- Coming Clean -

COMING CLEAN: Secrets and Health

Keeping secrets can weigh down your happiness.

Today’s Wall Street Journal featured an article on how keeping secrets can harm your health. The author included a statistic from communications researchers: 95 percent of people have information about themselves that they don’t reveal to anyone. The other 5 percent, they concluded, were probably lying.

People keep secrets? Tell me something I don’t know.

We’ve reported on this at Experience Life (see “Keeping Secrets”); it’s the antithesis of this blog, where I’ve committed to come clean and be real with myself, you the reader, and others about my truths. Not everything needs to be public knowledge, of course, so perhaps I choose to reveal some secrets to only my husband or my mom or my life coach.

So it had me thinking: Do we all need to live fully transparent? The information I share with my girlfriend is much different than what I tell my grandmother — I have to consider the audience. That doesn’t really seem like a secret, and I still feel like I’m a honest person.

Perhaps it’s in the framing, or what we perceive as a secret. Is an omission a secret? Is it lying?

I’ll share one of my secrets as an example: I’m a secret eater. When Kyle has traveled for work, I’ll get Chinese takeout — and not steamed veggies. I’m talking about crispy lemon chicken and cream cheese wontons. Egg rolls, plural. Dessert? Why not? I’ve clearly given in to temptation.

The evidence, however, will disappear into the bottom of the garbage can outside. I’ve even taken great care to hide the bag with the logo on it.

In the past, he hasn’t asked me what I ate when he returns, but then I don’t know if I could tell him. I might try to lie, which is impossible with him because he can tell by my dodgy eyes and smirk.

I’ve worked through this secret-eating pattern, but still consider it at times. Who has to know?

Except, I’ll know. I’ll be cheating myself. And to repeatedly let oneself down, to not believe in your power and willingness to do what you say, is a hard reality. It’s a place where I stop caring for myself and the part I play in the world. Everything starts to contract: It was the safe bubble I had created for myself, where dreams seemed impossible and I’d simply sigh at the idea of new adventures. It was a place of safety.

How I handle my struggle with secret eating now? I keep a food journal and I share it with my trainer or life coach or Kyle. When he’s back from a trip, we talk about what we ate. The pantry is clean of unhealthy choices, and if I find myself in the parking lot of that takeout spot, I take several deep breaths, consider how I’ll feel afterward, and phone a friend when need be.

So tell me: What secrets do you keep? When has revealing a secret improved your happiness or relationships? (And feel free to remain vague on your secret specifics.)

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