We are all hiding something deep within ourselves. And we know that we are hiding it, and we also have a feeling that everyone else is hiding it – although we’ve never talked about it with them. It’s what Rumi called “the open secret.” The essence of this secret is the inner feeling that we have no idea what we’re doing.
It’s the part of us that feels like a fraud – a fake. It’s the part of us that wonders how everyone else does it. We wonder how they have this whole life thing all figured out. How can they keep it all together, and why can’t we? It’s the part of us that wonders what part of the magic formula are we not clear on? What are we doing wrong?
And yet, rather than simply coming out and asking someone about this, we hold it deep inside and cover it with shame. We believe that something must be horribly wrong with us if we are the only ones who can’t figure out how to be a part of this world. And so we learn to cover up this shame with a mask. We learn to send out our representatives into the land of “I’m fine.” and “Everything’s swell.” We enter the world with our best selves – our accomplished selves. We learn to play the game.
See if you recognize your own representative in any of these examples:
- Why, of course my house is immaculate, even though I am working full time and raising my kids.
- Yes, I received another promotion at work – while still spending many hours each week serving on the board of a worthwhile charity.
- Surely, all of us always have time to cook nutritious meals – only organic products in my home.
- Oh, I never leave the office before first clearing out my inbox, color coding all of my files, and sprucing up my workspace. Don’t we all do that?
- I exercise for a full hour each and every day – making sure it’s a mix of cardio and strength training.
- I always live a balanced life – making time for friends at least once per week, making sure I have some “me” time, and always keeping my family happy.
- I make sure I get a full eight hours of sleep each night, but not before writing all of the wonderful things that I am grateful for first.
Does any of this sound familiar? I realize that these are extreme examples written to make a point, but many of us aren’t too far away from this in one degree or another. Because we want to be loved and accepted, we don’t want to come across as not knowing what we are doing – not being perfect – or not excelling in our lives. It seems like everyone else has it under control, and so we strive to make it look like we do as well.
We are all simply playing the game. It’s a game that we are really good at – it’s a game that we know so well. Except, this game is truly exhausting, isn’t it?
And so one day we slip. We forget about the game, and when someone asks us how we are doing, we tell the truth: We aren’t doing very well at all. We wake up every single morning and wonder how we’re going to make it through the day. We go to bed feeling like a fraud. We can’t remember the last time we were fully honest with our friends and family – or even ourselves. We don’t know what it’s like to be real and authentic. Our souls have been begging us for years to come out with our insecurities and vulnerabilities, but we didn’t want to be the only one who didn’t have this whole life thing figured out. We didn’t want to tell the world that we couldn’t hack it here. We didn’t want anyone to know that we weren’t good enough or smart enough to figure it out.
But in this moment of perceived weakness, something amazing occurs. We have now given permission for our friends, family, and everyone else we touch to set their representatives aside – take off their masks – and simply be who they have always been: human – perfect in their own imperfections.
What a beautiful gift you have given them. All because you were no longer willing or able to play the game. You let your secret out. You let your true self come forward.
So let’s honor ourselves and each other by no longer being willing to play this game. Let’s be brave enough to allow our vulnerabilities and authentic souls to come out, knowing that this is such a powerful gift that we can give ourselves and the world.
I’ll start with my own secrets, and then I hope that you will keep this conversation flowing with yours.
I definitely don’t have it all figured out. I frequently feel that my life is spinning out of control, and sometimes all I can do is just crawl into my bed until the spinning stops. I am someone who helps others, and yet I’m oftentimes unable to help myself. I put myself last, and by the time I go to fill up my own cup, there is just nothing left to give. And my kitchen is a mess.
For those of you who know me, do you feel any less about me now that you know that I’m not perfect? Probably not. And for those of you who are just meeting me, do you no longer want to learn more about me and be my friend because I have shown that I don’t have everything all figured out? It’s not likely.
We are always the hardest on ourselves. If we could all learn to embrace our imperfections and see that we are even more amazing because of them, that’s such a great start to letting go of this secret altogether. As humans, we relate to each other through shared experiences. When we realize that we are going through the same hardships, it brings us together through empathy and connectedness. It’s such a freeing feeling to be real and genuine and completely ourselves. There is no need for secrets or games, not when being completely open feels so good!
Jodi Chapman is the author of the inspirational blog, Soul Speak (http://www.jodichapman.com); the upcoming book, Coming Back to Life: How An Unlikely Friend Helped Me Reclaim My True Spirit; and the bestselling Soulful Journals (http://www.soulfuljournals.com) series.
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