What is the Shadow Self
The shadow self is the part of ourselves which we have labeled as “flawed” that we have denied. We all have a shadow. Either through our own actions that brought us shame and punishment (I was yelled at for being “too emotional” by dad, therefore it is best to be as unsentimental as possible), or at one particular point in time we have experienced the damage from someone else’s behavior, making us decide to never be like that (My mom worked so much overtime that I rarely saw her, therefore it is bad to be a workaholic). We have received messages in childhood, either overt or hidden, that there are certain behaviors and ways of being that are unacceptable. That is when a shadow is developed and we label them as bad. And since we avoid being bad, this results in a repressed and disowned part of ourselves.
Why We Deny This Part of Ourselves
Through repression, we actually believe we are protecting ourselves from pain and loss. Judgment, rejection, and abandonment are the results of our shadows, or at least that is what we tell ourselves. So we try to be “good little girls” and not ask for, want, or be too much lest anyone thinks we are greedy, selfish, demanding, or whatever else was labeled as bad in the messages we received growing up.
Why Denying Our Shadow Self Does Not Work
1. When we choose not to see something, it doesn’t mean it is no longer there.
We haven’t actually changed, grown, or healed. We’ve just denied, repressed, and disowned. Debbie Ford, who was a brilliant leader in shadow work said, “What you can’t be with won’t let you be.” By denying this part of ourselves, we cannot give the space we need to heal completely. I’ve never seen someone have a major break through in life that wasn’t willing to see herself completely. It’s why affirmations alone do not work. We cannot mantra our way into healing. We must be willing to understand, integrate, and authentically express our shadows, so that we can become more aware, whole versions of ourselves.
2. What we fight, we fuel.
We are actually creating repressed energy around the things that we fight. And so when we resist and try not to be something, we actually end up uncontrollably attracting it into our lives. Repression never works. It might patch it up for a little while but eventually the dam will break.
3. It is actually one of the keys to getting “unstuck.”
In order to make the next important step in our lives, we must be willing to do shadow work integration. If not, we will continuously meet our shadow smack dab in the middle of our tracks. It will constantly look like fear, anxiety, or stress in the midst of taking that next important step in life. By backing down instead integrating our shadows, it will simply become a self sabotage tactic that will keep us stuck, over and over again.
Cara Ansis is a Self-Love Facilitator and healer, helping women safely enter their own inward journey towards taking better care of themselves. With a master’s degree in Soul Care, she is a certified Spiritual Director and has had the privilege of working with countless women around the country. With her own profound story of self-healing, she now teaches those everyday techniques, rituals, and tools to enable other women connect with their own healing abilities and radically transform their lives. Cara lives in Chicago, IL with her husband, Matt and their son, Jaxon.