Do you protect yourself by keeping a safe distance from people or pushing them away? Have you noticed that you tend to have your guard up when meeting new people and you want to feel more at ease? Do you want to have deeper and more meaningful connections with people, but you’re holding yourself back? Do you want to let people in and increase the quality of connections you make, whether it’s with your friends, colleagues, intimate partner, kids or family?
It used to feel as if I had this huge emotional wall up between me and other people. I had felt hurt in the past and I was scared of being hurt again. I was so scared of someone not liking me, not loving me, of not being good enough and not being accepted that I started pushing people away.
When my friends and colleagues would ask me to go out for dinner or drinks with them after work, I would make an excuse not to go. I’d tell myself that they didn’t really want me to go, that I wasn’t fun and they were only inviting me because they felt like they had to. I did this often enough that eventually I didn’t get asked anymore.
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There can be a lot of reasons why we might push people away. Many times it is because we fear being emotionally hurt, that we won’t be liked, won’t be loved or won’t be accepted, and it can feel easier to keep to yourself and feel as if you’re protecting yourself.
I Didn’t Know How To Trust People
The reason why we push people away is different for everyone and is a bigger conversation best made in person. Hopefully this article can help you start to know what’s going on for you, and begin taking little steps towards opening up to more to people whenever you choose to.
Some people prefer to be alone sometimes rather than being with people, which can be a completely natural way of spending time and recharging. I love spending time on my own, however there was a time when I noticed that I was running away from building connections with new people, developing more meaningful friendships and deeper relationships with people I cared about.
I was making excuses not to call or catch up with friends and family. I avoided conversations in the hallway at work and I even stopped going to the gym because I knew the trainer would come over and talk to me. At that time in my life I wouldn’t even get beyond going on a first date with someone, let alone ask them out.
The funny thing about excuses is, when you start using them they can seem like a real, true and natural reason in the moment. How many times have you heard someone say ‘I’m too busy’, ‘I have to get up early for work tomorrow’’, ‘I’m Shy’, ‘It’s Too Cold’? Maybe you’ve even heard yourself saying it.
You’re not alone
Just think back for a moment on all those times you said no to a new or deeper connection that could have added a whole new dimension to your life. All the people who you might have made a difference for, or who could have made a difference for you. How many adventures and exciting experiences have you missed out on because you pushed people away?
What opportunities for career, financial and personal growth have you shut out? How many times have you passed on choosing fun and passion over comfort? Life can be challenging and we can face it on our own, and it can sometimes help to share with someone else, or just know that you’re not alone.
There are a million different excuses to not let anyone in, to hide from your true self, to push people away, like protecting yourself in situations where that might make sense. However, if it doesn’t make sense anymore, and you are wanting to have deeper connections with people and stop pushing them away, then starting to look at the language that you’re using becomes more and more important.
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The thing about language is that it tells our brain what to focus on. What we say to ourselves and to others, influences our experience of life. For example, when we say we have no time, or we’re too tired, we start noticing every yawn, blink of the eyes, lapse in attention or each time we make a mistake and we start to believe that it’s “because I’m tired”.
‘I’m Shy’, ‘I’ve Been Hurt Before’, ‘I’m Too Busy In My Career’
The more reasons and excuses I came up with to keep away from people, the more I noticed myself pushing people even further away and the more disconnected I would feel. I’d lie in bed at night and wish that I could have the great friendships I saw in movies or walking past bustling bars and restaurants. Little did I know at that time, that taking responsibility for my language would be one of the most important steps in letting people in.
Once I started to pay attention to how I was speaking to myself and to others, I began to ask myself questions like “How can I have fun meeting people?” and “How can find it easier letting in people I trust?”. The more I focused on using positive and empowering questions, the more I started noticing all the different ways I was able to have fun meeting people, and the easy ways I was able to let in people I trusted.
Something else I noticed about those times when I had my guard up, was that I would start to overthink situations. Overthinking is a great way to disconnect from the world and from other people, but that’s not what I really wanted. I wanted to connect!
Whether I was on my own or around people, I used to sit back a lot and stay thinking in my head. I’d imagine things to say, and what it would be like to be confident and let people in, to laugh freely. It was my own personal fantasyland where I was safe. It felt easier to stay in my imagination and my overthinking mind instead of talking to people, having a conversation, getting involved and increasing the experiences I had in life.
For me it was because I didn’t feel confident, I was shy and didn’t feel as if I could express myself easily. I kept comparing myself to everyone else around me who seemed to freely express themselves and be naturally confident.
There’s no comparison without all the variables
When we compare ourselves to others, we don’t often have all the information, so different people can have completely different ideas of the exact same situation.
I went to a party one time with a friend and as we were leaving the party we were talking about what happened and I mentioned how ‘in love’ one couple looked. My friend looked at me shocked, and said that he’d thought that same couple had been fighting all night. Two people can see the same event and have completely different perspectives of what happened. We both had a different experience about what we had seen and both were true to each of us.
