The above quote is from Jill Bolte Taylor, author of Stroke of Genius. When she had a stroke, she became incredibly attuned to the energy around her. This is the note she posted on the door to her room in the hospital, asking everyone that entered to take responsibility for themselves and what they are bringing into her space. This is where we will begin our work today- are you willing to take responsibility?
Last week I talked about compassion and developing a relationship with yourself like you are your own best friend. (If you missed it, you can read it here) Sometimes we teach what we need to know, and I called on my self-compassion a lot last week.
How could I soften and be a bit kinder to myself? Where was I pushing too hard? Where were my expectations out of whack? And where could I say some nice words to myself.
I want to talk about this topic a bit more and will return share some practices that are working for me, but before I do that I need to practice them myself a little bit more. I only want to share and teach what works for me in reality, not just in theory. I’m on my own journey, just like everyone else, and it comes with learning curves and lessons. And I often mess up and teach from the lessons I learn there.
Today, I want to continue to talk about recognizing the shadow. After we are practicing healthy compassion for ourselves, we can start to look inward with curiosity. It’s a bit more complicated because our shadow is out of sight and behind us. This is by design. It’s how it became the shadow in the first place.
I started doing work to see my shadow over a year ago, and it’s just barely scraping the surface. Things didn’t really reveal themselves when I first started. I had a few things come to the surface of my awareness, but it was like scratching the surface with just my finger nails. Not much was being revealed.
I have also had family members point out some of my shadow traits to me (hi Mom, thanks for reading and trying to help me!). People I love and whose opinions I trust. I still denied them, because I wasn’t ready yet. I needed to personally cultivate more self-love and compassion before I could face those parts of myself. I needed to be able to see them and still love who I am and know that it’s not the end of the world. It won’t collapse, people will still love me, and most importantly I will still love me.
I wasn’t listening to the people around me, so how did I start to find my shadow? I looked at what annoyed me the most in others. The way that it works is that we project our shadow qualities onto others and notice it in them. So the parts of other people that annoy you the most are actually just a reflection of your own shadow.
It looks like this. I get really annoyed by know-it-alls. I hate that they parade their opinions around like it’s the only thing that matters, and there is no room for other people. Guess what my shadow is? I’m a know-it-all with an attitude that my opinion is the right one and no one else could possibly right.
Do I logically think this is true? Absolutely, emphatically not. But it’s my shadow, functioning way below my logical mind.
I have been working on noticing my shadow in this way for a while now, and sometimes things still escape me and I deny, deny, deny. What I needed was a wakeup call. I had a situation where the stakes were high, I lost my shit, and realized I didn’t like what had happened. I want to take 100% ownership of how I am showing up in this world, so I looked inward and asked myself “Where did that come from? What do I dislike about my behavior just then?”
I talked it through with a coach, and got it all out. I literally had a temper tantrum, and said all the thoughts that I had been repressing.
This method worked for me because I had someone that was willing to be compassionate enough to just hold space for me to have my big feelings and emotions. To let them all out without judgement. After I cleared my head, I could look at what I had been thinking and start to reflect on it. I could see these unconscious parts of myself that were running the show. They were making choices for my behavior, like I was running on autopilot.
I wrote them all down. All these parts of myself that made me feel ashamed, too much or not enough, not worthy of love and respect, and too complicated.
If you are interested in looking at your shadow so that you can learn to integrate and fully accept and love yourself, here are the steps you can take.
- First, cultivate your self-compassion and find your personal center. Be your own best friend. Talk to yourself like your best friend talks to you with love, acceptance and forgiveness.
- Next, check in with yourself and ask if you are willing to see. Ask yourself, am I willing to look at my whole self, even the parts that make me feel ashamed, not good enough, not worthy of love? 0
- Notice what annoys you about other people. Keep a list of these things. You don’t have to do anything other than keep a list.
This process takes time. It’s not something that happens once, and you’re done. It unfolds as you become ready. There is no pressure to hurry through it. I think this is a large part about what it means to be a human being, and we can dance with this for our entire life.
You also have the right to NEVER do this! The alternative is that you get to keep all the things that annoy you about other people. You can make it all outward, make it about other people. That is completely ok. It’s a defense mechanism for a reason, and you can absolutely keep it as long as it serves you.
If you’re ready to do the work and start looking inward, I’m here for you. I’m happy to hold space, like a giant trash can that you can spill everything into. You can ask a friend, a pastor, a counselor, a coach, or any trusted person that has the capacity to listen and hold the space without judgement. Let yourself be witnessed.
We will continue next week. Until then, hit reply and tell me your biggest takeaway from today. It might be an area you are willing to look at. It might be that you realize you're not ready to go there yet. Whatever it is, I want to hear from you!