If you’re anything like me, letting people in is a struggle. Past experience can sometimes convince us that we can’t trust anyone and that life is simpler when people are kept at a safe distance.
However, I have learned over time that letting people into your life is one of the bravest and best things you can do for your mental health.
Through my research and life experience, I want to share what I’ve learned about letting people in. I’ve included tips on battling trust issues, the benefits of vulnerability, the power of forgiveness, and so much more.
Why can’t I trust anyone?
I believe most of us are born wanting to trust others and let people in, but unfortunately, life experience teaches us otherwise. Numerous factors can lead to distrust, including:
There are so many disappointments in life and often these disappointments are caused by other people. Friends, family, and coworkers can all contribute to our lack of trust. Sometimes these devastating experiences can start as early as childhood and create relational issues for decades to come.
Learning to trust again
Choosing to be vulnerable with others is a challenge for many of us, especially after being burned or betrayed. However, it’s not impossible to let people in, even after enduring hardship.
Brené Brown says this in her 2015 bestseller, Rising Strong:
Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.Brené Brown
Living a life secluded from others can be tempting, but willingly trusting others just might be the bravest thing you choose to do. Showing up and letting other people into your life is a huge risk, but I believe it can reap big rewards.
What are the benefits of letting people in?
Making friends and letting them into your life can benefit you in so many different ways. Some experts have noted that close friendships can help to reduce loneliness and depression.
Simply meeting with a friend for happy hour after work might lessen the load of your workday and remind you that even after a busy week, you are not alone in life.
Additionally, studies have shown that maintaining an active friend network can contribute to your overall happiness and strengthen your ability to manage stress.
This doesn’t mean that the presence of friends will diminish your stress entirely. Instead, the study shows us that having good, trustworthy people in our lives can make life’s stressors more tolerable. This is also discussed in more detail in our article on the powerful impact of having good friends.
5 ways to let people in
I’ve compiled a few promising tips to help you learn to trust others and strengthen your current relationships. Even though stepping into vulnerability is scary, you will likely find that it is worth the risk.
1. Start small
When you’re working on deepening your friendships and increasing trust, you don’t have to give it all away in one sitting. Some people think that trusting others is an “all or nothing” game where we either let someone in on our darkest secrets or we banish them entirely.
Instead, I believe we can learn to live somewhere in the middle. Maybe start by sharing small details about your daily life and slowly proceed to the heavier stuff over time.
Not everyone needs to know every detail about you, at least not right away. Sometimes it is safer to share the minor stuff first and see how your friend responds. Then as time goes on you can decide how much or how little you want to share with this person.
2. Some secrets are sacred, so determine your boundaries
From the beginning, it’s wise to determine what is worth sharing and what should be kept close to the vest. Ultimately, we hope to find friends with whom we can bare our souls, but even with the best of friends, there should still be boundaries in place.
On a personal note, I have certain aspects of my life that I exclusively share with my husband and no one else. I also have a small group of friends that will likely receive the latest news in my life before acquaintances or coworkers. Then there are some items of discretion that I choose to only speak about with my therapist.
Setting boundaries in this area keeps you safe emotionally and helps prevent betrayals from people who maybe shouldn’t have free reign on all your secrets. Not everyone always has your best interest in mind.
3. Go to therapy
Finding a trusted therapist can change your life in more ways than one, including helping you learn to trust again and let people in.
Your therapist will likely help you determine the root cause of your trust issues and work through past betrayals and heartbreaks so that you can more effectively find and maintain friendships in the future.
Additionally, a therapist can help you set healthy boundaries. They can walk you through step-by-step on who you can trust and how to begin the nerve-wracking process of letting people in again.
4. Be honest
It might sound redundant, considering my tip about keeping secrets. However, I wholeheartedly recommend being honest with yourself and your potential mates.
Even if it’s merely a brief disclosure about how you’ve been scorned in the past, informing friends about your hesitancy to open up can create dialogue and possibly help you find some common ground with them.
If you are honest with someone about your fears of letting people in, they will likely respond empathetically and often reflect on their own experiences with trust and vulnerability.
All of us have been hurt at some point in our lives, so most people will understand exactly where you’re coming from.
5. Forgive those who hurt you
Perhaps the most intimidating of these tips, I want to encourage you to forgive the people who have mistreated you or betrayed your trust.
This does not always imply letting those people back into your life. There are obvious situations in which the betrayal or heartbreak is too deep to mend and keeping a safe distance is the healthiest choice. But even in those instances, forgiveness is still a viable option.
Being resentful towards others can have surprisingly powerful repercussions, including:
- Spiritual turmoil.
- Lack of purpose.
We don’t necessarily forgive someone for their sake, but instead for the sake of our personal health and well-being. Choosing to forgive simply means that we are moving forward and refusing to live in the past anymore.
Maybe most beneficial of all, forgiving those who hurt you will allow you the freedom to move on and eventually let new people in.
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I believe choosing to open up and let people in after you’ve been hurt is ultimately worth the risk. Step out of your comfort zone and stop living in the past, because making friends and letting them in might just change your life for the better.
Do you find it hard to let people in your life? Does it make you nervous or awkward to open up to others? What has helped you deal with these things? I'd love to read your stories in the comments below!