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a guarded woman

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There’s a big difference between having boundaries and having your guard up. One takes a constant series of adjustments and plenty of supervision; the other is a permanent, unwavering stance.

When your guard is up, you don’t adjust vulnerability levels to each given situation. You don’t assess the circumstances and decide when it’s safe to let people in. You just live with the understanding that it is never safe. The guard is always up. It’s a shield that protects you from the bad stuff. Unfortunately, it also keeps out the good stuff.

You know that nothing good comes without sacrifice. Career achievements don’t come without hard work. Weight loss doesn’t come without saying no to temptation. And emotional connection doesn’t come without putting yourself through some emotional hardship. But that last thing – that can be hard for people to accept. Emotional hardship, some would say, is worse than any tangible loss. You lose a job, you find another. You put on weight, you diet and exercise. But when your emotions get hurt, the solution isn’t as simple, which is why some just decide to leave that guard up, all of the time. We spoke with Karena Curry, the founder of Black Clinician Network, about signs one lives with their guard up.

Karena Curry

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You could be closed off without knowing it

“We all like to think that we’re open in most aspects. We find comfort in the fact that we know ourselves to a degree, but the truth is, we may not actually be as open as we think we are,” says Curry. “Having your guard up can stem from many different places, but most times it can be traced back to an unpleasant past experience or even a trauma.”

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