In 1973, Andrew Tobias published a memoir under the pseudonym John Reid entitled The Best Little Boy in the World — it was his personal story of growing up gay during a time when social and cultural mores were far less accepting. The book’s key contribution to psychological thinking was Tobias’ assertion that he hid his sexuality behind a facade of success throughout every stage of his life — if only he did well (at school, at sports, at being popular, at work, at his hobbies etc), no one would look too closely at who he truly was.
This argument was affirmed in 2013 by Adam D. Chandler in his op-ed piece, The Best Little Boy in the World — That’s Me. Although written 40 years apart, the two works show that little has changed in terms of how our perceived sense of self determines our self-image and self-belief with repercussions for the entirety of our lives.
Although Both Mr Tobias and Mr Chandler were writing about the cost to self while living in the closet, the underlying idea of that which is hidden having power over an individual resonates as truth for most people. I see many clients who live circumscribed lives because they are either consciously or unconsciously hiding something of themselves so as to distract and avoid what is true and real.
Take a moment and consider: What are the things we deny about ourselves, that we don’t want people to know about us? It could be a hidden talent, long ago rejected by others through unkind criticism or bullying ridicule. Or a defeating habit that, if exposed, we believe would open us up to derisive mockery or persecution. In many cases, these hidden aspects of an individual might hold significant keys to understanding who they are, and who they might be.
Whether it is something so preciously cultivated that we are afraid to share with others, or so wickedly shameful that we are fearful of discovery, every hidden thing is a door, a window, a screen, a scrim behind which to shield our true self — from living life as we are, rather than who others imagine, believe or demand we are to be. Do it long enough, often enough, well enough, and we become winners in the race to defraud ourselves; and to win is to be the best — and so, we keep on winning. And hiding. And losing who we really are.