‘I wonder which is preferable – to walk around all your life swollen up with your own secrets until you burst from the pressure of them, or to have them sucked out of you, every paragraph, every sentence, every word of them, so at the end you’re depleted of all that was once as precious to you as hoarded gold, as close to you as your skin – everything that made you cringe and wish to conceal, everything that belonged to you alone – and must spend the rest of your days like an empty sack flapping in the wind, an empty sack branded with a with a bright fluorescent label so that everyone will know what sort of secrets used to be inside you?’ – The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood.
So, last week I did a spot of guest blogging for the lovely Megan Gilbride and her astounding beauty blog, Wonderful You. It’s one thing writing up your own crazy thoughts and publishing them on your public profile for everyone to judge, but there’s something even more unnerving about handing them over to someone else.
As a writer, I’m used to ‘adjusting’ my writing, so that others can relate more easily to what I have to say. As a normal (ok semi-normal) person, I’m used to ‘adjusting’ my thoughts when talking to other people. I often wonder how many people actually say what’s on their mind. If there’s one thing the last couple of years have taught me, it’s that there are incredibly few people you can be 100% yourself around. Probably the same number of people you could confidently tell a secret to and know that they a) wouldn’t judge you for it, and b) wouldn’t tell a soul. Not even their cat.
A few months ago, I did a guest post for a very good friend of mine, The London Ladybird. In it I described my reasoning for believing that ignorance is never bliss when it comes to cheating on a partner. I still believe that anyone who feels forced to lie to their partner probably shouldn’t be with them, but I’m starting to understand why people feel compelled to keep secrets from one another. We all do it, every single day. We tell people they look good when they don’t, we force a smile at the most irritating person we know, and we scratch our bums in private. That’s what makes the world go round. And that’s why the people we can tell our darkest secrets to are so rare.
If you ask me, it’s perfectly ok to keep things to yourself. It’s standard behaviour in fact. It’s what makes people interesting and it’s what spares people’s feelings. The only problem I have with keeping secrets is when you’re forced to withhold information from the one person or very few people on this planet you’re closest with. We’re not designed to keep things buried inside. That’s why we write, paint, draw, sing, dance, take up kick boxing, rugby, football, tennis, and feel the need to plaster our emotions over Facebook, Twitter and Blogs.
Feeling unable to tell someone close to you something can lead to two of the hardest questions you might ever have to ask yourself:
1) Have you done something so fundamentally ‘wrong’ that you fear nobody will understand?
2) Have you simply grown apart from them?
If it’s the former, and you’re keeping something to yourself because you don’t think anyone could forgive it, then, unless you can handle being completely alone in the world, it’s time to take a step back and reassess your situation. If it’s the latter, gather the strength to admit to yourself that perhaps the reason you feel unable to say anything is because you’ve lost the ability to be yourself around that person – which is ok by the way. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There is someone out there you can be yourself around, someone you can trust, and if you waste time being something you’re not, you’ll never find them. Just make sure you’re completely and utterly convinced that question 1 has been dealt with first, before you break away.
There is nothing wrong with having secrets, as long as they serve to define a friendship, rather than to create distance. Too much information about yourself, inside your own mind, can be dangerous. However, unleashing the precious information you’ve stored inside yourself to the wrong person can be damaging. Don’t be afraid to face and share the truth. Only, don’t be afraid to protect it for the right reasons.
Check out my guest blog for Wonderful You here
and The London Ladybird here