Here’s the truth about secrets, they hurt. And if they’re the type that slowly eat away and consume you, they will have a huge impact on your happiness and well-being. If nothing else, they’ll take energy away from your real purpose, whatever it may be. Secrets can do irrevocable amounts of harm, no matter what it is or who keeps it. It’s all completely relative. What the world needs more of is empathy, not judgment over who has the most pain or is entitled to it.
This year, I learned this devastating truth about the secrets we keep the hard way. And this lesson came at an enormous cost. Earlier in the year, I found myself keeping a coworker’s secret and ended up living in an indescribable nightmare for several months — I sacrificed myself, rode the downward spiral and walked hand-in-hand with the addiction that I was helping them hide. This decision didn’t serve me in any way, but it also didn’t serve the team or the individual that I was protecting. Looking back, I regret not saying something sooner. Maybe fewer people would have been impacted, maybe I would have had more peace of mind and less sleepless nights, maybe this person would have received the help they needed sooner.
In my role as a Chapter Advisor, the majority of my time is spent with risk-management. I’m in a constant process of identifying, assessing and controlling risks/threats to the chapter’s functioning and public image. But at the end of the day, the hard decisions and tough calls that I need to make are ultimately for the safety and well-being of the 80-100 collegiate women in the chapter and any future new members. And as you can imagine, not every choice that I make is favorable. But it never comes from a place of bad intention and it’s never a quick decision. Even when faced with a hard deadline, that deadline exists on the outside. I’ve learned that my inner instinct doesn’t work on timelines; it speaks loudest when I am willing to get quiet and sit with it. So, my first response to any tough decision is to pause and access patience.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for me has been the realization that somehow by choosing to be true to myself, I need to also be responsible for the reaction of others. That’s an incredible amount of pressure and nearly impossible to execute. As you’ve heard me say a hundred times before, the truth will set you free — but first, it will make everyone else around you incredibly uncomfortable. And I take responsibility for the fact that I’ve recently made a lot of people uncomfortable with my truth. I’m just thoroughly disheartened and disappointed by the lies and the rumors.
Here’s the thing, sometimes the right path isn’t the easiest one. And taking this path was not an easy choice; it wasn’t as simple as drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper, picking a side only when I was sure the great outweighed the not-so-great outcomes. It involved hours of hard conversations and talking myself off the ledge, it took energy away from the things that are actually important. And taking it to the source didn’t work, because no one was willing to listen. You can’t forcefully change anyone who’s not willing to see an issue in their actions. And no amount of positivity from a single individual can combat the toxic, negative energy from an entire group.
It’s really easy to point the finger, blame, criticize, spread rumors and talk shit. But in doing that, you’re really avoiding personal responsibility. No matter how good we may be at convincing ourselves of things, the moment we take the stories we tell ourselves as pure expressions of absolute truth, we are likely to lose touch with what is actually happening. In times of pain and discomfort, we’re most likely to lie to ourselves — we tell ourselves certain stories about why and how things unfolded, in an attempt to justify our position, to justify being right.
We cannot live our lives as authentic, truthful human beings until we live our life with honesty and integrity. Sure, some people will reject us. Some people may ridicule us, or even worse. As much as it pains me, I’m learning that it’s so much better to be authentic than popular. Why does growth have to fucking hurt this much?