What people are saying about Emotion Academy:
"After many years of training, courses, and counselling in various forms I thought I had certain aspects of my life sorted. Yet completing Emotion Academy showed me that I had been running away from my emotions and not facing them. After Emotion Academy, now I have the tools to engage with myself and win the internal battles once and for all - Neil Welsh, Victoria
When we compare ourselves to others we are only taking in a tiny amount of all the information. Social media like Facebook and Instagram are excellent examples of how information can be distorted through many different perspectives. Posts are often of the ‘most photogenic pose’, of people having a great time. A perfect moment captured. The truth is, It’s only a representation of part of a moment but it’s easy to think that this is what their life is always like. We imagine the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, perfect holiday, perfect dinner out with friends, the perfect story for the perfect life.
I used to find it easy to look at other people’s photos and compare that ‘perfect’ moment to my confusing and messy life. I would be sitting at home, single, in my tracksuit and ugg boots, tired from a day at work and feeling less than great. I’d start to think unhelpful thoughts and believe that I wasn’t good enough. Why would my friend want to catch up with me anyway?
Sometimes I’d feel jealous and not want to hang out with them as they reminded me of all that I didn’t have. I believed I didn’t have the great job, great body, great friends, great boyfriend and holidays and I believed that I needed those things to be confident or happier or more successful. I was only comparing myself to my impression of their life. I wasn’t taking in all the information, just the data that matched my perspective, that reassured me that keeping a distance was the right thing to do.
Start with baby steps
It’s not about being perfect straight away or letting your guard down instantly, it’s about doing small daily things that increase over time. As a baby, do you think that you suddenly rolled over one day and just got up to go for a run? No! We all started walking with one tiny wobbly step, then another more certain step, then another and another and another. It’s the baby steps that add up.
Have Some Fun!
Have some fun! Make a list of all the things you love to do for fun, it could be a hobby, sport or way to relax. There are many ways to enjoy different experiences. If you’re not practised in thinking of what you love to do for fun, you can always ask other people for ideas.
For some people it’s reading a book, watching movies, ice skating, going out to dinner, travelling, singing or dancing. Make the list on your phone, keep it handy and keep adding to it. Try it all until you get a feel for the things you really enjoy.
Get curious about other people, or invite friends to things you enjoy doing
Now find ways to add people to what you do for fun. If you have a friend who also loves reading, find a quiet café, park or spot to read together. Shared experiences increase the quality of friendships and connections and brings people closer together. It could even give you a chance to discuss the book your reading. It can be anything! If you’re going to do something you enjoy invite someone, and when asked to join others start saying yes.
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
Even if it’s not something you would normally enjoy, you might find that after giving it a go it will start to feel more comfortable and can give you an opportunity to learn more about the person your going with. I’m not that interested in going to an art gallery. I would find that challenging to do on my own but going with someone else who is interested would be much more fun and much more interesting.
Embrace your quirkiness!
Everyone is different, and often it’s through sharing the little things that we can increase our depth of friendship and connection. Everyone has something quirky that they enjoy, that makes them laugh, that is different and interesting. What’s yours? It could be anything from loving board games, cats, jumping on the trampoline, making your tea a particular way, wearing a particular colour to enjoying certain tv shows or movies, a style of music or an unusual song. One of mine is that I love Moose. The animal! Another is that I love swings and spin hugs.
As I started recognising the little things I enjoyed and shared them with other people, the connections I had with my friends and with new people increased even more. I took myself a little less seriously, I relaxed and I started letting people in. Often they reciprocated and I learned more about them. It’s fun knowing and sharing in the little things that my friends and colleagues enjoy.
Appreciate the little things
What we focus on increases, including appreciation. Being grateful, appreciating the little (and big) things is like a muscle and the more you use it the stronger it gets. Appreciation helped me to get out of my own head and stop thinking about my problems. Instead, I began to notice that everyday there were little things that I could be thankful for. Appreciating the time I spent chilling in my own company, being grateful for the experiences I had with friends, appreciating a warm jacket on a cold day, a smile from the person taking my coffee order, was wonderful.
I felt great when I did something new. Whether it was having had a great conversation, or that I made eye contact with the person serving me coffee. Eye contact seems like such a little thing, but it can make a huge difference. I started saying “Thank you” more, and smiling more, and little by little I realised that I was letting people into my world, into my experience of the world and it felt good. Really good.
Over time I kept doing all these little things, and they’ve built up into habits that I do all the time, without even thinking about it. I say “Yes!” whenever there’s an opportunity and it makes sense to connect with someone, whether they’re someone I’ve not met yet or someone I’ve known for years. Relationships are important for all of us and they make life so much more fun. I still enjoy time to myself when I choose to, but I’m no longer running to hide away.
I don’t push people away anymore and I’m not scared to be myself and open up. Some of my friendships from back then have really grown into something I could have never imagined. I’m even closer to my family now and I love that I get to build amazing relationships every day in my work. Just remember that all it takes, is to start with one baby step, and then just keep going.
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