Many, many years ago, I had a realisation that was really important to me - I had secrets. I had things that I was hideously self-conscious about, like my poor eating habits, that I was deeply ashamed of. I would miss major events in the lives of my friends just to avoid having to confront the problem publically and be 'found out' by my friends.
I've always been someone that most folks felt they could talk to about private stuff, and I already knew that pretty much everyone had secrets. I'd worked with thieves, rapists, and murderers when I was in the meat game. They were quite happy talking about the stuff they'd done, stuff that many of us would shy away from admitting to in public was idle lunchtime banter to them - but they still had secrets. Silly personal things, little things, but stuff that they found harder to talk about than the bloke they shot and killed in a pub somewhere.
In fact, probably the biggest secret that most blokes in the meat game had was that they loved their wives and kids. It was almost as if to admit it was shameful, and so they'd make a show of how much they tolerated their wives and kids. In all my years meatworking and droving, the only person I ever remember admitting to loving their girlfriend was me. And I got relentlessly teased for it and, counter-intuitively, called a poofter.
So at some point I looked at all the energy that people put into holding onto their secrets, looked at the energy I put into holding onto my secrets, and decided I couldn't be arsed any more. It was a massive waste of time and energy, and really, I was only likely to be as fucked up as most other people.
I didn't make the change overnight, but I did set about doing it, and the more I let go of my secrets, the easier it was to let go of them. It was weird, confronting, liberating, and it only took a year or so before I was relatively secret free.
I suspect it's the opposite of what happens when we start hiding all those parts of ourselves. Once we start hiding things, it probably seems easier to keep hiding things, but it really is a false economy.
I didn't run about randomly saying to people, "Oh I have ridiculous food issues," or "I was molested as a kid." What I did was to not keep quiet any longer on subjects that I had experienced first-hand, or that affected things I wanted to do. If it fitted naturally as a piece of conversation, or was something that allowed me to give advice or a fresh perspective, I talked about it.
Oh there are things I still don't tend to talk about, but I don't expend energy hiding them. As I say to people, if you actually really want to know something about me, just ask me outright. If I'm asked for an honest answer, I'll generally give it unless it breaches a confidence or might otherwise hurt someone else.
For instance, I rarely talk about how my dad was sometimes a violent drunk. Part of that is simply because it's often not relevant to things but also because most people are stunningly simplistic in their attitudes. There are those people who on reading that immediately go, "He was a bad person, a bad father." No, he was actually a pretty good father, a man who I never had any reason to doubt loved me immensely - but he was also human and flawed. My mother has given me far more grief and distress through my life than my dad ever did.
I have called people who did things I find repugnant 'friend' because the person I dealt with wasn't the same person who did those things. I know people in fandom who have never physically harmed another person who are far more repellent to me because of the way they use and manipulate people, and then justify it to themselves and their friends.
But I've digressed. The point is most folks want to believe the world is black and white. A racist cannot be a good person, someone who believes in equality and charity cannot be a bad person. And really, it's such a stupidly simplistic approach to the everyday complexities of human beings that it's almost sickening.
One of the nice things about deciding to not have secrets were the couple of times when friends threatened, usually jokingly, to out me on something. The first time someone does that and you turn around and publically say, "Oh, hi everyone! Look, someone just threatened to out me on this, so I thought I'd pre-empt them by telling you, yes, I pick my nose," is magnificently empowering. Not the nose picking, though that is pretty wonderful, but the fact that someone, however jokingly, tried to control you and you just completely removed every ounce of power they had.
And when someone seriously tries to control you, it feels even better to be able to do it.
The beauty of this is I do have a reputation for honesty. I fact, many people would rather I be less honest sometimes, because it can be confronting. But it also meant that when an ex started hinting to mutual friends that I was perhaps physically violent towards her, the ones that asked me outright if was were true felt they could trust my answer more than her vague insinuations.
The ones that distanced themselves from me without ever asking, I was obviously better without.
I found also that such openness about pretty much every aspect of my life was beneficial for other people. The amount of things I've said or written about that were maybe not terribly politically correct or safe, and had people quietly or privately respond to say they're glad to see someone else feels the same way, has been substantial. Many of these are good people, people I consider much better people than myself, and they're too afraid to speak up. Maybe they're afraid because they felt like they were the only one, or maybe they were afraid of those people who self-righteously scream at others who aren't 'good' in all the ways they think are important - it doesn't matter. I gave them at least a partial voice.
