People Who Struggle With Vulnerability Usually Have These Defense Mechanisms

People Who Struggle With Vulnerability Usually Have These Defense Mechanisms

It’s okay to be guarded sometimes, but if you’re constantly armored up, it might mean vulnerability feels scary. Here are some common ways people try to dodge uncomfortable emotions:

1. “Everything’s fine” is their default setting.

They insist they’re okay even when it’s obvious they’re not. Bottling things up is the go-to move, as admitting negative feelings seems risky or weak. Vulnerability feels dangerous, so denial is the armor they hide behind, even if it fools no one but themselves.

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2. They overshare personal stuff…with the wrong people.

Spilling deep secrets to near-strangers is a way of deflecting genuine intimacy. It creates the illusion of vulnerability without the risk of connecting with someone they actually trust. Oversharing with people they don’t truly know is a way to pretend they’re open without the danger of someone actually seeing their real heart.

3. They change the subject when the conversation gets too real.

Deep talks are a minefield. They subtly steer things towards safe topics or crack a joke to break the tension the second things feel too weighty. Emotional openness isn’t in their skillset, so a change of course is the only way to save themselves from drowning in feelings they aren’t sure how to handle.

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4. “I’m too busy” is their excuse for everything.

If they’re constantly overloaded, there’s no time for tough conversations or emotional self-reflection. Being “swamped” is easier than saying “this scares me”. Staying busy justifies not having to sit still with all the feelings they’d rather avoid.

5. They analyze emotions instead of feeling them.

‘Intellectualizing’ feelings is their shield. They can explain why they’re upset in meticulous detail, but struggle to simply let themselves feel the sadness or anger. Turning emotions into a mental puzzle is a way to dodge the raw experience and maintain a sense of detached control.

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6. The blame game is their strong suit.

Nothing is ever fully their fault. Pointing fingers at others keeps them from having to take ownership of their own emotions or actions. If it’s always someone else’s fault, there’s no need for introspection, which might lead to some uncomfortable truths they can’t face yet.

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7. Sarcasm is their native language.

Every vulnerable feeling is masked with a snarky comment or cynical observation. Sarcasm provides a layer of detachment to keep them emotionally distanced. It’s armor disguised as humor, a way to deflect genuine expression without completely shutting everyone out.

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8. They disappear when things get difficult.

Whether it’s ghosting someone romantically or bailing on a friend in need, they vanish the moment support is required. Being there for someone else requires a level of vulnerability they can’t handle. It’s far easier to run while they can, rather than stay and work through the discomfort of complex or messy emotions.

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9. They become the fixer.

Everyone else’s problems? Those they can solve! Focusing on fixing others is a distraction from facing their own internal struggles. It’s a subtle kind of control – by taking care of everyone else, they don’t have to take a hard look at their own life.

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10. “I don’t need anyone.”

Independence is a great quality. But fiercely proclaiming you need NO ONE usually stems from a fear of relying on others after being let down in the past. Letting the right people support you doesn’t make you weak – it makes you human. Vulnerability is scary, but refusing to depend on anyone, even in healthy ways, can be incredibly isolating.

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11. “I can’t forgive them for what they did.”

Holding onto grudges hurts YOU the most. Forgiveness isn’t about condoning bad behavior, it’s about releasing the bitterness that’s poisoning your present. Not forgiving isn’t a sign of strength; it’s often a way of clinging to pain to avoid facing the vulnerability of moving forward.

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12. “I used to be so much happier.”

If your happiest days are all firmly in the past, it suggests difficulty finding joy in the present. Maybe you’ve simply changed, or maybe unresolved issues are clouding your outlook. Constant nostalgia can be a sign of avoiding the challenge of finding happiness in the here and now.

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13. “It’s not fair!”

Life isn’t fair. Everyone experiences setbacks. Focusing on how things should be instead of accepting reality leads to constant frustration. While it’s perfectly normal to feel frustrated by injustice, dwelling on it becomes a trap that keeps you anchored in anger rather than finding ways to move on.

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14. “Back in high school, I was…”

Peaking in high school isn’t a great sign. Reliving past glories suggests a dissatisfaction with where your life is at now. Your best days might still be ahead of you! Constantly referencing the past can be a way to dodge the uncomfortable feelings of a less-than-ideal present.

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15. “This always happens to me.”

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If you see the same negative patterns repeating, it’s worth looking deeper. Past unresolved issues can lead to self-sabotaging choices that continue the cycle. Change starts with awareness and the willingness to do things differently. Recognizing unhealthy patterns is the first step towards breaking them.

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16. “Why do bad things always happen to me?”

A victim mentality makes it impossible to feel empowered in your own life. Challenges are inevitable, but focusing solely on how hard your life is can become an excuse for inaction. While everyone faces hardship, seeing yourself as uniquely unlucky keeps you stuck in a cycle of negativity.

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17. “I should be further along in life by now.”

Comparing yourself to a rigid timeline sets you up for disappointment. Everyone’s path is different. Focus on appreciating your journey, even with detours. It might sound cliché, but sometimes the messy detours are where the most important growth happens.

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Gail is Bolde's social media and partnership manager, as well as an all-around behind-the-scenes renaissance woman. She worked for more than 25 years in her city's local government before making the switch to women's lifestyle and relationship sites, initially at HelloGiggles before making the switch to Bolde.
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