Is it normal to feel like I can't trust my friends?

I have a hard time opening up to my friends and even after I’ve opened up, I feel bad about it

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Hi @uneholy, I hear that you’ve been having difficulty opening up to others. I can assure you that you’re not alone in this – being vulnerable can be a real struggle for some, especially if you’re not used to verbalising your feelings, or if you had experienced emotionally traumatic events in the past that may be continuing to affect you in the present. All of these may contribute towards the fear of sharing your feelings with others.

Letting down our walls and inviting others to learn about us on a deeper level can be daunting. However, being vulnerable allows us to be seen and understood by the people that are important to us, and may also help us gain perspectives that we may not have been able to reach on our own. The first question you may wish to ask yourself here is: What is it about opening up to your friends that is most difficult for you, or scares you the most? For example, are you perhaps worried about whether they will look at you the same way and will still be accepting of you after you share certain things with them? This may be especially true if there were times in the past when you may have been abandoned or hurt by loved ones.

If you’ve experienced any emotional trauma or hurt in the past that is significantly affecting you in the present, I would advise you to approach your school counsellor to speak about this at greater depth.

In the meantime, here are a few things that we could do to slowly get yourself more comfortable with becoming vulnerable, and to deal with the feeling of being exposed after opening up to others:

1. Find the right people to open up to.
Realistically speaking, we don’t have to be comfortable opening up to all of our friends. Are there perhaps friends that make you feel like you have a safe space to share? There may be friends that may be great company, but whom we may not necessarily feel like we can be vulnerable around. Perhaps you could start off by trying to identify your friends who are patient and good at empathising, and get comfortable with opening up to them first.

2. Think about what you want to say.
If your struggle to open up stems from not knowing how to articulate how you are feeling, or from the worry that it may come out wrongly, perhaps we could work on processing these feelings first before sharing with others. While it’s important to express how we’re feeling to others, it is also healthy to take some time to digest them first. Something that you could try is journaling – penning your thoughts down within a space you deem safe could help you process, as well as get more comfortable with them first before you share them with your friends. Here are some journaling prompts that you could try out to get you started (1).

3. Engage in deep breathing exercises and compassionate self-talk when feeling exposed.
Feeling exposed can make us feel anxious and overwhelmed. You mentioned that you feel bad after opening up to your friends - in these moments, taking a moment to focus on our breathing may help us to ground and calm ourselves down. You may wish to try out these guided deep breathing (2) or progressive muscle relaxation exercises (3) to help you cope with the feelings that follow after opening up to friends.

Lastly, remind yourself that your thoughts and feelings are valid, and expressing them does not make you weak. Perhaps you would like to take note of the automatic thought that comes to mind after opening up. You can then evaluate the thought and work on replacing it with a more rational thought. Here is a guided template to help you with this (4).

I’ve linked the resources below. Hopefully some of these will be of help to you. Please take care of yourself!

(1) 64 Journaling Prompts for Self-Discovery | Psych Central