No matter how horrible your secret, keeping it is more destructive than the secret itself; and sharing it will break its hold on you.
When you decide you have something to be ashamed of, you embrace shame. Even if you forget exactly what you’re ashamed of, you still feel the shame; and as long as you do, you forego self-esteem.
And according to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, until you have met your need for self-esteem, you can’t move on to meet your need for self-actualization, or your need to live a rich and meaningful life. That’s why you — and so many making headlines — can become rich and powerful, and still feel unfulfilled.
So, tell me your secrets … spill your secrets, and you spill your shame, your guilt and your regret.
Well-meaning people may suggest you keep a secret for fear somebody uses it against you. Better them, than you, though. When you keep a secret, you are certain to use it against yourself.
In letting go of a secret, you also let go of the belief that there is something to hide. When you expose it, what used to seem dark and dirty seems human. You relieve the pressure, come out of the closet into the light, purge the pain with tears. You begin to heal.
In the movie “The Prince of Tides,” when Nick Nolte’s character is faced with helping his sister to survive, he realizes that there is no value left in keeping their childhood secret. And there is no value in keeping yours either. Your life is more important than the secret that keeps you from it.
While that may sound melodramatic, how much life do you really have without self-actualization: unity, balance, harmony, completion, justice, complexity, essence, aliveness, beauty, benevolence, individuality, playfulness, truth, autonomy and meaningfulness?
How much strength do you really have without vulnerability?
So, what reason remains for keeping your secret, any secret? Perhaps you keep it under the guise of helping somebody else. What if you knew you were actually hurting — rather than protecting — that person?
Maybe you had an affair and you’re trying to spare your spouse. Maybe your friend had an affair, and you’re trying to help him protect his wife. But to shield somebody from the truth is to shield them from a meaningful life. Maybe you’re trying to keep the peace … but there is no peace as long as your secret wrestles with the truth.
A secret is no more likely to help somebody else than it is to help you.
Be an example. Be honest — impeccably honest — about your own stuff. A part of the truth isn’t really the truth. Live the message that the naked truth is nothing to be ashamed of; it is something to learn from.
That’s where you’re apt to get hung up. When your knee-jerk reaction is to conceal the truth or spray a little pink paint on it, you’re too preoccupied to learn what you can learn from it.
Our biggest “blunders” are our greatest learning opportunities. Maybe you declared bankruptcy, or lost it in a fit of rage, or carelessly took the keys when you’d had too much to drink.
Or maybe you suffered the consequences of somebody else’s blunder. Thankfully, you don’t have to make the mistake to learn from it.
The truth can seem embarrassing when you haven’t allowed it to serve a purpose in your life. But when you have paid dearly to get a priceless lesson, or plumbed the depths of your soul, or gained the kind of empathy that only comes through experience, there’s more value in sharing than in hiding.
There’s more self-esteem in the truth than a lie; and living with secrets ultimately means living with lies.
Save yourself (and help save others). Look at the truth, release the shame, the tears and the reins that keep you from being your best self.