5 Disadvantages of Hiding Your Fears and Anxiety
There are many ways we try to “fix” our lives and make ourselves feel better. The problem is, sometimes we can actually “over-do” and over-react, and we’re left with feeling worse, or getting stuck in the feelings of fear and anxiety.
One big mistake that my patients and I work on is the tendency to keep what’s bothering or scaring you a secret. The good news is that, when corrected or altered, this habit of “hiding” can lead to some powerful feelings of freedom and hope. If you’re making this mistake, congratulate yourself for waking up and looking at a way to get better.
The Pros and Cons of Keeping Your Fears Secret
No one likes to be called a coward, or thought of as fearful. Being afraid, especially for men, is not celebrated in our culture and we can feel shame for admitting to having fears. So keeping our fears a secret makes sense. We want others to think well of us, and secrecy seems like a small price to pay.
But let’s challenge that for a moment. What are the advantages—and what are the costs—of hiding your fears, especially if they relate to anxiety or panic attacks that limit your life? Yes, you get to try to keep up a positive image, and perhaps you even get to pretend to yourself that you are “okay”.
But what do you lose when you hide your fears? What does it cost to keep the secret? Can you think of any? Here’s a starter list that many of my clients have revealed when they start to think about seeking help, or when they considered revealing their situation to loved ones:
- Disadvantage #1: You might actually feel more shame, not less. That because the effort it takes to keep the secret means you have to keep reminding yourself of your condition. You end up walking around “knowing” that something is “wrong” with you, and this becomes a constant act of self-shame.
- Disadvantage #2: You’re probably less likely to face and overcome your fears when you are in denial about them.
- Disadvantage #3: You don’t get the support that can help you move forward
- Disadvantage #4: It increases your sense of loneliness. After all, how can you really be close to others when you hide who you are?
- Disadvantage #5: It adds to your anxiety: first you have your fear of leaving the house, or large crowds, or heights, or whatever; and then you have the additional fear of being found out.
Can you think of others? It might be a good idea to start looking at how keeping fear a secret only feeds the fear you’re feeling.