (when it occurs) will usually be explosive, impulsive, unassertive, and not at all intentional.

2. You lack practice and skill

Emotional expression is a learned skill. It forms part of early socialization and is linked to the family environment in which you grew up. In many families, feelings aren’t talked about, affection isn’t openly expressed, and whoever opens up about their feelings is branded as weak.

If you’ve grown up in this kind of family, you won’t have had a chance to practice emotional expression. Furthermore, although you may now wish to adopt a more open position, you probably don’t know how. Maybe your previous attempts have been so clumsy that you ended up achieving just the opposite – manifesting an even more defensive attitude due to feeling so vulnerable.

3. Avoidant attachment style

An avoidant attachment style forms when an infant or child has caregivers who are unresponsive to their demands and needs. For example, when the infant expresses an emotion, their reference figures respond with indifference, sending the message that they’ll have to face their problems alone. Thus, the child understands that it’s useless to seek protection or help from others. After all, if the people who love them don’t help them, why would a stranger help them?

If you have an avoidant attachment style, you’ll hide what you feel, and prefer to manage it alone. This will make you feel really uncomfortable when showing your emotions or dealing with the emotions of others.

4. Fear of being vulnerable

Unlike the previous case, in which the emotional world is uncomfortable, even in the most intimate relationships, some people simply take a long time to open up to new people. They may be able to express themselves and share feelings with those close to them, but when it comes to establishing new connections they tend to stay on the surface.

If you fit this pattern, you won’t want to appear vulnerable or weak or depend on someone excessively if you don’t know if you can trust them. However, to create a bond, you must take a risk. If you don’t, you’ll find your social circle will be really reduced.

5. White knight syndrome

Finally, it’s possible that, if you have a hard time opening up to others, you might suffer from white knight or savior syndrome. This means you give excessively to others and become completely involved in their lives, trying to solve their problems for them.

You feel really comfortable talking about other people’s feelings, intervening, and even taking charge of them. Nevertheless, paradoxically, you leave your own completely aside.

Furthermore, you rarely ask for help, lean on others, or show any need for affection and comfort. Instead, you’ll be the first to offer all of this (often in extreme form) to those around you.

Man talking to a friend
There are people who focus so much on others that they disconnect emotionally from themselves.

How to open up to others

If you have a hard time opening up to others emotionally, you’ll be missing the opportunity to connect and receive support. Here are some guidelines that you can put into practice to reverse this situation:

  • Begin to pay more attention to yourself and connect with your emotions. Instead of getting carried away or repressing them, take a moment to reflect on how you feel, put a name to the experience, and understand why it’s there.
  • Understand the importance of creating deep connections with others. Remind yourself of all that you’re losing due to fear and all that you’d gain by allowing yourself to be intimate with others. You’ll find it motivating.
  • Start practicing. This is the best way to overcome your fear. You can start with therapeutic writing. Get used to putting your emotions into words and expressing them. Then, choose a person you trust and start opening up with them at your own pace. You’ll see that their response will be more pleasant than you expected.
  • Observe, value, and appreciate when others open up to you. They can serve as a model and inspire you to do the same.

In short, opening up to others involves overcoming your fear of being vulnerable and giving your emotions the importance they deserve. After all, you have the right to be heard and supported by others. Don’t keep denying it, let it happen.

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