It's the same when I talk about intimate subjects. Sometimes I'm commenting on stuff or asking questions that other people have been too embarrassed to ask. I'm quite comfortable posting a naked or semi-naked picture of myself if I feel like it because to me it's just a body. Usually if I do post something like that, it's for humourous effect. I know how to pose my pasty, hairy, podgy body in a way that will usually get a laugh.
What's beautiful about it is I now have about a dozen people who take it as a challenge - if I post a picture, they'll text or email their own silly picture to me. They see me and know that their body is just as good/bad as my own. They aren't game to post it publically, but they're willing to post to me, mocking me, or taunting me, knowing I'm not going to share it or be cruel. Forgetting that one or two are truly perve-worthy individuals, I love it because this is something they're doing as much for themselves as anything, and I inspired that bravery.
I still remember the day a mate emailed me his own naked dancing .gif, inspired by my own. I love that .gif, love that I contributed to him making it, and love that he sent me a copy. Makes me smile every time I think about it.
All this is why I have always been ridiculously open on the internet. It allows other people to open up to me because they know who they're dealing with. The person you read is the person you meet, minus the thick Aussie accent. You read my stuff, you know who I am. You read my old stuff, you know who I was at the time.
Sometimes days after I post something, I've rethought my position, my words, my attitude. But I'm not going to remove it. It's relevant to the fact I'm a growing, learning, evolving being. If you don't like what you read, you probably won't like me, and it's saved us both a lot of time. If you're the sort to judge me based on a handful of posts where I don't live up to your expectations of what a good person should be, then I'm happy to do without you. You'd just as likely jump the gun over some comment I made sooner or later anyway.
I'm not a good person. I am angry, I have a violent nature, I have no patience with self-righteous, holier-than-thou types. I am loud, and crude, and base, and silly. I have verbal tics that contain racism and other isms that I don't truly believe in, but the tics are still there even though they make me ashamed. People who champion every cause around in an effort to give themselves a sense of worth make me mad. There are so many people of both genders that I think need to face some actual real problems, or just need a good fucking punch in the head.
I want to be a good and decent person, I know at heart I am, I also know how I fail at it every day.
So I work very, very hard to be the person I should be. And fail. Lots. But I don't stop trying. I'm happy to admit I can be a fucking bastard, but I don't stop trying to change that.
And that's the thing about not having secrets, it means I do a lot less of the fooling myself that I used to do all those years ago. Oh, sometimes I use the perspective to beat myself up, and I still fool myself about stuff, but I'm also able to look at some of the things I got right and occasionally say, "Hey dude, you did good," rather than being continuously down on myself.
Some of it is self-perpetuating prophecy. You know why I'm the prettiest person in the World? Because I don't care that I'm not, and I enjoy telling you all that I am. And the personal joy I take in that little bit of silliness, and the smiles and reactions it gets from other people, makes me The Prettiest Person in the World!
Hell, I should totally do a Danny - the Prettiest Person in the World calendar, with tasteful nudes for every month!
I occasionally have people question the wisdom in the amount of personal soul-searching I do on here. Really, there's not much of my life that isn't able to be found if you really want to look. I've talked about everything from mundane matters to what I like about sex and masturbation. I'm willing to point out that even people who have committed deplorable acts should be painted in shades of grey rather than black and white, when others are prancing around on their moral high ground baying for blood.
If a person, or a job, or a reporter wants to react badly to me and my opinions on here, let them. I'm not going to live in fear. I haven't censored or removed anything since several of my relatives started reading my LJ, and I have to deal with these people in my personal life!
The only censorship I've done is that I have a piece I want to post on vulvas and penises in art, but I'm going to hold off until after the Chronos Awards. I'd rather not have someone come to look at some award information, see a post that by its nature has a lot of rather explicit pictures, and get the wrong idea about Continuum or the awards.
Yes, they can go back through my posts and see other stuff, but if they're that nosey, so be it. And if I find I want to do a post, like this one, where I talk about a lot of personal stuff, then I'm still going to do it.
I suppose if I have any real point here it's this - hiding who you are, and keeping your secrets, is probably less important than you think it is. I'm not saying you should or shouldn't have your secrets, only you can decide that.
But if folks really want the dirt on you, they'll find it, extrapolate it from what you do and don't say, or make it up. If people like you, they may not like some things about you, but they'll at least be able to make informed decisions.
People will find reasons to like or hate you anyway, and at least if you're the one releasing the info on which they base their opinions or assumptions, the credit or blame lies with you and no-one else.
And that's a pretty powerful place to be.
PS - I've always loved this XKCD comic. It summing up everything I just wrote so much better.