Discover Your Shadow Self and Embrace Who You’re Meant to Be
“We tend to think that vulnerability is associated with weakness, but there’s a kind of robust vulnerability that can create a certain form of strength and presence too.” ~ David Whyte
Do you have secrets you’ve never shared with anyone? Perhaps something that happened to you as a child? Maybe it’s simply a feeling that is so raw you’re too uncomfortable to share it with anyone?
All of us have secrets we hide from others and perhaps even from ourselves. (Carl Jung called this our Shadow Self.) We hide what we dislike about ourselves or feel is unacceptable because we want to feel safe, respected or accepted. If we reveal how we really feel deep inside, we’re afraid we’ll be rejected.
When do you develop this Shadow Self? And how does it undermine your life, your relationships and your sense of purpose?
Your Shadow Self is usually developed in your childhood. Maybe your parents or teachers taught you what they’d been taught – “don’t cry, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, put on a smile, be strong.” You got the message that it’s good to bottle up or choke back your emotions. Over time you came to view certain emotions and qualities as “bad” so they must be hidden when you feel them.
It’s a lie.
Denying your emotions actually makes you weak, needy and more vulnerable to life events. Sadly, most of us walk around cut off from our body – the vessel for our emotional experiences – and live our lives from our thinking mind only. This makes us incomplete.
While working with hundreds of clients, I’ve discovered that there’s usually a pattern underlying current challenges. At some point in our past, most of us thought we had to leave behind or abandon our younger self to survive and become an adult.
But that Shadow Self is still there under the surface. Often it shows up as unresolved issues, limiting beliefs or unchallenged “truths” along your journey to adulthood. The associated emotions may disastrously resurface as anxiety, depression, or illness.
When this happens our reflex is to push our Shadow Self back, to get rid of it or deny it. It feels foreign, scary and confusing to acknowledge your past hurt, sadness, grief, or loss. You want to just forget it and keep it in the shadows.
How can dredging up the past possibly bring you closer to healing?
It’s common to imagine that embracing your disowned emotions will devastate you and interfere with your ability to be a functional adult. Yet the truth is that you’re not operating at full capacity when you’re not connected with those parts you have disowned. You are literally missing parts of yourself.
As a child, we have a coping mechanism; we develop adaptive skills to keep the disowned ones hidden. For example when you disown vulnerability you might:
- Develop an inner perfectionist to avoid feeling “less than” when making mistakes.
- Develop a tough exterior, becoming overly self-reliant and independent so you’re not disappointed and hurt by others.
- Develop a need to take care of everyone else because no one is taking care of you.
Yet the truth about vulnerability is that it can be empowering if we develop what David Whyte, my favorite poet, calls “robust vulnerability.” This seemingly counter-intuitive concept is to allow vulnerability into your life so that it strengthens you from the inside.
Do you see how these adaptive skills can keep you from realizing your wholeness and true self? Your Shadow Self keeps you from letting your light, your true brilliance, shine. And when you’re always trying to hide who you are, you won’t have the energy to forge close, rich relationships. (In reality, you’re not hiding it very well either.)
The good news is that you can become whole again! You can learn to welcome, deeply hear, understand, and value everything about yourself, even the disowned parts of your Shadow Self. Then you can integrate them back into who you are and how you express yourself.
For some this can be quite challenging and frightening to do alone. I’d love to support you on your journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).
Isn’t it time to “see and embrace the elephant in the room” and finally take the steps to feel whole and in harmony with who you’re meant to be?