The key to joyful happy full life is the acceptance of all of yourself.
It was C.G. Jung who first developed the concept of the “shadow” – we all have parts of ourselves that we would rather hide than show to ourselves or the world. These are those qualities we deem “unacceptable” due to many reasons – perhaps our parents told us that such and such people are bad, or to be this and this is wrong. Or it was our culture and community we grew up in that portrayed certain characteristics in a negative way.
At a very early age, we learn to disassociate from these qualities in ourselves that are considered inappropriate by the environment in which we develop and grow. And thus the “Shadow Self” is born.
It takes years of life experience and deep inner work to get to know your shadow. It’s been buried so deep in our subconscious that most of our life we don’t know it even exists. We were taught it wasn’t right to show or act it out so we stuffed it down in the deepest recesses of our minds and forgot about it.
But that doesn’t make it disappear.
What happens is that we attract situations and people in our life that reflect our shadow back to us. We find ourselves in the same pattern of abusive relationships, same pattern of unrewarding work set ups, same pattern of betrayal from friends or relatives, etc.
I have a pattern of attracting people exhibiting slightly narcissistic tendencies. Narcissistic not in the medical personality disorder way, but more like people who are extremely confident, with high self-esteem, certain in themselves and assertive. They take space easily, they like being seen, they enjoy being the centre of attention. I, on the other hand, struggle with all of the above. I tend to be shy with low self-esteem, too susceptible to self-doubt, a wall flower, and one that dreads attention and the eyes of others being set on them.
At the same time I wish I was more assertive, more confident and comfortable with being seen and taking space. And I believe that once, as I child, I was all of that. But it got knocked out of me because it wasn’t the appropriate and/or acceptable way for a little girl to be. I had to bury this side of my personality, to hide and disassociate from it in order to be approved and loved.
In my adult life, this plays out in two ways. First, I tend to completely lose myself when such people enter my life and – I immediately embody the role of the lesser, smaller, the inferior one, the one of service to them, the student, the child if you wish. My own boundaries get watered down and I can’t any longer stand up for myself, I lose my footing, my stand, my ground. I get enveloped in their lives, stories and agendas.
Of course, these people have no idea what’s going on inside of me – I am unable to express my true feelings partially because I’m not aware of them, I’m just confused and lost. At the same time, I do not feel seen, acknowledge or recognised by these people – my needs are not being met in the relationship. This makes me feel angered, resentful, hurt and betrayed. I usually leave this relationship but on the price of being brokenhearted and deeply scarred. I also find it difficult to find forgiveness, resolution and closure – I continue carrying the hurt within me. And can also fall for envy and jealousy since these people seem to not be affected, be OK with themselves within the relationship and the situation.
It is of course a vicious cycle because sooner or later I will encounter another such person to reflect back to me this exiled part of myself. All divinely orchestrated by my own Higher Self so I can see this in me, embrace it and embody it to come back to fullness and wholeness.
I have a part of me that wants to be seen, celebrated, admired and revered. Is this bad? And if deemed wrong, why? Don’t we all want that? Are we all sinners if we enjoy attention, love and care from others? Of course not. It is so obvious when we put it like that.
This is a natural and valid part of us and our humanness. We don’t want to fall into the real end of Narcissism where this behaviour becomes pathology. But we are totally entitled to take space, take a stand and a centre stage when we wish; speak up, assert our needs and wishes, be heard, and receive from others.
Simply because we are born we have the birthright to be exactly what we feel ourselves to be. And nothing less.
It is a real excruciating challenge for many of us on a daily basis. We need to shake off decades of conditioning. We need to find a way back to that part of our hidden self – our shadow. To slowly make friends with it again. To allow it, to accept, to connect with it again.
And yes, we need to be selfish and self-centred if we wish to live a happy joyful full life.
We have to put ourselves, including our shadow selves, first.
May you find the strength to be yourself fully. With love, Vilina <33