- want actionable steps for working with your shadow
- are ready for efficient ways to discover your unhealed wounds
- desire to accept all parts of yourself equally and with love
The Purpose of this Post
I was triggered yesterday by someone who, by all intents and purposes, is not even part of my life. My irritation rushed forth as if a dam broke, washing over me in waves of emotion. Immediately, I knew without a doubt my shadow had come out of hiding, making herself known.
As I started to dissect exactly how I needed to handle the reemergence of my “dark side”, I began to think how great it would be if I could have a checklist to go step by step every single time she showed up. I mean, wouldn’t it be easier to release one part of the heavy load you carry as you work through your feelings? So that is what I set out to do and the reason for my writing.
The purpose of my post is to give you an actionable checklist to use each time your own shadow shows up in your life so that you can focus on what is important – healing the wound instead of having no direction of where to go.
What is Your Shadow Self?
My shadow self has different personalities. It’s like living with ten different people who are mostly hermits and stay to themselves but sometimes will come out of their rooms and make their presence known. They range from fearful and timid to pissed off and angry. The fun part of living with these people is the chaos that ensues when they do show up and a lot of times, I am left thinking “what the actual eff just happened”?
All of us have a shadow self, the parts of ourselves that we would rather not acknowledge. The key to understanding yours is to accept that you have one. When you ignore your shadow, you instead rationalize your behavior, project your true feelings onto others and will always live a life of inauthenticity. In other words, if you don’t befriend and understand your shadow, you will always be at the mercy of the mayhem that ensues when one of your multiple personalities shows up.
What is Shadow Work?
Shadow work is the process of uncovering, understanding and accepting your shadow self. To do so is to completely love and accept who you truly are underneath the layers of societal conditioning placed upon you. Our shadows were formed in the first place because of this conditioning from our parents, teachers and those who had the greatest influence in our lives. As children, we quickly learned what behaviors would generate love and belonging and which ones would not. We created beliefs based on cause and effect: My dad punished me for getting a B on my report card and is now angry with me, therefore I must be perfect to be loved. These beliefs we then carried with us to our adult lives where they just don’t make sense anymore. However, they are so ingrained in us we don’t even realize they are essentially sabotaging all efforts to be yourself in the present.
What happens after we form a limiting belief is we force the non-perfect part of us into hiding, ashamed that it even exists and refusing to acknowledge that perfection is a myth. The issue happens when that messy and imperfect shadow shows up. The shame we feel when we screw up is monumental and oftentimes hard to overcome. We can try to push Imperfect Isabelle back into the dark corner but I promise you, she is not going to stay there long. This is why shadow work is so important. We cannot keep our shadows locked up. So instead of fighting constantly with yours, there is another way to make your life a whole lot easier: learning to love and accept every shadow in your dark internal corners.
How to Start Shadow Work
Let me make a Public Service Announcement: Shadow work is NOT for the faint of heart. It takes work. You will stir up emotions so intense that it will make you want to run far away and never do this work again. But I want you to understand that if you do run, you can never truly get to where you want to be in life because you are not whole. Sure, you may look like you have everything you desire, but there will come a time when it just isn’t enough and you start questioning what the point of life is.
If you truly want to live a purpose aligned and passion filled life, it is imperative you engage in shadow work. Only by accepting and respecting all parts of you, not only the ones you deem “acceptable”, can you truly show up as authentically yourself. When you come out as yourself, you can then start what you came into this lifetime to do: live your unique purpose.
So before you start to work with your shadow, I would like to offer a few tips to make it a bit easier for you on your journey.
Make Time for Healing
This is not an overnight process. You quite possibly will be doing this work your entire life, but rest assured, it does get easier the more you practice. Because this is such an intense process, I urge you to find undistracted time to uncover and heal your wounds. I believe this is so important that I created a worksheet to help you create your own shadow work process and establish a consistent routine that will catapult you into exponential growth quickly. You can download it here ⬇
Because this work stirs up feelings that have laid dormant for years, it can get overwhelming. As you work with your shadow self, be gentle. If you start to judge yourself, write those judgements down as they are important clues to other hidden shadows. By remaining compassionate, you allow your shadow to speak and tell you the gift they have been hiding for you. A good way to do this is to say “Even though I feel ⎽⎽⎽⎽⎽, I love and respect myself” (thank you to Louise Hay for this one!).
Expect Big Feelings
As I just mentioned, you will feel some fierce emotions. This is totally and completely normal. A lot of us are so used to pushing these feelings down and ignoring them that actually experiencing them sometimes feels like you are dying. If you are serious about engaging with this work fully, you have to allow yourself to feel everything. It’s important to remember that emotions are simply energy. They are neither good nor bad, they just are. Imagine you are floating on your back in the ocean. Suddenly, a huge wave comes through and lifts you up. If you remain calm and simply ride the wave, you know you will come back down soon. Panic and fight the wave, however, and you will flail and gasp for air as it takes you under.
Emotions are like the waves. They come and they go. It’s up to you how you will face them.
