If I were to gift you one insight that might empower you most of all it would be this: The idea that you must hide the trouble you have lived through in life is the ultimate paper tiger. In fact, the fear of self-disclosure may be the most damaging psychological scourge there is.
I say this because most anything you hide out of a fear of being judged or humiliated will keep you on the run, weaken you, exhaust you and convince you, unconsciously, that you are unworthy of acceptance and love. To the contrary, when you can speak of those things that you have believed are “unspeakable,” you become more powerful than those things. You no longer have to waste energy burying them because they are out in the open. You have taken a massive step toward overcoming them and refusing to be negatively defined by them.
You’re the most important person listening when you reveal that you were bullied as a kid, or that your household was one in which you suffered emotional injuries, or that you faced learning challenges, or that you made mistakes earlier in life, or that you wish you had been a better sister or brother or friend or parent or son or daughter or wife or husband. When you hear yourself reveal these things they become part of the narrative you have overcome or are in the process of overcoming. You, the author of the next pages of your autobiography, become, by definition, a far more courageous and compassionate writer.
You are not the only one listening when you reveal parts of your life story that initially plead to be kept secret. Others are moved by your honesty. They understand, at a gut level, that you are someone who is introspective, someone who understands what it is to suffer and what it takes to overcome. Far from running in the other direction, people of quality will gravitate toward you. You will become, in a sense, anointed as a person of empathy because you are not presenting yourself as invulnerable or above the fray.
Once you begin to disclose more about yourSELF, you shouldn’t be surprised if others do the same—sharing their truth with you. You’ll have far more access to their realities, not their “images.” You can connect with them at a more basic, human, meaningful level.
What is it about you or your life that you tend not to want others to know? Consider whether beginning to reveal it will relieve you of feelings of self-doubt and self-reproach. Consider whether beginning to reveal it will begin to convince you that you are greater than that which you have suffered and survived. I promise you that you are.
Dr. Keith Ablow