On keeping secrets

by Lara on March 22, 2014

When I was 18 I got a tattoo.  It’s on my back and it’s a tribal symbol and it has absolutely no significance other than I liked how it looked, and I wanted a tattoo.  It’s on my back because even as a teenager I was fully aware of my tendency to get bored of things and so it’s on my back so that I don’t see it enough to get sick of it.

I got the tattoo and didn’t tell my parents…  for like, 2 weeks. The fact that I didn’t tell them ate at me like I was keeping something incredibly important from them that I shouldn’t.  When I told them, it was out of guilt for keeping this secret. Even now, looking back, I don’t quite understand why that would feel “wrong” but it did, and I have a feeling it still would today.

In fact, that kind of mentality still creeps up on me and the point of this post is mostly to say “WHY?”  Why would I feel like I was doing something wrong if I went and did something that was just for me?

If I went to a spa for an afternoon and told nobody… I’d feel like I was being sneaky.

If I decided to go treatments of some kind and didn’t tell anyone… I’d constantly feel compelled to tell people even if I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

If I got another tattoo… I’d feel the need to announce it formally.

I’ve been trying to figure it out and haven’t come to a conclusion.  Why do I feel compelled to not keep “secrets” from the people in my life when I’m perfectly entitle to privacy and things that are my own?  Do I need to overcome it or do I just accept I might just be the kind of person who likes to share?  Am I doing it because I need approval?  (I think I’m going with this one as the most likely – using the tattoo examples, I knew my parents wouldn’t like that I’d gotten a tattoo which is why I didn’t tell them but I probably wanted them to tell me it wasn’t a bad decision) Oh the self reflections and deep thoughts!

I am accepting theories… on why I do it, if you do it, and if it even matters at all :)

9 comments
amyboughner
amyboughner

When I got my first tattoo I fully intended to keep it a secret. I got home, went into my room, came back out and told my mother I had something to show her. 


Right now I'm struggling because I've got three people living in this house that are always asking what I'm up to, what my plans are. It may just be interest but when there's so much of it, it feels like they're snooping and I want some things to keep to myself. 

J3NN
J3NN

An interesting subject. Guilt around secrets.


I wonder if yours is environmental conditioning? Like a family / social construct of; not saying something is the same as lying?


And then when you spill it, double guilt trip, EG: "you kept it from us" and "now you're telling us" or "why didn't you consult us?"


Keeping an important or personal secret can have challenges and benefits. And yes I think it can matter quite a bit for some things.


Before sharing anything I ask myself how it will effect my relationship with the person in question, who they may share it with, will it affect others in my life too. Because really it is a question of trust. Do you trust them enough, not to judge, keep it between you and them etc.


Challenges: In my case the answer to the trust question is usually "no". So not trusting anyone makes having any kind of relationship or conversation with anyone, even casual, next to impossible. This can lead to isolation and all kinds of other problem etc.


Benefit: You are not judged for something you don't share about yourself, if you never share it.


For parents, setting your child this way can be dangerous. If they fear telling you things it could be because of a lack of trust / fear of being judged. 

Erin
Erin

I am the exact opposite, to the point where when people ask me friendly, small-talk-making questions, I clam right up. How was your day? How's work? Did you have a good trip? That smells good, what are you cooking? All questions that trip my 'mind-your-own-business' alarm. I have no idea why I feel so violated by people taking interest in me. It is particularly perplexing because I am also a chronic oversharer. I am Yin to my own Yang, I guess.

The Mother Roadie
The Mother Roadie

@amyboughner I know what that's like. My family is constantly confounded by my need for solitude and quiet. It's almost like none of them can understand why I would want to go out by myself and do something that is of interest to me personally. Sometimes I just need room to *breathe*.

Lara Wellman
Lara Wellman moderator

@amyboughner  I don't get that as much... that people want in on my business.  Which makes it all the more confounding ;)  


I also think some people are just more prone to keeping things private

Lara Wellman
Lara Wellman moderator

@J3NN  My relationship with my parents is actually really open and I don't feel judged by them (I'm really lucky) - I just feel compelled to share certain things with them and a lot of my closest friends.


I do think, as I contemplate it all more, that the things I hold back are ones that the people I'm tempted to tell would have an opinion on.  I think it stems a bit more from needing approval for the decisions I make in my life and a lack of self confidence than guilt that has been imposed on me.  Realizing I'm imposing things on myself that nobody else expects me to seems to be a bit of a recurring theme this week.


As for you not feeling like you can trust people, I just want to hug you. Not feeling like you can trust almost anybody must be very very difficult. :(

Lara
Lara

I've been digging deeper into understanding some of the things that make me tick. It's interesting. Kind of scary and hard and weird too, but also interesting.

J3NN
J3NN

@Lara Wellman @J3NN  Very insightful thinking. The opinion thing, I think, is where it all starts for me. Or "What would the neighbours think" mentality.


Maybe I should listen to "Public Parts" by Jeff Jarvis, as my next audio book.


JP

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