We all have parts of ourselves that we hide — secrets that we lock in the vault inside ourselves, and throw away the key so no one can access them.
Those parts and secrets run the gamut. Sometimes you're hiding because of a systemic and societal stigma, but other times you're hiding something deeply personal that you consider shameful.
I've been down this road before, personally. Throughout high school and college, I kept a secret from practically everyone but my immediate family. Like many people, I tried convincing myself that doing so didn't affect me. I reasoned that keeping that secret didn't change who I was, so it wasn't intruding into other areas of my life.
But I realized over time that I was wrong. It undoubtedly affected my relationships, and it was eating away at my soul: Because I wasn't giving all of myself over to the people I was trying to get close to, it made it that much more difficult for others to genuinely connect with me. Every time I was reminded of my secret, I felt its full weight on my shoulders.
When I started opening up about said secret, though, life became easier to live. I wasn't in hiding anymore. I felt emotionally healthier and physically lighter. I felt free.
When you stop hiding and start being who you really are, your honesty puts in motion a whole different way of living.
You stop caring what anyone thinks.
When you're hiding, it's because you're afraid to disappoint the people around you. They have certain expectations, and if they find out you can't or don't meet them, then they'll reject you.
No one WANTS to feel the wrath of the haters. But when you make the conscious decision to be who you are, the fear starts waning until it's completely gone.
When you stop hiding, you stop caring what other people think. You have to be yourself no matter what they say. There's no going back because you realize you will never be able to make everyone happy anyway.
You wear your identity on your sleeve.
Once you've lifted the veil that was hiding your identity, not only do you start being who you really are, you start discovering new parts of yourself that you never even knew existed.
You're proud of those pieces of your soul. They've been hiding for so long that you just want to share them with the world.
You start wearing your identity on your sleeve. You start showing people what you're made of. You start being vulnerable, and you realize vulnerability is a strength — not a weakness.
You find your people.
Conformity is for the unimaginative. And why would you want to spend your time with unimaginative people?
When you hide, you're connecting with people who don't know the real you. They're responding to the artifice, and that makes the whole relationship unstable. The moment your persona topples over, so does the real connection.
But when you're being real, you're building real relationships on solid ground. You're finding your people — the ones who connect to who you really are on every level.
You're proud of your roots.
America is all about a melting pot of cultures & experiences. It's this very fact that makes it such a unique place. Everyone has a different story to tell and celebrate.
Obviously it isn't always that easy. But part of working toward that reality is about sharing where you came from with others. When you start being who you are, you're educating the people around you about your roots.
Through those conversations and actions, you realize that you're really proud of your background/history. And you want people to know it.
You shed light on important issues.
When you hide your true self just so you can fit into some mold society has created, you effectively forfeit your chance to shed light on the very issues you're hiding. You miss your opportunity to not only be a face for the cause, but also erase its stigma.
But when you start revealing who you really are to your family, friends and coworkers, you're shedding light on these important issues. You're giving a voice to an underserved community, and in the process, you're becoming a voice for change. You can raise awareness AND inspire others to get involved.
You love yourself for who you are.
The more you show people who you really are, the more comfortable you get in your own skin. You see people accepting you, and you know that you never had a reason to hide in the first place.
Your self esteem starts swelling, and one day you realize that your one true love in life is yourself.
You love yourself for who you are. No one can ever take that away from you.
In this week's episode of Secret Lives of Americans, we meet Amy, who has been harboring a secret for years: her name is actually not Amy; it's Elhan, and she is Muslim, and she no longer wants to hide who she really is. Find out how she changed the conversation and started being herself by watching this video, and then visit the series' Take Action hub to find out how you can get involved.