Take a Break
I am one of those people who once I make up my mind, I want things done yesterday. The problem I often face with this kind of attitude is I dig myself a hole that is hard to get out of and I end up getting less done than if I simply took a break. Take breaks when you need them! Even if you created a routine for yourself, first and foremost you must listen to your body. If you are tired and overwhelmed, walk away. There is no finish line with this work. It is not a race. The only way to stay healthy and effective is to flow with what comes and if that means skipping a few days (or longer) so you can come back refreshed and ready to go, please do it.
Let Your Loved Ones Know
I do a lot of self healing and have discovered that it goes a lot smoother if you let the ones you love know what you are doing. Stating your work out loud accomplishes a couple things: first you publicly state your healing work which helps with accountability and second, you ask for the grace of your people as you heal. I am not saying that if you tell your husband you are doing shadow work it gives you a free pass to act however you wish. Instead you are stating that you are in your healing process and asking for some leeway when you skid off track.
Shadow Work Exercises
Okay, now that the stage is set, let’s get into the nitty gritty action part. Here are 5 effective ways to start your own shadow work. I suggest you find a journal specifically for what you uncover and keep it with you.
1. What Irritates You?
Time to vent! Think about the people in your life and situations you routinely face. What drives you crazy about them? Get out your journal and write everything down. Now is not the time to be polite as they will never see this. Word vomit onto the page and get it alllllll out. I like to keep a small notebook with me as I go about my day so when I come across situations that make me want to punch something, I can write it down and revisit it later when I am calmer.
For all of the irritations you’ve uncovered, write down the quality it represents and how you embody the same quality.
Irritation: It’s so annoying he is always late!
Question to ask yourself: How are you rude in your own life?
2. Who Do You Blame?
Think about your life. Where you are right now and why you aren’t where you want to be. Who do you blame for it? Why? Get specific as you dig through your dashed hopes and shattered dreams. It’s important to get all of your feelings out and on paper. Even if you don’t like to write, these feelings must have an outlet and writing is an extremely effective one.
For each blaming statement, look to see where a different choice on your part could have changed the outcome. Take it even further and turn the blame into gratitude and appreciation.
Blame: My dad stopped paying my expenses when I graduated college and forced me to take a corporate job I hate and am now stuck in.
Choice: I could have researched other options to support myself so I could follow my passion.
Gratitude: I am so grateful to my dad for footing the bill throughout college so I graduated with no debt.
3. Notice Your Judgements
We all judge. Yes, even you. It’s human nature to compare and judgement is essentially that, a comparison between what you believe to be true and what you are judging the other person for. The cool thing is that judgments are amazing at shining light on our shadows. When you notice how you judge another, you can then take a closer look at the belief you have that causes that judgement.
Where did the belief come from? Is it outdated and need to be re-written? Get to the root of why you feel this way by asking why questions.
Judgment: She is way too old to be wearing that.
Belief: After a certain age, you must dress a certain way otherwise it is inappropriate and embarrassing.
Where did this belief come from?: I can remember my friend’s mother making comments about the way women dressed.
Why did she make these comments?: She felt insecure in the way her legs looked in shorts and was jealous when she thought other women her age or older looked better than her.
Realization: This belief is not mine, I have been judging others based on a childhood observation.
Related Reading: How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs and Manifest Your Dream Life
4. The Green Eyed Monster
Ahhh, jealousy. I don’t know about you, but I despise the feeling. Not because I am holier than thou but because it makes me feel like total crap. It stirs up feelings of inadequacy and sends me into a tailspin of negative thinking that is very hard for me to get out of. The good news is when you are aware enough to notice your jealous thinking, you get more clues about your shadow. Then you can dig deeper into the belief behind the envy and where it came from.
Once again, jealousy comes back to your limiting beliefs. Ask your why questions to get to the root of where this feeling stems from.
Jealousy: I don’t like it when my boyfriend talks to other women.
Belief: If he talks to other females, there is a chance of him leaving me.
Why do you think this?: I believe this because my kindergarten best friend started talking to another girl and stopped being friends with me.
Why do you think she stopped being friends with you?: Because I wasn’t interesting enough to keep her friendship.
Root of this Belief: I am not good enough or interesting enough to hold onto love.
Re-write: I am confident in who I am and know that I attract people in my life who love me fully for who I am.
5. What are You Obsessing About?
There used to be a time when I would over-analyze everything. Thinking about the what ifs in my head, meticulously calculating every possible outcome and spending hours consumed by the possibilities – most negative. I employed this action in everything I did, especially in my relationships. He didn’t call me? OMG, why didn’t he call me? What is he doing? What did I do? Why haven’t I heard from him? Has he found someone else? Is my relationship over? What am I going to do now that he is gone? How am I going to cope? Who will want me now?
I’m exhausted just typing that.
Uncover the root belief behind your obsessing and rewrite it. Use the exact same example as I showed you for jealousy.
Final Thoughts on Shadow Work
Embarking on a journey to know yourself completely is difficult but extremely rewarding. I encourage you to take it slow and remain open to the lessons waiting for you to learn.
I believe in you. You are meant to do amazing things.
Proud introvert, intuitive entrepreneur, and spiritual activist. On a mission to embolden my fellow introverts to quietly change the world.