Before therapy, I was so hard on myself and strived to be “successful.” The younger, less self-aware me shunned parts of myself just to fit the stereotypical mold. But now, I’m working on letting my shadows form beautiful silhouettes against my light.
The road to authenticity hasn’t been easy though. Let me walk you through the arduous journey of shadow integration and holistic self love.
But first, where is our shadow?
Explore the 3 parts of your Jungian self
Renowned psychologist Carl Jung theorized that our minds are comprised of these three parts:
- The ego (or the conscious self);
- The personal unconscious self; and
- The collective unconscious.
Our ego is the version of ourselves that we knowingly/consciously put forward as our face in society, often striving to mirror what is deemed socially acceptable.
The other parts of ourselves that we are not conscious of, Jung classified into the personal unconscious (our forgotten or repressed selves/memories) and the collective unconscious (i.e. religion, the metaphysical realm, legends & myths, ancestral/inherited parts of ourselves, etc.).
Our shadow self lies dormant and stifled in our mind’s unconscious, wreaking havoc on our lives until we finally take it out for a spin and care for it. Otherwise, we just continue to hide our shadow behind a glossy yet incomplete façade of ourselves to fit in… at the cost of precious authenticity.
Integrating our shadow selves into our persona as an accepted and valid part of us is essential to holistic growth. Now that you’re more familiar with how to find your shadow self, here are a few ways you can embrace it.
Ways to embrace our shadow selves
Here are some practices that I do to nurture my shadow self. I hope this helps you too.
Intrapersonal Communication (write/talk to yourself). You’ve probably heard about interpersonal or mass communication as more common forms of communicating with other people. But intrapersonal ways (communicating with the self, internally) form the fundamental building block of humanity and creativity.
Sit with yourself and grab a journal and write your thoughts. When a painful or anxious thought emerges, be aware and give yourself a pep talk to get yourself through it. Recite your own affirmations.
Neurolinguistic programming and reparenting yourself can be done with the help of intrapersonal communication. Go ahead. Talking to yourself is not that crazy after all. On the contrary, it can be quite healthy when needed.
Express your emotions in healthy ways. Some people might mistakenly say, anger is not ok. Or don’t be afraid. Crying is weak. Hide your disgust/disdain, etc. But thinking this way just represses your shadow self even further. It can hamper one’s growth, forever feeling stuck living a pretentious life.
Instead, find healthy ways to express your rainbow of emotions. If you are angry, go somewhere private in your home and punch into a pillow or box with a punching bag; and/or play sports as a healthy way to let the angsty energy out. For fear, get to know where it’s coming from and try to get passed it. Instead of letting fear control you, get to know it so that you can solve the problem of whatever is driving your fear.
Mastering our emotions in healthy ways is truly empowering and exhilarating.
Be less judgmental of yourself (and others). Being our own avid fans/cheerleaders helps in defeating self-deprecating thoughts. Do what you love as if no one is looking. So long as you aren’t hurting anyone — you do you, boo. Sing that song even if you’re off key. The people who love you, flaws and all, will always clap for you no matter how off-key you’re singing a karaoke song. haha
If people do look and judge you out in the open for who you truly are, don’t fret. Just be comfortably open to feedback and don’t take it too personally. More often than not, other people tend to project their own insecurities onto others because they haven’t healed their own shadow selves yet.
But for valid constructive criticism, just learn from mistakes to gain from setbacks, instead of taking it just as a loss. You will only bounce back stronger.
Set strong boundaries. Sometimes, there will be people/systems that try to stop us from being ourselves. Allow yourself to be authentic by learning how to say no and learning what your boundaries are.
Push Back. Set Boundaries.
When you know yourself and who you truly are (including your shadow self), it gets easier to set stronger boundaries since you know yourself better. Drawing the line works best when you know what shape you want to draw it in.
Embrace your spirituality and level up your vibrations. By spirituality, this doesn’t only refer to religion. It both encompasses and transcends all of that.
There are many ways to live a spiritual life. You can meditate, pray, immerse yourself in nature, do breathing exercises, take a few moments to be still in silence, engage your senses in aromatherapy, get frequent massages, etc.
Love yourself the way you expect your parents/lovers/others to love you. Fulfill your own Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s probably why Miley Cyrus’ song called Flowers has been topping the charts for so long; women are strongly leaning into the fact that we can do all these things for ourselves, now more than ever.
Another great way is to attend to your own love language/s. Such as give yourself gifts, tell yourself kind words, do self care as an act of service to yourself, give yourself time to heal, take yourself to a café, etc.
From a haunting shadow that lurks behind the curtain, I now let my dark silhouette dance and transcend the shame that it once hid behind. We have made it this far despite the insurmountable odds, and that’s something that we all ought to be very proud of regardless of the circumstances. 🙂
How kind are you to yourself? Take this quiz
To cap it all off, I found cool quiz from UC Berkeley that attempts to gauge how much self-compassion we have. Try it out and comment below. Love ya, luscious!
Knowledge is power. Answer a few simple questions to know more about your level of self-compassion: