Your secrets, defining who you are … or not …
I was deeply touched by Frank Warren’s TED Talk, on Half a Million Secrets, delivered last March (2012).
Frank Warren invited people to anonymously send him their secrets in 2004. Now, eight years later, he is the “owner” of over half a million secrets. People from all over the world, shared their ‘shocking, silly and soulful’ secrets. He created Post Secret, “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.”
What are the secrets we are keeping and why are we keeping them? And, most importantly, what makes us want to share them with a stranger?
We keep secrets for many reasons. Sometimes it’s shame and fear of being found out for who you really are. Sometimes it’s to protect someone else. Sometimes it’s for fear of being misunderstood, misjudged. Sometimes it’s just to protect yourself.
Our secrets can vary… Maybe your secret is that you spend far more money than you can afford, or that you don’t really like your wife’s cooking but don’t want to hurt her by telling her, or that you’re ashamed of your parents, that you wear padded bras to make your breasts look bigger. Maybe you’re in love with someone else other than your partner, or you’re a Facebook addict, a sex addict, drug addict or love addict.
Or maybe you’re afraid that you’ll never find the love you’re looking for, or you’re just scared of commitment or you think your girlfriend should not wear that garish red lipstick because it gets on her teeth and it makes her look like a vampire but you don’t want to hurt her feelings…
The list can go on, from the mundane to the sacred. But they are still secrets and they’re important to you. Your secrets could define who you are and who you’re not… secretly
I generally think of myself as a very open and accessible person and yet I know I carry my own secrets, things I may not have shared with anyone. Some are my own. Some are the secrets of others that I’ve been entrusted with and I’ll keep them because I’ve sworn confidentiality.
I have secrets from childhood that probably define who I’ve become, I have secrets about who I have loved and not loved, secrets about what I really think of people, and secrets I feel bad about. I sometimes try to keep my thoughts even a secret from myself.
I also have secrets of poignant moments shared with someone that I cannot share with anyone else because the poignancy and the emotion only means something in that moment and to the people who have shared them with me. I have secrets about inner jokes with someone, which I can’t share with anyone else.
I have secrets about what I desire, what I love or hate about myself, about what scares me or makes me feel vulnerable or about what I really want to be when I grow up. I suddenly realize that the list goes on. I’m quite secretive, after all.
Some secrets are meant to be kept for a good reason because revealing them may not necessarily make the world a better place, or make you or someone else feel better. And these should be kept. Because they belong to you. Or to someone else.
Sometimes you keep a secret because the deliciousness of that secret consists in letting it stay so. It’s something for you to take out in your own secret private moment, to be looked at, to be relived, or to be cherished and then carefully tucked away. But sometimes we do want to share these secrets with others. Clearly it is so, which is why Frank Warren’s PostSecret initiative is so popular.
This post originally appeared on Elephant Journal on 12th April, 2012