Most introverts are used to being asked why we’re so quiet. It’s one of those annoying questions that feels like both an insult and a command.
The subtext is, “you should talk more—now.” I’ve ranted about my frustrations with this question before, so I won’t get into it here.
But I do want to talk about a related question we introverts encounter:
Why are Introverts so secretive?
People often describe introverts as “mysterious” and “private”. Many of us do value our privacy, choosing to only share secrets with the few people we truly trust.
Of course, some introverts are more secretive than others. As a writer and comedian, I do a fare bit of oversharing. But it’s selective oversharing, so I can still keep certain things to myself.
I know introverts who are so secretive they might as well walk around with a big red CONFIDENTIAL sign stamped to their forehead.
My secretive Asian dad
Take my dad for example. My father is Chinese, and he fits the stereotype of the fiercely private Asian dad.
Asian dads tend to be so secretive that I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the inner circle of the Freemasons was a group of Chinese dads eating orange slices and talking about what a disappointment their millennial children are.
Case in point: When I was an adolescent, my brother walked into my dad’s apartment and discovered a woman he’d never met hanging out in the kitchen.
It turned out to be my dad’s girlfriend of three years. We all agreed that he probably would’ve never told us about her if my brother hadn’t accidentally seen her.
Who know what other secrets dad had kept under wraps for years.
Whether you’re as secretive or my dad, or just a little on the private side, you might be wondering if you should open up more.
After all, people are always telling introverts to be more open, as if sharing who you are is as easy as propping up a window.
There’s nothing wrong with being private, especially if you’ve been betrayed in the past. But there is one important benefit to sharing our secrets that a lot of people don’t recognize.
Why some secrets need to be shared
Shame thrives in silence. If we keep the things that we’re ashamed of hidden away they corrode our confidence and happiness. As Brene Brown puts it:
“If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”
We can’t receive the healing power of empathy without sharing our shame with someone. But not anyone will do.
Sharing secrets with the wrong people can do more damage than good.
Fortunately there are many safe containers for sharing the burden of shame: therapy, AA meetings, family, trusted friends, creative outlets.
One of the reasons I love standup comedy so much is because I can turn experiences that once made me feel ashamed into something joyful.
I also get to connect with others who might have the same secret shame.
If you want to release the burden of carrying too many deep dark secrets, I recommend easing into it. Find the right safe space or person and start with small personal revelations.
For more introvert tips to connect with others authentically, grab my free Introvert Connection Guide.