…many things that some or most people do not know. The same applies to you. Inside ourselves lurk many secrets, things we do not openly reveal to others. Even chatty people who seem to announce everything about themselves to friends, family and the world, information remains under lock and key. Some of us retain more than others, our filter is set to keep more inside.
Ask someone close to you to describe who you are. How comfortable are you to hear about the warts and illumination of your hidden side? This hidden side is not necessarily a destructive list of personality disorders, rather what we are less proud to possess or even try to conceal. A confident might generalize or be diplomatic in describing our faults or missteps, but we know the truth, even if we might not want to fully admit it.
Our secrets do not have to be bad things, just very personal things. For reasons known to us, we keep some information private. These could be secrets only because we have not openly paraded them; they exist between self and others in the atmosphere.
Secretly, I am a variety of things that few people know. Is this a large list or a small one? Of that, I do not know. As an introvert and someone who generally flies below the radar, I am sometimes assumed to be things I am not. It is interesting how the perception of us by others differs from who we believe we are. Could it be that we are what others see or think of us? If someone says I am aloof, maybe I really am aloof. I certainly appear that way to another person so maybe I exhibit that behavior without knowing it. Claiming to be self-aware is not a declaration that we are totally aware of our actions and behaviors.
In an article in The Atlantic on self-awareness, the results of researchers showed that on some difficult to observe emotional traits, we are pretty good evaluators of ourselves. However, on easy to observe and measure traits, even strangers see more than we do about ourselves. The moral of the story is that self-awareness is only partially useful in really knowing us.
There is something called confirmation bias, and according to Psychology Today, people tend to find things about that you confirming what they already think. The brain seems to default to this as a time saver. The other tool that people use is called the primacy effect, meaning the first impression you make on them. This sets the expectation and establishes the impression that follows you in their mind. So, make a good first impression.
How closely do we guard that band of information that others do not know? Perhaps it is out there in the universe but just not observed?
Imagine someone who wades into that information, either intentionally or by accident. Are they welcomed or escorted away. Do we activate our defense system or send a valet? It depends on how well you know them and the level of trust you have in that relationship.
What do people know about us? I have grouped that information into four buckets. For each person, the size of the bucket is different.
- There are things that are open to those who you interact with or people in the world if they are paying attention.
- There are the things that friends and family know, things you say on social media although do not directly announce to the world.
- There are the very private feelings, events and experiences you only share with one or two people.
- And the things you think or views your hold, or experiences that are so sensitive or potentially revealing that you tell no one.
Not knowing something about a person is not the same as a secret. A secret is a highly protected bit of information that carries some degree of risk if it is revealed. Something unknown is not necessarily something guarded, just information not on display or observed given our relationship or proximity to others.
What are the kinds of secrets people keep? Here are the most common secrets found in surveys.
- Alcohol/drug issues
- Problems with children or other family members
- Money issues
- Dishonesty or illegality
- Sexual orientation
- Family history
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Emotional struggles
- Not conforming to what others think, believe or have accomplished
- A fear or behavior that you believe is irrational
So, the question is really, how transparent are we? When we say we are an open book to someone, that is not quite true. Some things about us are not in the book. We constantly add and revise the book, and people in our lives see different sections of the book. Just as we protect our identity, we manage the gateway to the information about our lives.
Did you know that secretly, I am…