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Jude's avatar

Keeping "secrets", whether it be for example, being closeted, or not telling people that you cheated in a relationship; how does keeping secrets shape who you are, what you think and how you behave?

Asked by Jude (32112points) May 6th, 2009

For me, I was afraid to let family know that I was gay out of fear that they would disown my ass. I carried that ‘secret’ for a good 25 years. Also, I kept the fact that I was molested a secret, as well (carried that one for about 30 years). I still have a hard time feeling comfortable when talking to people about my sexuality (usually anyone over the age of 50). I find that because I carried around these secrets for so damn long, that sometimes I am afraid to open up and just be myself.

Care to share your thoughts/feelings?

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14 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Many of the ‘secrets’ that you describe, once revealed to my family, have been ignored or invalidate as untrue…my mother, when she found I was queer, ignored if for almost a decade, saying it’s a ‘phase’...when I told her about my gender identity issues, she laughed…but with all of these matters made me promise not to tell the rest of the family…I’m not close to anyone in that group so it only irks me a little that they don’t know…in terms of cheating, I’ve done it, sure, had it done to me, yes…when I ‘strayed’, I told immediately and relationship would move on from there…I don’t keep many secrets, there are a few people in this world who know ALL of mine no matter how embarrassing…

cwilbur's avatar

It depends on the secret.

Having to pretend to be someone you’re not—pretending to be straight when you’re not, pretending to be conservative so you don’t alienate your parents, pretending to be religious when you’re not—all of these take a considerable toll on your self-esteem and your sense of self-worth. Sustaining the pretense is like sending a message to yourself that these other people’s image of you is more important than your own image of you, and that’s not healthy in the long term.

That said, there are times when it’s still the least painful way to do things. If Aunt Ermintrude is a raving homophobe, but you only need to visit her once a year, it’s probably better to just say, “No, Aunt Ermintrude, I’m not seeing any nice boys right now,” and leave it at that.

Things that are not who you are but what you’ve done, on the other hand, I think ought to be disclosed only when there’s some benefit to be gained or when someone has a legitimate need to know.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s frustrating. You want your friends and family to know you, but you’re afraid they will shun you, or offer you bad advice, or they’ll never understand. My family never talks about feelings. They don’t believe in mental illness. They believe that if you can’t get yourself out of a “funk” then you just aren’t trying, and you aren’t really a serious person. I know, because I was brought up that way, and that’s what I believed before I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

So I don’t talk to them much any more. When I’m with them, I have to stop myself from talking about things that might reveal the secret, or might show that I know too much about something. I also don’t call my college friends any more. These are the people who are closest to me, and when I was going through this, they disappeared. People say that I should have reached out to them, but I couldn’t If they weren’t wondering about why they hadn’t heard from me, then they weren’t my friends after all.

So when they did come to visit, I was all nice and everything, but I didn’t say anything. When, recently, my best friend wrote me an email, it was one word. “So?” Nothing about him. Just asking me what was going on. Even though I consider him my best friend, it’s more like a memorial best friend, since we don’t talk. It’s really sad.

I feel a lot of shame about being mentally ill. I know the people in my life who are most important will see me as a failure of some kind. I don’t want to deal with that. My new friends know. Fluther knows. That’s good enough for me.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Secrets are layers you keep safe for yourself or others, not all of them have to be bad things or kept secret forever. As far as family goes, I’ve always been in the camp that says your family will hurt you the worst, give you the least credit and hang your ass out for the world to peck over.

reverie's avatar

I view secrets as a badge of regret, which I feel is always a bad thing.

It’s not always that way, as there are many reasons for why people hide things – often saying more about the people they are being hidden from, rather than the person doing the hiding. However, I don’t think secret-keeping is conducive to a life of self-acceptance, growth and a lack of regrets, which is what I aim for.

redstripe11's avatar

Everybody has a dark side. Everybody has skeletons. What is worse than keeping a “dark” secret I think is ridiculing or pointing fingers at another when their dark secrets are revealed, knowing full well that we have things that we prefer would remain hidden.

So as to taking a toll on one’s self-esteem, I’m not so sure. I think it depends on if we can accept our dark side and realize it is part of what makes us human.

It’s funny to me how the most universal of truths are oftentimes the least acknowledged.

eponymoushipster's avatar

secret secrets are no fun/secret secrets hurt someone.

ratboy's avatar

Keeping secrets permits me to leave my home without be assailed by an angry mob.

augustlan's avatar

The only secrets that I think are worth keeping are ones that will hurt someone unnecessarily. Even those take a toll on the keeper, but if it is for the greater good it may be worth it.

Being true to yourself, though, is maybe the most important thing you can do for yourself. Owning who you are, to the people that matter, means that you are OK with who you are. That’s huge in terms of self-worth.

YARNLADY's avatar

That’s what a professional counselor is for. When you share your deepest secrets with them, it can actually help relieve you of the burden, and they even help you identify some tips and ideas to work on.

Blondesjon's avatar

I have spent years trying to keep my enormous package a secet, but to no avail.

Damn you crotchless chaps!!!

cak's avatar

My husband knows all my dark secrets. Everything.

We have our secrets, we have the things that we protect, for each other. They remain in those places, though and frankly, no one outside of our relationship will know or will ever need to know. It’s nothing that will hurt anyone. So they just aren’t that interesting, I guess.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s kind of ironic. It’s easy for me to keep other people’s secrets, but I’m not so good at keeping my own. At least, not here. And not with my wife, either. Outside of that, no one knows the whole story. I wish I lived in a world where that didn’t have to be the case. I so hate secrets, but in a world of intolerant people, they have to be kept if we are to remain safe.

Blondesjon's avatar

Safe from what?

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