03 Aug I’m a secret in a bottle, baby
Regardless of whether or not you see yourself as a private person, it’s important to think about the secrets you have bottled up. Are they hurting you or helping you? Should they remain bottled up for a short time, or long time or forever?
Some secrets can be bottled up forever easily, Lucy had a crush on Sam last year or I used to only wear Dora the Explorer underwear. Heck some secrets between friends are meant to be kept forever like, Remember the time we threw up over the fence into our neighbors’ back yard?! Other secrets might be more difficult to keep forever, I forgot to feed my gerbil for a week and it died, or, Angie keeps cutting.
This section discusses difficult secrets, meaning, secrets that you’re not sure if you should tell. Let’s face it, secrets are secret and in most cases should be kept that way. Most secrets are fun to have and help cement the bonds of your friendships! But, some difficult secrets can feel overwhelming to keep. Some can cause you to feel shame or embarrassment and weigh you down like cement flippers in a swimming pool. What do you do then?
Short-term bottling up of a difficult secret because you need time to process it is healthy and perfectly acceptable. Taking your time to digest someone else’s difficult secret, or even your own, is in your (and other people’s) best interest. This way, you can really think about who will be affected by the difficult secret and if it needs to be shared or not. (Of course, don’t bottle up a dangerous secret for more than a second. If you hear that your friend’s friend’s friend wants to put poison in someone’s drink at lunch in ten minutes, don’t waste a second—stop negative actions right away.)
Long-term bottling up difficult secrets and feelings because you don’t want to deal with them or don’t think you can handle them, can also be the right solution, but can also cause issues down the road. You might choose to bottle up a secret forever when telling the secret might hurt people, or cause problems if the secret came out.
For example, you know that Justin cheated on his SAT’s to get a near perfect score. For the first time in months, Justin’s parents are treating him well, praising him for his hard work. Prior to that, they had been really mean to him and Justin had been seriously depressed. Do you keep his secret? As another example, perhaps you went through a period where you stole small items from the local convenience store because you needed items and your parents could not afford them. Now you have a job and have made a promise to yourself never to steal again. Do you keep what you did a secret?
Managing the associated emotions when a secret is “out” can seem unbearable, so we keep secrets “in” for the long-term to feel more safe. This is your choice. If you can’t manage the pain of revealing the secret, then keep it in. But make sure you learn how to manage the pain of keeping it to yourself as well. Using the example from above, telling people that you once stole something might be too embarrassing to you, but if you continue to beat yourself up for it and tell yourself what a bad person you are because of it, then perhaps you might benefit from a little help in managing it. Sometimes we need to talk to people we trust to help us find a healthy way forward.
In the end, you need to do what is right for YOU. Holding that difficult secret can be very challenging (for example, you may feel threatened by your “friend” if you tell; you fear what might happen to a third party; you know if the secret stays a secret, someone will continue to do bad things, you feel really ashamed by what you did, etc.). This is when you might decide to seek some help/advice.
When deciding whether or not to share a secret, ask yourself, “Who will be helped by this? Who will be hurt? What’s the point of sharing it?” Think about your intentions (to read about intentions, click here.). Make sure they have other people’s best interest in mind as well as your own mental health. If keeping a secret is difficult for you or you feel shame, pain or anxiety from it, talk to someone you trust.
Are you more private and take time to warm up and spill your secrets? Or do you find yourself eager to share secretive info about yourself with friends?