Everyone wants to be liked and accepted, although you wouldn’t always know it. Some people give the impression that they couldn’t care less about what people think about them, but that is rarely true. Their cool, standoffish style is more often a wall they have built to protect themselves from possible criticism and rejection. This wall may succeed at deflecting emotional pain, but it also prevents you from experiencing the meaningful, satisfying connections that close relationships provide.
People erect emotional walls in order to defend insecurities, weaknesses and vulnerabilities. After all, there is no need to defend areas of strength. For example, if you have a strong sense of confidence, there is no need to hide behind the wall because you are comfortable and open to interaction with others. The irony associated with wall building is that you think it will ensure that you stay in your comfort zone and protect you from negative judgments and rejection; however, in reality it actually increases the likelihood of both. When you aren’t willing to show your “real” self to others, they are more likely to assume the worst and perceive that you are rejecting them. Walls repel – they do not attract.
If you have built a wall, what are you protecting yourself from? Are you afraid someone will see that you feel insecure about your looks? Or that they will respect you less because of something you don’t do well? Maybe you have come to the conclusion that there is something about you that is not acceptable.
Regardless of what people may find as they get to know you, your authentic self-disclosure will more often serve as a magnet attracting friendship, acceptance and intimacy. People are drawn to people who are relatable, so always remember that the people you are keeping out with your wall are just people with their own imperfections, issues and insecurities – just like yours. Being your authentic self reveals your humanness to them, which reinforces their belief that you are on the same team and can be trusted. People are attracted to people they believe they can trust because it then gives them a safe environment in which to reveal their true self as well.
Emotional walls that have been in place for years don’t come down easily, but you can begin bringing them down one brick at a time when you allow people the opportunity to see the real you – blemishes and all. One of the best pieces of advice you will ever receive is simply: Be Yourself! Your approachability, confidence and authenticity will draw others to you like a magnet!
Live, Work and Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.