Have you ever missed a romantic opportunity for fear of looking stupid? Or perhaps you are drifting along, feeling disconnected from the world as you don’t let anyone in. Human beings are constantly trying to avoid feeling hurt. But while we may be successful in evading hurt, we miss out on the richness of life, such as joy and love.
When we let our guard down and claim vulnerability as a strength, we learn to live with greater authenticity. This vulnerability allows us to express ourselves more openly and honestly, and helps deepen our connection with others.
This article will outline what it means to be guarded. It will explain the benefits of vulnerability and will suggest 5 ways you can let your guard down.
What does it mean to be guarded?
When someone is guarded, they build a barrier between the person they are inside and the person they reveal to the outside world.
I suspect we all know some guarded people; they are the ones you never truly feel you know.
Very often, if someone is guarded, they think this is a sign of strength; they subscribe to the stiff upper lip, get on with things sort of attitude. But they can be tough to connect with.
For instance, you may have a friend you know is struggling for many reasons, but they don’t express their feelings. They may say they are fine upon your asking, but they don’t answer with honesty and openness.
They guard their feelings and emotions.
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The benefits of vulnerability
Have you ever thought of vulnerability as a sign of strength?
It takes courage to expose what we perceive as our weaknesses. We invite a deeper connection with those around us when we show our human side and reveal our fears, insecurities, and inadequacies.
When we are vulnerable with others, it encourages others to be vulnerable with us. It creates a trade-off of trust and openness and helps cultivate an understanding and empathetic environment.
We often feel unique in our fears or thoughts, yet we learn we are not so unique when we express them.
Realizing that others may feel similar to us builds a sense of belonging and mattering. It helps unite people in the workplace, friend groups, or communities.
5 ways to help let your guard down
If vulnerability really is the key to more meaningful experiences, now is a great time to work on this.
Embracing vulnerability to help let your guard down is tied in with living authentically.
If you want to learn how to live more authentically, we have an article dedicated to that here at Tracking Happiness.
Here are 5 tips to help you let your guard down.
1. Answer questions with honesty
Answering “I’m fine” when someone asks us how we are has become automatic.
But we are rarely just fine. When we give a little more away, we instigate a deeper conversation.
So next time someone asks how you are, answer honestly. And you could explain why you feel this way. Here are some examples.
- I’m actually feeling quite anxious; I’ve not been out in a group this big for a long time.
- I’m feeling really excited, I was offered a promotion at work yesterday, and I’m buzzing.
- It’s been a tough week if I’m honest; my dog hasn’t been well.
When we are open and honest with others, it encourages them to be open and honest with us.
This honesty helps deepen relations.
2. Don’t pretend
In our quest to fit in and be liked, we often pretend to like something we don’t.
It takes courage to go against the grain. For instance, if everyone around you is expressing a love for football, you may fear you will be ousted if you express a dislike for football.
The fear of being singled out is real. But in reality, we gain respect for being honest.
That's why honesty really is the best policy.
Remove your mask; you don’t need to pretend to be someone you are not.
Maybe you are worried others will mock and ridicule you for your likes and dislikes. But own it, express them all the same. Embrace who you are, including your flaws and imperfections.
True friends will love and accept you for your authenticity; only fake people will pass any judgment.
Be brave; no more pretending.
3. Tell personal stories
This year my relationships have deepened exponentially. I have learned to let my guard down and reveal more of my vulnerabilities to my friends.
Over time, I have divulged a little more about myself through personal stories. For instance, one friend asked why I was seeing a therapist, and I briefly explained some childhood experiences. This revelation helped build an understanding.
When another friend asked about my family, I revealed a few stories to summarise these relationships. Despite being friends for years, she had no idea of the complicated dynamics in my family of origin.
The more vulnerable I allow myself to be with my friends, the safer they feel in my company, and the more vulnerable they are with me.
If you are sorry, say so. If you love someone, tell them. When we hang on to feelings and emotions, we prevent our light from shining brightly.
It can be scary to tell someone you love them; what if they laugh or reject you? The braver we are at revealing our feelings, the quicker we learn that most people recognize this bravery and respond with kindness.
The only way to deepen bonds is by bathing in mutual vulnerability.
This past year, I have told all my good friends that I love them at some point. And the wonderful thing is, they have told me this too. I feel more loved and cared about now than I ever have before.
5. Only listen to those in the arena
No matter how we live, there are always going to be some people who say hurtful things.
But when we let our guard down, we also expose our jugular. We are more likely to get hurt.
There’s a trick to this.
Only take comments and feedback from those who you respect. Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech “The Man in the Arena” starts by telling us that it is “not the critic who counts….”
This speech expresses how easily humans can criticize each other. But unless our critics are in the arena themselves, demonstrating bravery, facing failure, and flirting with risk, we must learn not to listen to them.
Part of letting your guard down is learning whose words to let wash all over you and whose words to take to heart.
Being able to distance yourself from the opinion of the unkind and the critical will help you let your guard down, safe in the knowledge that those with irrelevant words can’t penetrate you.
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Being able to express vulnerability is one of the greatest shows of strength. It takes courage and bravery to expose our own perceived shortcomings. When we let our guard down with others, others are more inclined to let their guard down with us. This mutual guard-dropping builds deeper and healthier relationships.
Do you have any tips or tricks to help let your guard down? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!