When you meet an independent and guarded person, it’ll be easy for you to think they are born that way. They seem so strong, so self-sufficient, so natural at being on their own doing their own things that you can’t see any way they’re ever needy and weak.
And you’re right. They’re not needy and weak. Not at all. They’re indeed strong and self-sufficient and genuinely good at being on their own doing their own things. Well, they actually love it. They love their own space, their independence, their cautiousness, and they aren’t afraid of being alone, or even lonely.
But what you might be wrong is by assuming these characteristics are innate. Not all of them are born that way. Like every other human being, the independent and guarded person first greets life with baby dove eyes and happy smiles, loudly needing to be cared for and loved. Once upon a time, they look at the world around them with purity and openness, spread their arms wide open to welcome affection and eagerly give all back.
But then things change — subtly, slowly, gradually, or even abruptly. Before they know it, somewhere in their adolescence, they start taking on the role of their own parent, their own partner, their only someone. They have people around them but that safe environment which allows them to freely reach out and fearlessly ask for love is no more. It’s already too late.
This is when they learn their first lessons. They learn the hard price of every action they take, of their appearance, their youth, their optimism, their naivety. They learn what not to do, when not to speak, how not to be too loud, too big, too demanding. They learn to rely on themselves, to be okay, to not ask for love, to accept their lone existence and be happy about it.
And most of the times, they’re happy about it — It’s just a different way of life, for better or worse. In fact, they’re grateful for all the unique opportunities to grow and become incredibly more enriched and humbled. But if you ever share a private moment with them and ask them whether they wish life could be any different so that maybe they didn’t have to be so strong, so independent. They would tell you, honestly, sometimes they do.
They would lie if they said they had never looked at a conventionally happy family and not felt a pang of envy and self-pity. Or watched those kids who are surrounded by so much love and protection that a heartbreak might just last as long as a good cry or a few nights out with the best mates, and not imagined how much less daunting their setbacks would’ve felt if they had had a portion of that same on-going support at critical stages of their life.
They would lie if they said being strong and independent had always been a choice, that they didn’t yearn to be held, to be kissed, to experience those mundane, corny love gestures. Of course, they do. They have human needs and desires and a universe of wonders in them to offer… if only they ever had a chance to show it.
The truth is, they would trade this extreme independence for some softness and helplessness in a heartbeat if it means being loved and treasured and never left behind. They wouldn’t consciously choose to toughen up all the time such that “No it’s okay” has become an automatic response whenever anyone offers some help.
But this is their reality.
Over time, they’ve successfully convinced the world, or even themselves, of this narrative. It’s now expected of them to take any pain and quietly move on like nothing got to them. They don’t get to be weak or vulnerable. They can’t bet on a superhero to come and save them — not that they would ever need it — or heck, even just a phone call or a text message to cheer them up when they run low of strength and energy.
But they will find a way anyway. They will pick themselves up again and again, and keep on going. Because that’s their best, and might well be their only, option.
The things independent and guarded people don’t tell you are plenty, but what they most likely keep to themselves is when they need you. They don’t tell you they miss you, they want you all for themselves, they long for happiness and security and being able to rely on the one they love just like anyone else.
But they do.
Don’t go, they inaudibly scream. Please stay, their heart quietly aches.
And when you go, when you’re so sure they can handle any goodbye and separation because look — they’re so strong and independent, their soul dies a little, and their shell hardens up a little bit more. Now, they’re even more strong and independent.
They believe this is their fate.
They continue to hold their head up high, confidently stride forward and casually act like they need nobody.
Deep down, they don’t know.
Sometimes they wish you could just tell it’s possibly nothing but a facade.