Zip It! An Experiment In The Power Of Keeping A Secret
Have you ever noticed that when you tell people about something exciting that is still up in the air, it feels like the energy gets sucked out of it? The project starts to slow down; people are less prompt with replying to emails. What had previously seemed full-steam-ahead suddenly goes quiet. What the hell is up with that?!
This is exactly the subject my friend Jasmine raised at breakfast yesterday. We had been talking about our work and all the fun things we had bubbling away on our respective stoves. There was a brief pause, and then she looked at me and asked, “When something exciting is happening for you, do you tell people about it, or do you keep it to yourself?
“Well, it depends on whether it’s still in process or if it’s signed, sealed, and delivered,” I said. “I sometimes find that when I tell people about things that haven’t been finalized, it’s almost like the energy comes to a standstill. The momentum just stops.”
“That’s exactly what I’m finding!” she replied.
“Why IS that?!” I exclaimed. “Do you think it’s something to do with having so many other people’s energy involved in the project? I’m not sure, but sometimes I think that when other people get their energetic hooks into an idea, it transforms, and not necessarily for the best.”
I gave the example of a project that had been floating around for a while, which had been progressing nicely… Until I mentioned to a couple of friends and to my parents. One friend responded in a way that made me feel like she was a little bit jealous, and since I mentioned it to my parents, every time I speak to them, they ask if I have an update. Of course, I don’t. Don’t they know that as soon as I hear something, I’ll tell them?!
“This is really interesting,” Jasmine said. “There is definitely something to this. It’s so hard too, because I love to share what’s going on! I almost can’t help myself!”
“Totally!” I replied. “The urge to share is so massive because you feel so excited. Really though, when you tell your friend something you’re excited about, what you want is for them to be equally excited. You want them to mirror your delight back at you, but very rarely are they able to do that. People have their own stuff going on, their own agendas, and a lot of people, despite their best intentions, feel jealousy.”
“I think we should do an experiment,” Jasmine said. “I think that until September 1, we should keep everything exciting that is in process to ourselves. During that time, we can keep a journal where we write down what is exciting for us. And then! Then we can tell ourselves in the mirror what’s happening, and respond in the way that we really wish someone would respond to us.”
Brilliant. Yes! I was immediately on board. In that instant, it became clear to me that in these moments, what we were seeking was external validation — which is unreliable and tenuous at best — when really we should be able to validate ourselves.
In fact, if you ask yourself, ‘What do I wish someone would tell me when I give them exciting news?’, that says everything about the kind of care and encouragement you need to offer yourself!
When you know what kind of reaction you want, you are then empowered to give it to yourself anytime you need it. Radical self love in action, baby.
Want to join us in our Zip It! experiment? It’s easy. The steps are…
1. Keep things to yourself! If an exciting offer or project comes your way, despite your overwhelming urge to tell someone, resist!
2. Keep a journal which contains all the details of the project at hand. Don’t be afraid to get really hyperbolic with your enthusiasm if that’s what feels good to you. Go hard! No one is going to read this except you, so feel free to be your most ebullient self.
3. “Break the news” to yourself in the mirror, and then, respond exactly the way you’ve always wished someone would. Ooooh, it will feel so good! Give yourself a goofy grin. High-five the mirror! Do whatever feels awesome in the moment.
5. Keep it up until September 1st, and then let’s convene over on Facebook and discuss our findings!
Love and zipped lips,
Photo of zipper lips by Aaron Tilley.