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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Putting up walls can thwart real emotional connection

Illustration by J.Q. Hammer

Your 20s are an interesting time. So far, my experience has proven to be one of immense personal growth and understanding.

But I recently ran into a conflict when I became close with a group of guys that live a few apartments down.

This relationship quickly evolved from small talk between strangers to inappropriate, in-depth conversations about our personal lives.

As I have stressed in the past, Jose Cuervo is one persuasive son of a bitch, and he had successfully convinced me to take it to the next level with one of these friends.

Trust me when I say that I was well aware of the potential outcomes, but I chose to ignore those possibilities and test out my capacity in the area of emotional detachment.

I was playing with fire.

This endeavor led to sex. And I mean a lot of it.

It took about one week of this for me to catch the feels.

Having been in a perfectly happy relationship with myself for almost four years, my first instinct was to run. I had convinced myself to disregard my feelings and instead attempt to salvage whatever friendship we had left.

I was meeting an old friend for lunch that day and explained to her my current situation, followed by my plan to abort mission.

I expressed to her my fear of being one of those desperate girls who reads the same book over and over again and expects a different ending.

She replied, “You’ve only read the first few pages of this book, and you’ve already decided to put it down.”

By the end of our discussion, I had come face to face with one of my fatal flaws — I am absolutely terrified of vulnerability.

My friend referred me to someone by the name of Brené Brown and suggested I check out her Ted Talk titled “The Power of Vulnerability.”

This woman had it figured out. Through years of research, she concluded that, “In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen. Really seen.”

She referred to the individuals that embraced this vulnerability as the “wholehearted” and found similar character traits in each of them.


Brown suggested that those who had the courage to not only be imperfect, but allowed for others to see their imperfections were actually happier in the long run.


This is a concept that I have agreed with for some time now. She wasn’t only referring to compassion for others but, first and foremost, for oneself.

Those who had a genuine love and respect for themselves had a much higher capacity to exhibit those feelings toward others.


Lastly, she stressed the importance of connection as a result of authenticity. You must allow yourself to let go of the person you think you should be in order to be the person that you really are.

This not only allows for you to open yourself up to connection, but it gives way for others to do the same.

After a long pep talk with myself, I decided that it was time for me to stop avoiding the inevitable and share my thoughts on our relationship. Not only did I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders, but this also allowed for him to share his fears of vulnerability as well. This led to a mutual discussion about our feelings toward each other.

For the longest time, I had convinced myself that the walls I had built over time out of fear were preparing me for any situation that life could throw at me.

In actuality, they were preventing me from the possibility of making real emotional connections.

Sophia Xepoleas can be reached at [email protected] or @soph_mxx on Twitter.

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