The act of guarding oneself recently made an appearance in my life. I had a conversation with a friend who I reconnected with after a decade. We were friends during our early teenage years but somewhere along the way, as it often happens, we lost touch. We then had a fully-fledged conversation on WhatsApp which provides a certain amount of dropped inhibitions and she told me about how she’s gone through a lot of changes. One of which was that she had become far more guarded.

Why are you guarding yourself?

Guarding yourself is the reaction to betrayal and disappointment and an attempt to protect oneself against similar experiences. This, of course, makes it harder for anyone to get close to her. It also makes it harder for her to get hurt. In many ways, becoming ‘guarded’ works as it is meant to. This however also means that people who she would be able to connect well with will take the easier option of opting out rather than take the time and effort to penetrate those walls.

Us humans enjoy taking lessons from experiences. You, of course, won’t find a teacher in England to deny the importance of this philosophy. At times though, we learn the wrong lessons from the right experiences. Thus the wrong lessons get internalised because they work. They work to a fault. Still, you figure it’s better than the alternative, nothingness is better than pain.

Guarding yourself

Is it?

The well-known phrase of ‘it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all’ stands true. Experiences are our teachers, some of them are complete assholes and so you choose a passive-aggressive conclusion, knowing it’s not the right one. If you just barricade yourself and ultimately shoot new experiences in the leg, you won’t learn anything at all. Your last lesson will have been a problematic one, one that led to the end of any new teachings.

So what do those walls guarding you really stand for?  Cynicism. Suspicion of one’s intentions. Don’t get me wrong, the road that led you to this destination must have been a painful one and I’ve been there. And while you can entertain the thought, heck you can even implement it for a little while, it holds no future, at least not a future that is dipped in happiness. In time, you’ll have to lower that guard, take that risk and be open to the uncertainty.

Why can guarding oneself be bad?

Retrospection will be a bitch because you’ll come face to face with regrets of failing to have done so. Don’t let those regrets build. Mistakes of omission weigh far heavier than a step taken that was simply the wrong one. Don’t allow one or a small number of experiences to ruin new ones, ones with potential. I mean when we’re grey and old, all we’ll be left with are stories and the lessons learned; what the hell are you going to ramble about when you’re sitting in a care home, having never been through your share?