“I’d rather be whole than good.”
– Carl Jung
I’ve been studying the ‘shadow’ side of my life lately. The dark places that exist within all of us. Those aspects of ourselves that we try desperately to keep hidden from the world. Debbie Ford, who wrote the best selling book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, says it’s like trying to keep a beach ball under water, it takes a great amount of energy and focus to keep it under, but eventually it pops up unexpectedly and hits us right in the face.
As I explored this shadow work, I found that some of my shadow qualities are anger, judgment, fear, insecurity, inadequacy, stupidity, clumsiness, laziness and vulnerability. I learned at a very early age that these and other aspects of myself are not acceptable or attractive, I believed that if I showed these parts I would lose love and acceptance from those I cared about. I held the deep core belief that these are ‘bad’ so I buried them and tried to keep them hidden from the outside world. I put on the ‘good’ costume, one that is acceptable and enjoyed by others so I can feel safe and comfortable.
But inevitably, one or more of these hidden parts would pop up and hit me in the face when I least expected or wanted it. They felt like huge demons I had to work very hard at keeping hidden from sight. What if my husband saw my insecurity and inadequacy? He would be disgusted with me! He would want to leave and find someone more perfect and strong. What if I didn’t live up to my daughter’s ideal of a perfect mother? Being able to manage her schedule, our home, my work life and still always be supportive and attentive? She would be disappointed in me and I would lose her love and admiration. I would have to admit that I’m not perfect, that I’m flawed or damaged in some way. This has always been too scary for me to face so I kept it hidden and lied to myself that I was good and no one could see my imperfections. I began to see how this started at a very early age, before I had the ability to filter the messages I was getting from the outside world.
When we fragment ourselves, we are reinforcing the early messages that some parts of us are ‘good’ and others are ‘bad’. What I’m learning and experimenting with in my life is integrating and accepting all aspects of myself: The anger and the compassion, the lust and the love, the stupid and the brilliant. It’s through this embracing of all aspects of ourselves that freedom comes. By accepting that it all exists, we can release the illusion and effort of trying to fit a ‘perfect’ model, the good girl or good boy we were taught we should be. Through embracing the shadow aspects we try so hard to keep hidden we become more whole, real and strong. We are released from the shame and can truly be proud and loving toward ourselves and compassionate toward others as we accept that we all have a shadow side and it has nothing to do with being flawed or imperfect. It has to do with being fully human. How liberating!
If you’d like to explore some of your shadow aspects, the parts of yourself where your strength, authenticity and power live, just ask yourself a couple of simple questions. Sit quietly, take a few deep breaths, relax your body and ask,
‘What am I most afraid of that someone else will find out about me?’
‘What am I most afraid to find out about myself?’
When you have your answers, allow yourself to acknowledge the courage you have in asking and accepting your answers. The first step in becoming more whole is to realize that these disowned parts are just the other side of the coin. We can’t know confidence unless we have experienced insecurity, once we accept that we have felt insecure, we can embrace that as one part of ourselves with compassion and say I accept that about me. This actually diminishes the power of this shadow part. We open our arms and embrace the fact that we are human and this is just a part of being human, not good or bad. Now we can recognize it when it comes up again and say to it, ‘I see you and embrace you as a part of me, but I don’t have to act out from insecurity, I can choose to energize the confident aspect of myself which also exists’. In this way, we are empowered to make a conscious choice from a place of radical truth about who we are.
What aspects of yourself have you hidden away from view? Will you accept this challenge to release the shame and allow yourself to be more whole, more radically human?
I’d love to hear from you, please leave a comment and let’s start sharing the radical truth of our human-ness together!
Stay tuned for my free audio meditation on Embracing your Shadow.