Do you know your life purpose?
Are you living life to the fullest, or have you abandoned your childhood dreams for a safer road?
Look deeply into your heart for clues about finding your life purpose. Take a look at the steps to uncover the shadow aspects of your personality to reveal hidden desires and passions that may lead you to live a more purposeful life.
It's popular these days in self-love and personal development circles to talk about befriending your shadow, but what does that mean and how do you do it?
Are you supposed to sit in your room when you feel angry, scared or depressed and “enjoy” the experience?
Are you expected to wear your heart on your sleeve and announce your not-so-pleasant thoughts to the world, "I'm embracing my shadow…now love me!”
Befriending your shadow is actually about shining the light on every aspect of yourself (the good, bad and ugly) to live more authentically and experience the full range of your emotions, desires, and talents. It can help you enjoy more love and understanding for yourself and the people in your life.
Your shadow self is made up of parts of you that you unconsciously repressed, disowned or tucked away when you were young because they didn't serve you. As infants and children, we are completely dependent on our parents and our community for survival, so we develop a "persona" or mask that represents how we want the world to see us – to keep us safe.
This is a natural and healthy strategy that helps us to fit in with our surroundings and thrive within society.
As we grow into adulthood, and our survival is no longer dependent on others, we can start to peel away the mask and shine our unique light in the world. Everyone is born with unique qualities, talents and desires that make us special (I call these our "golden shadows”). Most people, though, hold onto their masks and continue seeking approval from others long after they need it and bury both their shameful dark shadows as well as their golden shadows.
Some scholars pose that people resist their golden shadows much more vigorously than their dark shadows. Psychologist Robert A. Johnson said, "The gold is related to our higher calling, and this can be hard to accept at certain stages of life."
For example, if we are still immersed in our duties as mothers or fathers to young children or recently out of the nest and caught between pleasing our parents and tentatively flying out into the world with our newly formed wings and humongous student loans, we are likely to cling tightly to our persona as if our life depends on it. Our passions and desires are set aside and often, left on the shelf to collect the dust while we exhaust ourselves running the rat race.
The good news is that life will continue to present opportunities to embrace, integrate and befriend our shadows until the discomfort of ignoring the call becomes stronger than the safety of maintaining the status quo (read: mid-life crisis) and change becomes inevitable.
You might be at a point in your life where it’s time to take a closer look at what you've kept buried. You may find yourself in a loveless marriage, a soul-sucking job, recently divorced or facing a terrifying diagnosis. Whatever the trigger, when life calls and you can no longer get away with hiding from yourself, you can start to shine light into the corners and uncover even the darkest shadows.
One way to identify your shadow parts is to pay close attention to situations and people who create a strong reaction in you.
Who do you look up to and admire? Those people possess the same talents or untapped potential that you deny in yourself. And the people who drive you crazy and bring out strong negative reactions or demonstrate behaviors that you condemn, represent what you have disowned in yourself.
Once you start to acknowledge and integrate both the positive and negative traits that lay dormant, you invite freedom for expansion and authenticity into your life. You are then able to live life and make decisions from a place of love and trust rather than fear and obligation.
Below is a step-by-step guide offered by Dr. David Richo, a psychotherapist, teacher and author in California to help you integrate both your golden and your dark shadows:
Steps to Befriend Your Golden Shadows:
Step One – Affirm that you have the quality you admire or envy in someone else using daily affirmations to develop that mindset. For example: "I communicate my needs assertively and stand up for myself at work and in my relationships." or "I am getting healthier every day by creating good eating and exercise habits."
Step Two – Act as if you already have that quality or are living that truth by making choices to demonstrate it. For example, ask your boss for the raise you feel you deserve to prove to yourself that you are assertive or prepare healthy meals to bring to work for lunch to save money and calories. Continue to replace behaviors that the old you would have made with new behaviors that the new you would choose. (For help with developing new habits, see my earlier post – Your Habits Determine Your Future.)
Step Three – Announce it to people you trust and ask for their support. Taking these steps will inspire transformation in your personality, which will further reinforce your newly acquired characteristics and a more healed version of yourself.
Steps to Befriend Your Darker Shadows:
Step One – Recognize it and own it. For example, I am frequently irritated by people who are entitled, insensitive or arrogant. When I let go of judgment in order to acknowledge that I also possess, but am not yet owning my ability to ask for what I deserve, my own objectivity or my own self-confidence.
Step Two – Acknowledge that you have the same trait and drop blame to find the gold in that trait. I find in myself the positive, but still un-owned counterpart of the negative quality. The upside of being entitled, insensitive or arrogant is asking for what I deserve, being objective and healthy self-confidence.
Step Three – Allow yourself to honor those traits as parts of yourself and to acknowledge that you have buried them for legitimate reasons, but those reasons no longer serve you.
Step Four – Admit to yourself and to one other person that these traits are alive and well inside of you. I can journal about this and share it with a close friend or my coach.
Step Five – Make amends to those who you have hurt in your denial of your own shadow. You can do this in person or write your amends in your journal and spending some quiet meditation time sending loving, healing thoughts to the person or people you have harmed.
Step Six – Become aware of the gold in the negative shadow characteristic and then apply the steps outlined above to integrating your golden shadow: Affirm it is true of yourself, act as if it is true and announce your discovery and program to others who can assist you in your development.
Owning all of your parts is an important step in your journey to wholeness and freedom. As you open up to the fullest expression of yourself, you will find that your defensiveness, fear, and anger replaced with self-compassion and self-love. You may also discover what you were put on this Earth to do.