Your shadow self is comprised of all the aspects of your personality that you’ve been hiding. You hide these parts because someone has told you that they are shameful, inappropriate or “not nice”.
For introverts, this can mean hiding our innate need for alone time and any other aspect of ourselves that might be considered strange or rude. Even our gifts of introspection, deep thought and imagination can be cast aside and deemed unacceptable.
Acceptance hinges on our ability to fit into a narrow definition of what is considered normal. Any part of our personality that seems weird or different gets stomped down and tossed aside – exiled indefinitely to the dark realm of shadows.
But wait a second. Did you know that the dark realm of our shadow side isn’t so dark after all? There are some benefits to embracing our shadows.
1. You have golden shadows
“The brightest flame casts the darkest shadow.” ~George R.R. Martin
People often think of their shadows as only the dark, hideous aspects of their personality. It is true that some of our shadows should stay hidden. What we don’t realize is that we also have golden shadows.
Our shadow self can be an infinite source of creativity and strength. Unfortunately, we often cast our greatest strengths into the dark. We do this to be modest and polite. We don’t want others to think of us as arrogant or rude. As a result, we trade stubbornness for passivity, deep thought for indifference and quiet strength for “sugar and spice and everything nice”.
In short, we let our greatness drag along behind us, holding us back instead of propelling us forward.
2. Denying your shadows will weigh you down
“What men call the shadow of the body is not the shadow of the body, but is the body of the soul.” ~Oscar Wilde
Our shadow self does not disappear into thin air, or float weightlessly behind us as we navigate life. Our shadows stay with us. They have their own weight, shape, and impact. We can’t deny them out of existence.
In his book, A Little Book on the Human Shadow, Robert Bly describes our shadows as unacceptable qualities that we’ve thrown over our shoulder into a bag. Each quality we add to the bag increases the weight that we must drag along with us.
It’s natural to have a few shadows in our sack, but many of us have stuffed the better part of our personality into the bag. It’s not long before we start to feel weighed down by all our hidden parts.
3. Shadows add dimension
“I thought the most beautiful thing in the world must be shadow.” ~Sylvia Plath
When we cut away our shadows, what remains seems manufactured and superficial. You see, shadows add depth. Any decent artist will tell you that. A lack of shadows creates a flat and two-dimensional picture. Our beautifully complex personality is sanitized, simplified and stuffed into a box.
When we take the time to look into our bag of shadows, something magical happens. We begin to see ourselves for who we really are. We start to understand that we weren’t born to be perfect. Our greatest qualities are tethered to our most feared flaws.