The Power of Hiding Nothing
More and more in society today we are seeing a movement toward transparency and vulnerability – openness at a whole new level. Brené Brown is transforming the world with her messages of defeating shame and rising strong. Donald Miller is selling a ton of books about intimacy. Pat Flynn is disrupting the internet business industry by openly sharing his income reports. Barry and Lori Byrne are teaching people the power of keeping nothing hidden. The list goes on and on. Leaders and people with influence all over are embracing the message of openness and transparency.
It seems counterintuitive. So it raises an interesting question. What is so powerful about being transparent, hiding nothing? And why?
Well, we could start with the rise of the internet. Let me explain. Information – It’s available now almost anywhere, right from the palm of your hand. And a lot of information, too. The organizations who held the power to distribute information (and any spin on it they wanted) have lost much of their power. News stories can be fact checked by a multitude of sources. Biases get sniffed out immediately. Personal information can be found on almost any public figure, and if it’s different than the information offered by that figure it can be damaging. Think politics.
Authenticity seems more valued today than ever. Even if people have flaws, or a “past”, they are embraced if they are open and authentic. In fact, many people have built platforms to share their message using their flaws and tattered past as the tool to amplify their message. Why is it so powerful? Because, we all have flaws. We’ve all made mistakes. We don’t have to pretend to be perfect. We don’t have to put on a mask. We can be open and honest and vulnerable…and accepted. That’s what all these thought leaders are doing. When someone with influence is open, raw, and authentic – transparent – they break through to a part of us that has been hiding. They speak to the authentic version of us, and tell us that we aren’t worthless, that we still have value. If they can be brave and live out of an authentic identity, flaws and all, then so can we.
We all have a part of our story that we wish we could re-write. When we reflect on it, we experience shame. Then, we avoid shame because we think it invalidates the “real” us. We think the things we’ve done wrong, or the failures we’ve experienced, make the “real” us someone who is not worthy of love, not worthy of acceptance. So we give a fake version of ourselves and fight hard to maintain it. We work to hide safely behind it. We need to realize that the most powerful thing we can do is embrace our true identity, flaws and all – to take control of our story.
Why has this been so hard for us to grasp? For one, we’ve believed that self-protection is better than transparency. But we need to realize that the “self” that we are protecting here, is a false self. As John Eldredge writes in Wild at Heart:
“From the place of our woundedness we construct a false self. We find a few gifts that work for us, and we try to live off them. Stuart found he was good at math and science. He shut down his heart and spent all his energies perfecting his “Spock” persona. There, in the academy, he was safe; he was also recognized and rewarded. “When I was eight,” confesses Brennan Manning, “the impostor, or false self, was born as a defense against pain. The impostor within whispered, ‘Brennan, don’t ever be your real self anymore because nobody likes you as you are. Invent a new self that everybody will admire and nobody will know.'” Notice the key phrase: “as a defense against pain,” as a way of saving himself. The impostor is our plan for salvation.”
It’s a trap, though. There’s no salvation in living out of a false self. Instead of looking at your true identity as a lesser identity because of mistakes and failures, realize that despite those shortcomings, you can still rise strong, and maintain your “trueness”. You can still decide how your story ends.
Don’t be afraid of who you really are, your authentic self. Deep in our hearts, it’s what we really want, more than anything. When others are transparent, it resonates with us because we long to be, too. We long for the power to write the end of the story.
As Brené Brown says,
“When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends.”
There’s power in transparency. No, your story is not perfect, but you get to decide how it ends. Don’t hide anything anymore.