The Importance of Facing Your Shadow Self
What’s in your shadow?
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Everyone carries a shadow, the dark overcast of our being that we don’t want to admit or are afraid to let surface.
The difference among us though lies in how much we are willing to recognize that it exists.
Your shadow self is the unconscious side that can only be recognized through willingness and self-awareness.
Buried fears and insecurities
A shadow denotes being dark and negative, but it doesn’t have to be. It can just be insecurities and fears that were planted somewhere along the line leading us to believe we aren’t worthy, are unlovable, or incapable.
Some aspects of our shadow come from conforming to what is thought to be unacceptable in society or through our upbringing. As a result, the shadow is perceived as something that needs to be hidden.
Toxic thoughts can hold us back from what we truly desire.
Sometimes those toxic thoughts were planted by others out of their own envy, fear, ignorance or jealousy and caused us to even repress talents and capabilities.
When I was in 4th grade I won a contest for writing a book. But, was later disqualified because the judges didn’t believe I wrote it. I did of course, but perhaps that’s why I never pursued writing even though I enjoyed it. A shadow was cast on me and is probably why writing this blog was a little intimidating.
Guilt or shame can cast a heavy shadow. By facing our shadow we can reach an understanding within ourselves and let go of it. It can also help us to examine why we are fearing or repressing something, which can then allow us to unleash the gifts we buried leading to a more fulfilling life.
“Our Shadows hold the essence of who we are. They hold our most treasured gifts. By facing these aspects of ourselves, we become free to experience our glorious totality: the good and the bad, the dark and the light.” Debbie Ford
However, it depends on your perception, your self-esteem, and your willingness to step into your own shadow and recognize it for what it is.
“That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate.” Carl Jung
Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, is well-known for developing the shadow concept. Jung believed it is necessary to see our dark side in order to become a fully integrated human.
The shadow, according to Jung, is instinctive, irrational and uses psychological projection as a defense mechanism in order to not expose itself.
Projection is when we blame or criticize others to ensure the focus doesn’t fall on us and have our shadow exposed.
For example, a person that carries greed in their shadow may accuse others of being greedy in order to not expose their own love of money and materialistic traits. We’ve been taught those tendencies are wrong so we hide them and instead create a defense mechanism of casting it on others to avoid confronting our true feelings.
Or, you might claim that everyone around you is conceited and selfish. But, if you actually looked deep in the mirror, you might find that you have a tendency toward being self-centered. Our conscious self knows it’s wrong so we accuse others instead of just being aware of the tendencies and attempting to make necessary corrections.
Sometimes we may despise a person and we don’t even really know why. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we might find the underlining reason is that we are jealous and insecure.
When you find yourself criticizing others, take a step back and ask yourself if it is possible the reason it bothers you so much is because you are carrying feelings you don’t want to admit it.
By facing your true feelings, instead of just projecting shame on others, it becomes possible to resolve the root of the issue for healthier outcomes. However, in order to do so we must be honest with ourselves and peel back the layers of the shadow.
In doing so, the guilt, shame and jealousy dissipates and we begin to find fulfillment because we are no longer hiding.
How can you recognize your shadow?
- Therapy. A therapist can help you take a true look at yourself. Someone trained is a valuable resource especially if you already have low self-esteem or depression, because it is easy to get trapped in toxic thoughts and not recognize strengths.
- Journaling and self-examination. Ask yourself why might feel a certain way or are afraid. Maybe you’ve allowed your shadow to whisper untruths that hold you back.
- Dream analysis. Is your sub-conscience trying to tell you something?
- Pay attention to what you criticize in others. Perhaps this characteristic actually lies within you or you are actually jealous?
Most people will never face their shadow. Instead, they remain ignorant to their inner self because it’s just easier and continue the cycle.
“The meeting with oneself is, at first, the meeting with one’s own shadow. The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well. But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is.” Carl Jung
For the sake of personal development, it is necessary to become more aware of the shadow we carry. It’s important to question why we fear or are insecure about something, as well as, recognize that we are not as perfect or moral as we would like to believe.
For more information about making peace with your shadow, check out this great book by Robert A. Johnson:
Many won’t dare to face their shadow. Will you?