Secrets kill relationships. I’m not just talking about intimate relationships between married couples and partners; I’m talking about all relationships.
The hyperconnectivity and mass exposure of our current world has ironically left us isolated from each other and often unable to maintain real, authentic connections. And the secrets we carry about who we are and who we want people to think we are lie at the root of the problem. But the truth is this: we are all lying, hiding and keeping secrets from everyone in our lives, thinking it’s what we’re meant to do. We are accustomed to believe that if we tell people what we really think, we may hurt their feelings or get into trouble.
We keep our real thoughts secret and ultimately hide our true selves from the people we care about most.
Some people are offended when I call them secret-keepers (liars, essentially) and I have to assure them it’s a universal problem. Other people claim a right to their secrets under the guise of privacy; it’s my life, my thoughts, my feelings – I should be able to choose who I share them with, right?”
Wrong, and I’ll explain why.
SECRETS CREATE REALITY.
The act of making a secret and hiding it is what makes it real. If you have to hide information, it gives it a level of importance and priority. You hide it because you want it to go away, which causes the opposite results. Your secret becomes an underlying cause of discord in your relationships, gnaws away at your happiness, and keeps you stuck in a “purgatory” that you don’t even know you’re in.
SECRETS HIDE THE REAL YOU.
Somewhere along the way it became okay for people to be secret keepers – admirable even! “She’s hard to read” or “he plays his cards close” essentially means “unwilling or unable to be forthright.” People who hold onto their secrets sometimes treat them like an armor that is supposed to protect their true selves, but what they are really saying is “I don’t like myself enough to show anybody.” If you do this for long enough and keep insulating yourself with secrets, you lose touch with the self that you have hidden away!
In essence, you become your secrets.
SECRETS MANIFEST PROBLEMS ELSEWHERE.
There are big secrets and little secrets. Many people can grasp how keeping a big secret, like cheating on a spouse, is significant and would impact a person. What about the little secrets, the ones we create when we don’t speak our true minds, or when we lie to make someone feel better? I had a client once who couldn’t bring himself to tell his partner that she had gained weight, even though she repeatedly asked him how she looked and expressed unhappiness about it herself. As the cycle continued, he became less attracted to her and guilty about how “shallow” he was about her weight, which only made him obsess over it more. It even got to a point where he could no longer become physically aroused by her; he thought he was having erectile issues, but they were really secret issues.
SECRETS ISOLATE YOU FROM THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE.
Building a relationship on a foundation of secrecy and lies is like building a house on sand, where structural problems will always take you down. You cannot sustain deep connections with people who only get to see the “you” that is carefully edited to withhold the parts of you that you don’t wish to reveal. When you don’t say what you really think, people can’t know who you really are. Therefore, you’ll never feel loved for who you really are.
WHAT TO DO?
Though we spend a great deal of time fostering secrets, we can easily identify people whose personalities and actions exemplify their truest self.
Authenticity is a rare and valuable asset to have. Like attracts like, and being authentic attracts the right kind of people to you. @LaurenZander (Click to Tweet!)
It frees you from making fear-based decisions and judgments, and connects you to your dreams.
So much more is possible when you aren’t juggling a soul-ful of secrets.
However! Letting go of your secrets doesn’t mean you can just go blurting every unpleasant thing out to everyone you know! There’s a real art to having tough conversations, and confessing requires a great deal of finesse. There are formulas you can use to practice having this go well, and steps you can take in the future to foster more authentic connections with the people around you.
Ready to start truth-telling?
If you need more inspiration, take the Current Reality Quiz! It’s a quick, easy, and fun (we swear) way to self-assess and get a better idea (or at least an honest one) on what areas of your life you need to work on.
Lauren Handel Zander is the Co-Founder and Chairwoman of Handel Group®, an international corporate consulting and life coaching company. Her coaching methodology, The Handel Method®, is taught in over 35 universities and institutes of learning around the world, including MIT, Stanford Graduate School of Business, NYU, and the New York City Public School System. Lauren is also the author of Maybe It’s You: Cut the Crap, Face Your Fears, Love Your Life (Published by Hachette Book Group, April 2017), a no-nonsense, practical manual that helps readers figure out not just what they want out of life, but how to actually get there. She has spent over 20 years coaching thousands of private and corporate clients, including executives at Vogue, BASF, and AOL. Lauren has been a featured expert in The New York Times, BBC, Forbes, Women’s Health, Dr. Oz, and Marie Claire and she is a regular contributor to Businessweek and the Huffington Post. Click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation with Handel Group.
Image courtesy of Alex Holyoake.