These Are The Top 5 Most Kept Secrets, And You’re Keeping At Least One

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Before you jump to the defensive to assert that you’re the kind of person who believes that honesty is the best policy, honesty isn’t always easy. When we lie, it’s not always coming from a bad place. Sometimes we do it subconsciously to protect ourselves and those we care about.

According to Michael Slepian, associate professor of leadership and ethics at Columbia University, chances are you’re keeping at least one secret from the people around you, even the ones you trust. His study could even predict what the secret is out of a list of 38 secrets that he found people keep most. Here are the top 5.

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The Secret Life Of Secrets

While the idea that it’s better to be honest even if the truth hurts is nice, “all people have secrets” Michael writes in his book, The Secret Life Of Secrets. This claim was based on a study he conducted with 2,000 people in the US, asking them one question: “what is a secret that you are currently keeping?”

split image of the The secret life of secrets book with the author Michael on the right
Michael Slepian (@michaelslepian) / Twitter
Michael Slepian (@michaelslepian) / Twitter

Michael then compiled the answers and found reoccurring themes. The same 38 secret categories kept coming up over and over again. To further confirm his theory, he shared his list with 50,000 people around the world and 97% of them checked off at least one secret from the list. That means that almost everyone had at least one secret. Are you the exception?

A Lie We’ve Told (69%)

Let’s take a moment to differentiate that a secret and a lie aren’t the same things. While a lie is a blatant deception and is often used to hide secrets, secrets themselves aren’t necessarily lies. Sometimes a secret allows others to live in blissful ignorance, unaware that anything is even hidden.

black and white face with pink lips, nail and gild lock by the lips
Lilu13/ Getty Images Via Canva Pro
Lilu13/ Getty Images Via Canva Pro

A lie however is an untruthful assertion. The liar intends to purposefully make someone believe in a statement that is false. A lie involves an intention to deceive to serve a personal purpose and in turn, is the most common secret. We’ve all likely told a lie at some point, often out of fear of confrontation or judgment.

Romantic Desire (61%)

The second-highest-ranking category of secrets surrounds matters of the heart. Feelings can often distort judgment or make a person so vulnerable that they try to protect themselves. Both are common reasons for secrets. The list of secrets in this category is endless.

Couple stands under umbrella in the rain embracing
Joel Overbeck / Unsplash
Joel Overbeck / Unsplash

It includes hurting another person (emotionally or physically), violation of someone’s trust (other than by a lie), a secret romantic desire while single, thoughts about having relations with another person while in a relationship, being unhappy in a relationship, and emotional infidelity.

Mating (58%)

After love comes mating, which is still closely tied. The distinction is in the actual act of intimacy or in matters relating to sex including sexual orientation and gender identity, the choice of celibacy, hidden preferences (or non-preference) for something, and full-on cheating.

woman on top of man in bed as they laugh
Pixabay / Pexels
Pixabay / Pexels

Having this secret doesn’t automatically make its keeper a bad person. When we find out that someone kept such a secret from us we feel hurt, but it often has nothing to do with us and is a projection of their personal insecurities, fears, and baggage. By keeping such a socially deemed private matter secret from everyone, they believe they are protecting their reputation and their relationships.

Finances (58%)

It turns out that the biggest kept secrets are also the anti-foundations of a healthy relationship as they all violate trust, open communication, mutual intimacy, and agreement on core values and topics such as finances. While people often mingle between social classes, there is still a lingering stigma when it comes to finances. People easily feel judged or uncomfortable when talking about it.

woman holding dollar bills up to her face and peaking over them
Sharon Mccutcheon / Unsplash
Sharon Mccutcheon / Unsplash

Couples and friends alike will avoid conversations about salaries which only comes back to haunt them in their marriages. Finance-related secrets sometimes extend to bigger issues like mental health struggles such as gambling. Sometimes they’re a reflection of discontent and overindulgence in material things for feelings of instant gratification.

Innocent White Lies

Secrets don’t always hide bad things. Among the list were innocent secrets, even ones meant to make others happy like a planned marriage proposal or a planned surprise for someone (other than a marriage proposal).

woman with secret holds up finger to her moth to
Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels
Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

Sometimes secrets are also kept to remain neutral or safe in certain environments such as on the occasion when one feels the need to hide their preference for orange juice when only apple juice is available, or when their beliefs would simply cause too much controversy. Sometimes people for the sake of their privacy just want to keep certain stories secret and that’s also their right.

Which One Are You Hiding

Which one of the above secrets is the one you’re hiding? By now you’ve likely realized that we all have fallen in at least one of these categories at some point.

woman peaking through the trees, looking at the camera
Allef Vinicius / Unsplash
Allef Vinicius / Unsplash

According To Michael, we actually probably have fallen into at least 13 of the secret categories he identifies: “When I say that people on average have thirteen secrets from the list at any given time, you should take that to be an under-estimate, as what this count really reflects is the number of categories of secrets people have. You could have two or more secrets that fall into the same category, especially for those that are broad, such as finances, sexual behavior, violating someone’s trust, or doing something illegal.”

Release Yourself From The Lies

To live a genuinely authentic life, one that has the least amount of secrets, you need to figure out who you are at your core and make peace with that. That includes the triggers hiding deeply in your subconscious.

man looks at his reflection on a piece of glass
Vince Fleming / Unsplash
Vince Fleming / Unsplash

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