The Superheroic Act of Freeing Yourself from Secrets

avengers-jpg_070510I am not ashamed to admit that I am fully engrossed in the superhero craze. While I will not confirm whether I wore a costume for the recent Avengers movie, I am not apologetic for my excitement in this next chapter of the superhero-packed melodrama. Who wins in a fight between Iron Man and Hulk? What is Hawkeye hiding? Who is Black Widow’s love interest? And can anyone pick up Thor’s hammer? These are the questions on all of our minds.

When you read that last sentence, were you thinking, “Wait, I’ve never considered any of those questions.” If so, congratulations, you are in denial. Between the movies, TV shows, books, and video games, society on a whole has embraced this golden age of superhero-filled entertainment. You are a member of society so either you’re living a healthy lifestyle where you willingly confess your love of superheroes OR you are living a lie. Thankfully, it’s not too late to shed your shameful secret.

Research shows that the burden of keeping a secret is analogous to being encumbered by a physical weight. According to Michael Slepian, a research scholar at Columbia Business School,

The more you feel preoccupied by a secret and are thinking about it, the more you are using your personal resources – cognitive and motivational – the less energy you feel you have available to pursue other tasks.

By not feeling comfortable to admit your love of all-things superhero (and any other secrets you may be harboring), you are placing undue limitations on your work and professional success. Slepian’s research shows that individuals with a “preoccupying” secret view challenges as more forbidding. They are more likely to be withdrawn from social connections, have diminishing productivity, and are generally less engaged.

Being preoccupied by a secret at work can be demotivating. And we know if you are less motivated, you perform less well. – Michael Slepian

The simple solution to shedding the weight of a secret is to disclose it. This is not to suggest that you begin posting your deepest, darkest thoughts on Facebook. A more subtle approach is to discuss it with someone you trust. For the secrets you aren’t ready to divulge, write them down. Either way, weight is lifted and pressure is relieved.

For you cynics, if this sounds like a simple act of “feeling better,” it is not. When you acknowledge a secret, you begin constructively processing the subject matter and developing coping strategies. This then reduces your preoccupation with it, lessens the associated anxiety, and puts you on the path to a constructive resolution.

We all have secrets. Whether yours involves regretful behavior, past trauma, or something really embarrassing like enjoying the Daredevil movie more than the Netflix series, don’t hold it in. Share your secrets. It’s one less obstacle distracting you from reaching your full potential.