Have you ever turned down an opportunity for fear of failure? Or not shared your opinion for fear of being judged?
Have you ever been triggered by someone’s behaviour or thought; ‘I would never do that?’ Have you ever said or done something, on impulse, that you later regret?
If this sounds, at all familiar, I invite you to read on. Let’s introduce to you to the concept of your shadows.
Shadows are parts of ourselves that we reject, ignore, or suppress out of shame or disapproval. They are beliefs that we have created over our lifetime. They are the parts of ourselves that psychologist Carl Jung referred to as ‘’ the person we would rather not be.’’
The way you feel about yourself on the inside, determines what you create for yourself on the outside.
If you have heard of the law of attraction, you will have considered that your external world is a reflection of your internal world.
When we ignore our shadows, we in fact, attract more of their presence and influence into our lives. And, when we disregard these shadows, we unconsciously dim their opposite characteristics.
Is it possible, that the tools to unlock our potential, expand our confidence and manifest our desires, lie hidden in the parts of ourselves that we would rather deny?
Where do our shadows come from?
Our shadows are rooted in our past experiences. When events and experiences repeat themselves, patterns in our subconscious are created. These patterns result in us labeling these shadows, or characteristics, as wrong, and subsequently, we suppress them. Over time, the more they are ignored, the stronger they become.
As many of us may have experienced, it is not possible to hide from our shadows. In fact, the more these patterns show up, in people and situations around us, and the more we resist them, the more they persist and challenge us.
As human beings, we are made up of multiple characteristics. The Law of Polarity emphasizes that we can’t have one characteristic without its opposite. Much like a battery needs both the positive and negative to ignite a charge, as humans we require both positive and negative energy to make us whole.
Consider some practical examples:
- An unpleasant experience or experiences of failure that has prevented us from stepping out of our comfort zone and trying something new again. The more we resist an experience that poses a risk of failure, the more opportunities arise in our lives. The more these opportunities present themselves, the more entrenched our belief that we will fail becomes.
- A painful rejection which means that we now avoid creating close connections with others. Numerous opportunities may come our way, yet we still wonder why we never feel accepted.
- We were shut down or ignored when expressing our opinion on something important to us. As a result, we no longer speak up or contribute to discussions. The more we resist sharing our opinion, the more we convince ourselves that our opinion doesn’t matter.
The more we resist these experiences, the more we label the associated emotions as ‘wrong’. And the more we give them energy.
Attention goes where energy flows.
It is an unavoidable fact of life.
To live as fully integrated human beings, Jung suggested that we recognize this darker side of ourselves. What we repress does not just disappear. On the contrary, if it remains unexamined, our darker side may exert more and more control over our thoughts, emotions, choices and actions. In other words, not acknowledging our shadow is one of the largest barriers in any person’s journey towards living authentically.
If we resist our shadows, we too reject their opposite characteristic. These opposites are what, almost always, present a gift in our lives.
The more we acknowledge and embrace our shadows, the more able we are to be our whole, authentic selves.
Leveraging the examples above, consider the following:
- If we embrace failure to be a part of the journey of life, we open ourselves up to the excitement of new possibilities, learning and growth. We will also start to notice the courage of those around us, in taking risks and leveraging opportunities.
- When we appreciate that the experience of rejection creates opportunities for deeper connections, we allow ourselves to be accepted unconditionally.
- When we allow ourselves the freedom to be open and honest, we experience freedom of expression. When we express ourselves freely, we add a deep richness to our conversations, invite the honesty of others and increase the potential for collaboration and creativity.
Only when we embrace all of ourselves, can we begin to manifest what we wish to create for our lives.
So how do we start this journey towards complete self-acceptance?
- Identify recent moments that triggered a negative response for you. For example, when did you last feel annoyed, frustrated, or irritated? When did you hold yourself back, or feel fear? Identify the moment and identify your emotions.
- Ask yourself, what am I denying or resisting in my life that could be causing me to react in this way.
- Now acknowledge that this is a shadow. Can you pinpoint it’s polar opposite and what gift it will bring when allowed to exist.
The more we accept our darker side and allow it to exist, the more power we have over it and how it can serve us.
For example, when we embrace fear, we build courage. When we face rejection, we connect deeper with others. When we risk failure, we open doors for new possibilities and growth. When we share openly, we open ourselves to receive more from others.
Both Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi saw the benefit in these polarities. Instead of making others wrong, for the hatred they harbored, they chose to rise above this. They allowed this hatred and chose to focus their energy on the opposite of hate, love. Similarly, Thomas Edison embraced every failed attempt as a step closer to success in his discovery of the light bulb. Not only did these icons experience strong connections and abundance as individuals but the world benefited from their conscious choices too.
What might you be avoiding or resisting that, when embraced, could bring you freedom, abundance and new possibilities?
Is it time to start shining a light on your shadows?