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I sometimes sniff my kids’ clothes after they’ve put them in the hamper, pull them back out, and shove them right back into their drawers.
Yup, that’s right—I said it.
Wanna know why?
Because my son will wear a pair of pj’s for a few hours sitting in his room and then throw them in the laundry basket for me to wash.
I don’t think so buddy. I’m sorry, but how gnarly can a pair of pj’s get when you’re sitting on a pristine bed I just made with freshly laundered sheets?
The amount of laundry my kids throw into that basket over the course of a week is akin to a three-car pileup on the freeway, and I’m just not havin’ it.
I also sometimes eat food that’s fallen on the floor.
That’s right—I said it.
In my opinion, if you can rinse it off or dust it off with your fingers, you can safely eat it without dying. And besides, we live by the two-second rule in my house.
Those are just a couple of the dirty little secrets I often feel shame around. I mean seriously, what would those super germ-a-phobic people think of me if they knew I just picked a waffle up off the floor and fed it to my kid?
But shame, in my opinion, only becomes shame when we’re hiding it. And I believe we’re only as sick as our secrets.
I’m that person people share their dirty little secrets with. I don’t know if it’s my no bullsh*t personality or the fact that I’m completely comfortable divulging just about anything about myself to people, but others have always felt comfortable sharing their stuff with me.
But often, right before they share it, they’ll say, “I can’t believe I’m going to tell you this because nobody else knows but…”
And then they unload something that they feel makes them the worst human being on the planet. Almost always, my reaction to their confession is, “That’s it? You feel badly about that?”
There’s almost nothing any of us can do—short of physical violence or harm toward a child—that should cause so much shame inside of us that we feel unable to confide in at least one person to help us figure things out. Most of the time, the secrets we’re carrying around usually revolve around a certain behavior we can’t stop or how we process things that feel embarrassing to us.
Maybe you’re ashamed because you’re lying to someone you love.
Maybe you drink too much and you’re afraid of what other people will think if they knew you end each day with a bottle of wine.
Maybe you like looking at porn or fantasize about having sex with people other than your partner.
Or maybe you have feelings for someone and it would cause all sorts of drama in your life if anyone else knew about it.
Whatever it is, there is nothing you’re carrying around that can’t be healed, released, and figured out if you just find the courage to confide in at least one person you can trust. Because it’s the secrecy that causes stress and shame. It’s the holding onto it that causes chronic pain and illness and all the other inexplicable physical ailments in our body that doctors can’t seem to diagnose.
Our bodies tell us everything. Significant weight gain or weight loss, inexplicable fatigue, migraines, insomnia, chronic inflammation, and pain in the body are almost always associated with something emotional we’re carrying around that needs to be let go of and released.
I once dropped 15 pounds from my tiny frame, seemingly overnight, and was suffering from nausea, migraines, overwhelming fatigue, and brain fog for months, but insisted I was “fine” when anyone asked or expressed concern. At the time, I was hiding my deep unhappiness around a relationship, feelings of not-enoughness around my job, and a low level depression I refused to acknowledge because “strong, independent women don’t get depressed.”
I found one person to talk to. I remember that day like it was yesterday because it felt like I finally decided to grab a life raft while I was drowning. I released the flood of emotions I was feeling and the secret I was harboring that nobody knew about and almost instantly felt the tightness in my chest lighten and the fog in my brain lift. That person held space for my secrets in such a beautiful and non-judgmental way that I felt safe to talk to another friend and then another, all of them offering unconditional love and then advice on what I could do to get help and find some peace.
When I look back at that time of my life, I realize the secrets I was carrying around that were causing me such suffering were the same ones numerous other people have shared with me in confidence over the years. The very ones that never once changed my opinion of them or made me think they were a horrible human being that should be kicked to the curb.
No, these secrets were the ones that made me love them more—the ones that made me see them as human and in need of friendship and compassion and a safe place just to talk.
Can you do that today if you’re where I was all those years ago? Can you take whatever dirty little secret you’re harboring and believe that just one person might understand what you’re going through, that one person can be that safe space for you? Maybe that one person is perfectly capable of allowing you to be exactly who you are in this moment, and maybe they’ll listen and even feel honored that you reached out to them for help.
I encourage you to take that step. Trust that you’ve filled your life with enough people who love you that at least one of them can and will help you work through whatever you’re feeling so you don’t have to tackle it by yourself anymore.
Remember that a dirty little secret is really only that until you make the choice to trust someone else to carry it with you.