There is a story in today’s Los Angeles Times that poses an intriguing question: “Who do you think you are?” The fact that the story was published on Halloween makes the query a timely one. The question happens to be the title of Leonard Nimoy’s (Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame) latest photography project. To obtain subjects for this project, Mr. Nimoy extended a public invitation for people to voluntarily reveal their “hidden” or “secret” selves. He was quoted as saying that some participants revealed amazing stories that could not have been made up. The resulting photographs will be on display tonight at a fundraiser in California, then will be exhibited next year at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Assuming for the moment that people do have important aspects of themselves that they choose to hide, Mr. Nimoy’s invitation to allow him literally to shine a light on those secrets raises a myriad of questions:
What causes people to seek secrecy, or at to least resist
disclosure, of integral parts of themselves? What are their fears?
What are the perceived risks?
What is the key to unlocking these hidden selves?
What is the cost – to individuals and to society – when people
keep parts of themselves secret?
In addition to the impact on society, the concept of hidden selves is relevant to the workplace. Consider these questions and comments:
What is the cost to organizations of employees who believe they
must hide important parts of themselves while they are at work?
Some that come to mind immediately include loss of productivity,
diminished creativity, low morale, disengaged employees, and
What if employees’ hidden selves were unleashed? I can think of
several possibilities, such as highly energized workplaces as
people re-direct the energy formerly expended in hiding their true
selves toward more positive outcomes, both personal and
If there is a benefit to be gained by encouraging people to reveal
their hidden selves, how can employers create an environment in
which employees feel safe to do so? Is it as simple as giving them
permission to be who they really are – all parts of themselves –
and then validating the whole person?
If you think that the existence of hidden or secret selves is characteristic of others and not you, I will leave you with the following questions to test that belief. See if you dare to answer them:
Who is YOUR hidden or secret self?
Do you have the courage to reveal that aspect of yourself – if
not to others then to yourself?
What is the price you pay for keeping an integral part of yourself
At tonight’s fundraiser, guests have been encouraged to attend dressed as their secret selves. How many will have the nerve to do so? Would YOU?
© 2009 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.