*CNN anchorman, Don Lemon, after having announced that he is gay on Sunday, said that he believes living in the closet is “disingenuous and dishonest”. While Mr. Lemon was referring to his coming out about being gay, there are many people “in the closet” about a variety of things. There are closet eaters, closet liars, closet wall street brokers, closet teachers, closet cheaters, and more. There are people in the closet about their marriages, status, wealth, character, confidence, ability, knowledge, among many others.
Why? The closet is where many children hide, during hide and seek or abuse. It’s the place where they feel safe, until someone comes and opens the door or they decide to come out. Either way, there is a fear of what’s waiting beyond the door. I believe that most of us have a closet that we use to hide from a place we’re not courageous enough to yet face. The problem with the closet is that after a while, it gets tight, crowded and lonely. However, sometimes the fear of coming out, outweighs the fear of true freedom.
I remember living in “the closet” professionally. I, and many others in my life had envisioned a certain career path for my life. The secret was that I didn’t enjoy the work, the atmosphere or the so called “ladder to success” in the way that I was encouraged to and the way others did. I remember getting praised for my successes in the moment, smiling and wondering what all the hoopla was about. I remember wishing that I would get laid off, because it would force me to make my, then part-time, brand and communications firm work full time. Then I wouldn’t have to explain why I left such a “good job”. I could come out of the “professional closet” in a way that called for few questions.
There are people who tell me “I haven’t even been eating that much, so I can’t understand why I’m gaining so much weight”, who actually eat a lot when they believe no one is looking. This is because they need help with their discipline and psychological issues. There are people who constantly live beyond their means and then continuously spend and talk like they have enough to retire. There are people who are extremely prejudiced and pretend to be open to diverse people, but then tell racist jokes. Last, but certainly not least, there are people who talk like they know everything and really know very little; an evidence through the words they speak everyday.
What is the fear of being found out? Perception. People are afraid of what will become of them if others knew their truth. So, instead of “coming out of the closet”, they live there; lonely, cramped and in fear that someone will open the door. I will never claim to know what it feels like to come out of the closet as a homosexual person, however I do know what it feels like to come out of the Land of Make Believe where the stakes are still high.
Unfortunately a significant number of people decide that staying in the closet is safer than “coming out”. For those I am saddened. Fantasia Barrino, Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charlie Sheen, and several others were in the closet about a variety of things. Had they been able to live their truth, I wonder if they could have lived their truth, thus never having to have been “found out”.
I applaud Don Lemon for living his truth outside of the closet.
Monica Cost is communications strategist, brand manager and respected corporate and motivational speaker. She is the President and Founder of Evidently Assured, a communications and brand management firm. Email her at: [email protected]. Follow her via Twitter: @monicacost and www.Facebook.com/monicahairstoncost.