From a young age we start to see the world through a binary lens of good and bad. The good things get rewarded and reinforced, while the bad tend to be punished or frowned upon. And so begins our tendency to push away the bad for fear of how we will be perceived and consequently treated, creating our shadow self. In time, we have grown so accustomed of hiding this side of ourselves, we forget it is even there, deeply ingrained in our sub-conscience. Not only do we hide our true selves from others, but we hide from ourselves too, disconnected from our inner reality.
Our shadow is what we would call the dark side of our personality that consists of our more negative emotions and all that we deny ourselves. It is everything we cannot see in ourselves on a conscious level. The trouble is that it can operate without us really knowing.
What is fascinating is that what we hide from or deny in ourselves, we more readily see in others. Our ego uses this as a self-defence mechanism whereby we project our own insecurities of how we see ourselves, and by projecting on someone else, we don’t have to take responsibility for it. The more we project, the more we distort reality. The harder we are on ourselves, the harder it is to confront our shadow (and essentially ourselves) with compassion.
“Perhaps we need little reminders from time to time that we are already dignified, deserving, worthy. Sometimes we don’t feel that way because of the wounds and scars we carry from the past or because of the uncertainty of the future. It is doubtful that we came to feel undeserving on our own. We were helped to feel unworthy. We were taught it in a thousand ways when we were little, and we learned our lessons well.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Our shadow can impact our thoughts, our emotions and even our behavior without our knowing. When our shadow remains unconscious, it can create issues in our lives as pieces of ourselves we didn’t know existed begin to shine through, causing confusion and fueling the fire of self loathing.
What we often fail to recognize, is that throughout this journey called life, our goal is not to be perfect - but to be whole. To be whole is to recognize and embrace the dualities that exist in everything we do and encounter: good/bad, light/dark, happy/sad. It is impossible to understand and fully appreciate something without knowing its counterpart, which is why running away from our shadow keeps us in a state of spiritual bypass.
By acknowledging that our shadow exists and embracing that shadow self, we permit ourselves to understand the whole. The more we learn, the better equipped we become, learning to control and use our full range of emotions, to express our truth with compassion, creativity, courage and maturity.