As a kid I remember being asked and hearing others ask the question: what is your deepest, darkest secret? No one ever seemed to believe me, but for the longest time I had no answer to that question. I didn’t really have any secrets. It even struck me as odd that that question seemed to come up so often. Do regular people have terrible secrets that they’re hiding? I couldn’t imagine it. For most of my childhood and adolescence, I was pretty much an open book. Any secrets I may have had were rather by chance than by intention.
Throughout my college years I made a lot of very serious mistakes. Those were really my first secrets. Even so they were only things I hid from certain people. My boyfriend never knew I cheated on him, but it was common knowledge to my close friends, despite my shame. I suppose I also had secrets from my parents in my late teens and early twenties. These secrets seemed sensible though. I kept selectively silent in order to preserve the feelings of those I loved.
After years of living on my own, and particularly during last year’s quarantine, it feels like I’ve become more secretive than ever. These are much bigger secrets in my eyes. Maybe not as damning, but certainly more embarrassing. These secrets are ones I keep out of personal shame rather than courtesy. They are not selective events or things I conceal from only certain people. It feels like these things have crowded around me to form a separate, secret me. There are so many things about my day to day life and the inner workings of my mind that I would be mortified for anyone else to know. It’s gotten to the point where I wonder if anyone even truly knows me anymore.
That’s why I wanted to talk about secrets today. Secrets separate, secrets isolate. I’ve recently read about something called imposter syndrome. This is the experience of feeling like a fraud and/or undeserving of the things and people you have in life. I’d say that fits me, but I hesitate. Is it “imposter syndrome” if you really are an imposter to a certain degree? I don’t feel like this is some imagined perception. I truly believe that most of the people in my life would no longer like me if they knew more about me. Whether it’s true or not, this only encourages me to hide myself away. And the more I hide myself away, the bigger my secrets become.
I see only two ways to remedy this situation and rid myself of this ever-present shame. I could either come clean about all of my idiosyncrasies to everyone I know (no way would I ever do that), or I could change my behavior and live each moment of my life in a way I can be proud of. This second option is my goal. Everyone knows the phrase “dance like no one is watching,” well I want to live like everyone is watching. For the most part I agree with the saying that your true character is who you are when no one is watching. That’s why I feel fake most of the time. But I want to live a life that I don’t have to be ashamed of. I don’t want to keep feeling like a phony when I face the world.
Satya is one of the five Yamas (restraints) laid out in the yoga sutras of Patanjali. Satya means non-lying or truthfulness. I’ve tried a few times to adopt this way of living, but have always given up quite quickly. I really never realized how much I lied, even about little insignificant things, until I tried to be mindfully truthful. Most often these lies come in the form of excuses. I’m too anxious to go hangout with my friends, so instead I’ll say I have other plans. I also tell a lot of half-truths, purposely being vague or omitting certain details in order to stay on someone’s good side. When I really think about it, I guess I’ve been more concerned with other people’s opinions of me than my own self-respect.
After so many years of telling these little white lies, it has become second nature to me. But I’d like to start looking at truth as an act of self-love. Being honest is really a gift to myself and others. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to feel truly worthy of my loved ones unless I learn how to be honest with them and myself. It may be scary, but it’s something I’ve got to do. Happiness won’t be found in falsehoods.