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16 Reasons We Keep Secrets Even Though We Know Better

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To keep or not to keep a secret is the question.

You may think you know people, but beneath the surface of every person (potentially) lies a trove of undisclosed information. Everyone harbors aspects of their lives that remain hidden from the prying eyes of others. While keeping secrets may seem like a protective shield, it can inadvertently breed mistrust and create emotional distance. At worst, it may irreparably break relationships unless openness is restored.

The foundation of any meaningful relationship relies on transparency, trust, and open communication. The inclination to keep secrets can be due to a number of factors.

1. Fear of Judgment

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Most people aren’t sure how their loved ones or other significant people will react if they tell them the truth.  Most of the time, telling the truth may leave others judging them, and most people don’t want to live with that. A loved one may keep a diagnosis hidden to avoid stigmatization or negative evaluations.

2. To Save a Relationship

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While secrets can potentially eventually ruin a relationship, most people think they’re saving the relationship by keeping secrets. This is counter-productive since the people on the receiving end may rethink the relationship when they realize a secret was kept from them.

3. Maintaining Privacy

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Some people keep secrets to maintain a sense of personal privacy. People value having aspects of their lives that are not shared with everyone. Some people are more private than others, and what one may deem top secret may be common knowledge for another.

4. The Desire to Maintain a Carefully Crafted Image

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Some people have worked very hard to create the perfect picture of what they want others to see them as, and the truth will crumble the perfect house of cards they have built.

Sometimes, this may stem from a personality disorder such as narcissism.

5. To Protect Others

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People may keep secrets to protect the feelings or well-being of others. If the information they’re withholding may potentially cause harm or distress to someone they care about, they will most likely not share.

6. Societal Expectations

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Society has unspoken rules about what should be said and what is “personal.” If a society frowns upon the revelation of some information, one may feel inclined to keep it under wraps so as not to stir the muddy waters.

7. Avoiding Conflict

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A secret revealed might rough things up in the relationship. Keeping certain details hidden can be a way to avoid confrontation or conflict. People may keep quiet about certain issues to maintain [false] harmony in relationships.

8. To Maintain Control

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We have no control over information once it’s out in the open. Secrets can be a way for individuals to maintain a sense of control over their lives. Sharing certain information might make them feel vulnerable or lose control.

9. Fear of Rejection

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There’s no knowing what people will do once they learn your secret. The fear of being rejected or abandoned can lead people to keep secrets. They may worry that revealing certain aspects of themselves will result in social or emotional isolation, and in many instances, they aren’t wrong.

10. Avoiding Shame or Guilt

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The things we hide from people aren’t exactly glorious, and people may hide information to avoid feelings of shame or guilt. Certain actions or events may be kept secret to prevent negative emotions associated with them.

11. Maintaining a Competitive Edge

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Some relationships are like a battlefield, with each party hiding their strategies. In competitive environments, individuals may keep secrets related to their work or projects to maintain an advantage over others.

12. Coping Mechanism

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Not talking is a coping mechanism for many, and they will use secrets as a means to stay afloat emotionally and socially. If revealing some things will trigger negative emotions that they don’t know how to deal with, they will hide information as a way to deal with challenging or traumatic experiences.

13. Avoiding Worry or Concern

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Individuals may keep secrets to shield their loved ones from unnecessary worry or concern. They might believe that sharing certain information would burden others.

14. Preserving Emotional Energy

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Finally letting someone in on things that one has been carrying, possibly for a very long time, takes immense emotional energy. Some individuals choose not to share certain information to avoid emotional exhaustion or draining interactions.

15. Preserving Independence

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Some people may feel like whoever knows their secrets owns them. They will keep secrets to maintain a sense of independence. Sharing too much information could make them feel dependent or reliant on others.

16. Legal Consequences

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In extreme situations, it’s a legal question. Fear of legal repercussions can be a reason for keeping secrets. Individuals might withhold information to avoid legal trouble or consequences.

There may be situations when a white lie is a better option, but the choice to keep a secret or reveal things has to be weighed with utmost wisdom.


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