In middle school, being called a “tattletale” was one of the easiest ways to ruin your reputation. Being a blabbermouth was frowned upon, and still is. Nobody wanted to be the kid who couldn’t keep a secret. But man, do we love secrets. We love the feeling of being entrusted with knowledge no one else knows.
Let’s be honest, when someone tells us a secret, we feel powerful, popular and favored. We’re one of the “special” friends. While many of our secrets are trivial, others thrust heavy weights on our conscience. Secrets can be a product of lying by omission, but they can also be a method of protection. We keep secrets for our friends, our families and ourselves. Whether it’s keeping your weekend agenda from mom or concealing a personal traumatic experience, secrets can sometimes add up. Regardless of whether you were the middle school “tattletale” or the one who always replies “I’m fine,” we have all been trusted with secrets and kept secrets of our own. However, with each secret, we must constantly remember what we can and cannot say and have to repeatedly alter our behavior. In a recent article by The Atlantic, researchers have found that keeping secrets might affect us a lot more than we realize because of the mental exertion they require. Evidently, the middle school adage “secret secrets are no fun, unless they’re shared with everyone” rings somewhat true.
Studies have found that keeping secrets affects our ability to carry out certain physical tasks. Researchers aren’t claiming that one arm will stop working because you kept your C+ a secret, but they are saying that opening up has been proven to promote mental and physical health.
Many secrets are indeed harmless but imagine those harboring secrets about their own sexuality or hiding private family matters. Think again about our own tendencies here at BC. Are we not constantly striving for perfection? Perfect bodies, perfect grades, perfect people. We like to preserve the notion that “we’re fine” because it’s apparently not okay to not be okay. We don’t have time for problems. Maybe we feel that our problems aren’t significant enough to warrant attention. Maybe if we ignore them, they’ll go away. So, we keep it all a secret.
What we don’t know is that more and more studies show that these unwanted thoughts or hidden struggles take up much of our brain capacity and thus invade our lives no matter how hard we try to suppress them.
It’s been proven repeatedly through BC retreats, such as 48Hours, and conversations with University Counseling Services that people want to share experiences they feel they need to hide. Concealing secrets about our lives that truly affect us only leads to feelings of loneliness and despair. In fact, keeping burdensome secrets can lead to an increase of common colds and reduced efficiency in completing tasks. Maybe you were planning on running six miles today but you find you only have the motivation for four. Researchers cited in the Atlantic claim that “writing about traumatic experiences can boost the immune system […] teens who confide in a parent or close friend report fewer physical complaints and less delinquent behavior.”
You shouldn’t necessarily go around sharing your roommate’s secrets but you should strive to be open and honest about yourself, even if it makes you vulnerable. At the end of the day, you should seek environments and friends that will listen, support and love you through even the toughest burdens you bear. It will make you healthier, happier and stronger.
Check out The Gavel's Authentic Eagles, a series where students share their path to becoming authentic and embracing their individual truths.