Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Shining a Light on the Shadow Self

I've followed Jennifer Louden's work for about 9 years, and I read every blog post she puts out. One that she put out this morning was a video talking about confidence versus experience. Something she said really hit home for me.

She said that the Internet lends itself to "rah rah, hooray, life is awesome and perfect" mentality, and doesn't necessarily reflect the reality of life. That is, if you spend a lot of time on the Internet (like I do, for my jobs), you're not always seeing the ups and downs that are part of real life. You're not seeing the "shadow side."

I try to be as honest here in this blog as I can muster, but I admit I do fall into that trap of wanting to always appear that I've got my stuff together. Mostly this comes from a place of love -- I want to uplift all my readers, not depress them.

I find that when I write a "down day" post, as I like to call them, I feel guilty about it. Sometimes I'm even tempted to delete them, or at least give a warning before people read it. But those posts get more responses from my readers than all of my other uplifting posts combined. And I know why -- it's because you're seeing what you think is the real me.

The uplifting posts are the real me. I promise. But yes, the sad and discouraged posts are the real me, too. As a human being, I'm multidimensional. We all are. And I'm blessed to have this blog as a space to express every dimension, and blessed to have readers who are curious and open-minded about each one -- from my "rah rah yayyyy!" self to my shadow self.

In my younger years, I used my shadow self as an excuse for bad behavior, or at least an excuse to make bad decisions. Older and wiser, now, I use my shadow self as impetus to shine the light. When the shadow emerges, I turn on the floodlights.

This is different than exploring the shadow self, as many therapists will encourage people to do. Spending time looking at your dark side has its purpose -- but it doesn't necessarily move you forward or change your life. You have to shine the light on the darkness to dispel it.

For me this means self-talk and meditation. Both involve addressing the shadow, but only to the point where I can see the underlying cause and change my patterns. Some examples...

When I found out someone close to me was pregnant unexpectedly, it of course brought up a ton of emotions in me. Especially because I found out this information as Jeremy and I were driving to visit our daughter's grave. But I looked that shadow in the face and told it that this situation has nothing to do with me. Her blessing doesn't diminish the blessings I have coming. And you know what? I'm okay.

I have a hard time striding the line between encouraging people and enabling them. This is part of my shadow self as well. You would think encouragement is always a good thing -- but actually too much can have the effect of stunting someone's growth. Rather than beat myself up over this, I am looking at the underlying cause, letting it sit gently and quietly inside my mind as I meditate and seeing what solutions come to me. Silence is a solution that has come to me recently. Loving silence.

I go through times when my physical energy is almost nonexistent. When going on a walk, or going to a yoga class or making myself a healthy meal are exhausting to even think about -- even though I know they'll make me feel better. I have always thought it was caused by a vitamin/chemical deficiency of some kind, or a dietary need that wasn't being met. I'd like to see a holistic doctor to see if we can identify the underlying cause so we can stop it from happening. But we are a one-income family right now, and $300 is too much for an initial holistic doctor visit that may not even help. This makes me feel angry and discouraged. But when I look at this shadow, and when I shine a light on it, I see that these low energy days are very much outweighed by days when I feel good. And though we are on a tight budget right now, we won't always be. Jeremy will get a job, I'll get a raise, Horizon Peak will take off like a rocket -- something will happen to change our situation. Because change is the only constant in life.

Recognizing you have a shadow self and dwelling in the shadow self are two different things. It's tempting to dwell. It's tempting to obsess, to feel like you have to fix yourself. But our only responsibility in this life is to shine our light, to come from a place of love -- self-love as well as love of others.

Where can you shine a light on yourself today?

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