Why do we lie to or keep secrets from others?
And, more importantly, why do we lie to ourselves?
This has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ll tell you why: I had an experience a few weeks ago where I lied to my doctor. It wasn’t a big lie or anything that would impact my healthcare. It was a lie to make myself feel better.
My doctor and I were chatting about long-distance running (a former obsession of mine). About a year ago, I was part of a running group and ran some very long training runs, but never in fact ran an ultra-race. He asked what races I had done and I mumbled about local ones and quickly changed the subject.
Why did I lie about something so seemingly inconsequential?
There are reasons why we keep secrets from others and ourselves.
Looking back, I believe there were several reasons: I wanted to feel validated that I was serious about running. I wanted him to think highly of me. I wanted to feel like I was a ‘real’ runner, even if I can’t run long-distance any more.
When I think back to that incident, I was really lying to myself. I was having a hard time admitting to myself that I’d never run in an ultra-race; saying the lie let me believe it for a nano-second and that felt good. I wanted to validate myself that my years of long-distance running meant something, even if I can’t run any longer.
I know I’m not alone in this. If you’re a human being you’ve lied to someone, probably multiple people. You’ve even lied to someone you love. This doesn’t make us bad people.
Some questions to consider: Is this how I want to live my life? Do I feel right lying/keeping secrets? Is this truly authentic to the person I am in my life?
Think of a secret you’ve kept or lie you’ve told, big or small. Imagine what it would be like if you told the truth to others. What would it be like admitting the truth to yourself?
Is there a part of this secret that has been difficult for you to admit and recognize? What are the underlying feelings that come up when you think about it? Try sinking into what your experience is like as you openly acknowledge the truth to yourself.
For me, as I left the doctor appointment I felt some guilt and regrets for telling the lie. When I looked under that, I connected with how sad I am about not being able to run long-distance anymore. It’s a hurt in my heart that hasn’t quite healed; I haven’t fully made peace with this fact yet.
As you speak the truth to yourself it can be uncomfortable, even painful. And, if you choose to tell others about times in your past that you have lied or kept a secret there are some things to consider… there may be backlash.
Depending on what the situation was, others may be angry, feel betrayed, and lose trust in your relationship. It’s vital that you carefully evaluate the impact of telling the truth.
If you believe that there may be backlash, please get some support. Finding a trusted friend, confidant, or therapist to explore the situation will help you gain perspective and make a choice about moving forward that is authentic and genuine to whom you are.
Ultimately, when releasing secrets that you’ve been holding on to for a while you may feel a profound experience of relief by telling the truth. A weight lifted from your shoulders.
When you hide parts of yourself from others, you are not being authentic to you. There may be some very valid reasons you’re hiding something. It could be that you haven’t settled into what is your comfort is around this area. It could be that you’re fearful of others’ reactions. Possibly you’re worried about what it would mean if you said it out loud to yourself. Maybe you’re like me and wanted to feel validated and significant.
It’s taken me several weeks to write this blog post. Opening up about a lie I told is tough. It’s humbling to admit; but as I reflect, it’s not who I am at my authentic core. I can be proud of myself for my running past even if I never ran an ultra.
I encourage you to also look at the secrets you’ve kept and identify if any need to be released. If you would like some support exploring this, please reach out to me. I’m here to help.
Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist specializing in counseling for people healing from painful life experiences and traumas, support for individuals exploring their gender identity and expression, and the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org