My friend Chris posted an interesting question on Twitter last night.
What would be the worst outcome of your innermost thoughts – not literally ‘your internet history’, but it’s a decent proxy, I guess – being made public? What would be the best?
I’m thinking a lot just now about how we hold onto unvoiced concerns about ourselves, internalised, received-wisdom self-hatred that we daren’t interrogate, making them all huge and black and important… while most people wouldn’t give a damn.
The corollary to ‘everyone around you has a story as rich and deep as yours’ and the implication that this might come as a surprise is that ‘nobody around you thinks your story is particularly important’, and perhaps that can be a catalyst for honesty and growth.
I can answer some of that, because of course my darkest, most terrible secret is no longer a secret: I’m – surprise! – one of those trans people the papers warn you about. And what happens is your fear loses its power. You move from being terrified of anybody even suspecting the slightest hint of your secret to moving through the world without really giving it much thought. Fears lose their power incredibly easily.
So the glib answer is: your life gets better. Not necessarily easier, but better because living a lie is really hard work.
But that’s a pretty extreme example. What about the day to day things, the smaller things we don’t say out loud? As I responded to Chris:
…a lot of secrets are really hard work too. For example, the classic “I’m in love with them but I’m too scared to tell them”. I’ve lost half my life to that one :)
But there are also everyday ones, the things we don’t always articulate. The love we have for our partners, our friends, our children. The sadness we feel at accidental or not so accidental cruelties of others. The times we’re barely hanging on and desperately need a shoulder to lean on but can’t bring ourselves to ask.
[total honesty] would also mean people I quite like hearing the less pleasant things I observe about them, so it’s not all good. But my gut is that we silence more valuable stuff than bad stuff. Maybe :)
How many times have you bitten your tongue at something that’s really made you sad, or wanted to tell someone how much they matter but just went red instead?
What would happen if you stopped pretending, if you didn’t censor everything? I don’t mean not censoring anything – I’d be barred from supermarkets if I vocalised what I thought about my fellow shoppers sometimes – but the important things, the things that make you feel things.
What would happen if you were more honestly you?