How to Make Friends with Your Shadow (And Have More Integrity with Your Business)
My voice quivers.
“Please. Don’t turn on the light.”
“What are you afraid of?”
My shadow haunts me.
As I grow my business, my shadow lurks around every corner, asking me difficult questions and feeding my self-doubt. Why do I, as an experienced coach, still doubt my coaching skills? Why is this so hard? Why aren’t people investing in my program? Can’t they see they need to change?
Yep…there’s my shadow. I can’t escape.
Does your shadow haunt you too?
As you grow your business, you encounter your shadow over and over again. But it doesn’t have to be such a struggle. You can choose to step into the light and face the challenges of growth.
What choice will you make? Will you hide in the dark or step into the light?
“You cannot really have authorship of yourself unless and until you know yourself and that means all of yourself”,
What is a Shadow?
I was inspired to write this post after a recent Yoga Health Coaching Q&A call with our leader Cate Stillman.
I have limited “book knowledge” of shadow issues. Do I have real world experience? Hell ya!
Here’s a few ways our group of highly self-aware people defines shadow issues:
- “That part of us we’ve rejected, refuse to look at or that is hidden from our awareness. Subconscious.”, Lael Petersen, chief psychologist
- “One that’s hidden in the subconscious mind, and it influences me in day to day existence. When it’s brought into the light, it can be honored, accepted, and then can transform.” Denise Keenan, chief hypnotherapist
- “Fear of success….thrill of the chase and then freak out with follow through.”, Anna Berkelmans, chief rebel and rockstar coach
What Does Your Shadow Look Like?
Have you seen your physical shadow lately? Go for a walk toward the sunrise and take a few rights and lefts and turn around. Observe long, lanky, short and squat angles of yourself. Your shadow self encompasses your fears and your desires, and it can take on diverse sizes and shapes. Each shadow carries a particular energy too.
We have unique perceptions of what our shadow looks and feels like. In our Q&A call, here’s how we responded to the question: “What does your shadow look like?”:
- Lack of self-worth
- Separate, limited
- “I don’t have what it takes”
- Victim mode, fixed mindset
- “I can’t sustain this”
- “I’m unsupported, people don’t get what I’m doing”
- I am fooling people, pulling the wool over people’s eyes (Imposter Syndrome)
Is your Shadow Blocking your Potential?
When your shadow shows up, you feel like giving up. “It’s too damn hard!” You doubt your skills, knowledge and strength to persevere. The changes you need to make to grow your business feel insurmountable.
You know you can do it.
Body shaking, gut wrenching, mind blowing. Oh Ya! You’ve entered the shadow world.
How to Illuminate Your Shadow
“The fastest way is complete transparency…it is completely humiliating to the ego.”,
Want to confront your shadow issues? Reach your potential? Live a richer life?
I’ve collected 8 practices from our crew and several resources. Go ahead, dare to dance with your shadow. Try one, two or all of ‘em.
1. Honor The Body Thrive Habits:
Practice what you preach. Your daily rhythm is a potent source of integrated energy, from Earlier Lighter Dinner to Easeful Living. If you’re out of alignment with one or more of the habits, you lack confidence to shine your light on your shadow.
- Budget 20-30 minutes for this practice.
- List the 10 Body Thrive habits.
- Rate your integrity with each one of them (1: Ugh…it ain’t happening to 10: Yes…locked in and automated).
- Invest a few weeks tightening your weak links. You may find a few shadows lurking in the habits you are avoiding.
But, “the habits will only get you so far, you’ll still struggle with it…you’re not going to figure it out on your meditation cushion.”, Cate Stillman.
Next practice, please.
2. Witness Your Reactions:
“The more you pay attention to your behavior and emotions, the better chances you have of catching your shadow in the act.”
- Do you judge other people for being lazy?
- Do you cringe when your coworker starts one of her long winded stories?
- Are you jealous when you hear another coach selling an annual ticket?
- Do you long to be as efficient as your mother?
Numbers 1, 2, and 3: Yep, criticism, annoyance and jealousy are some of my shadow issues.
But what about number 4: longing or deep desire? Shadow issues aren’t always villainous. You may have some heroic shadows lurking behind your emotional reactions.
- Carry a notepad or your phone with you for a week.
- After you feel a surge of emotion towards another person (cue), note it.
- Ask yourself: How do I engage in the same behavior that gives rise to such disgust or admiration?
- Let your response lead you to what shadow issues you may be denying within you.
3. Illustrate Your Shadow:
If you are a creative spirit or you want to explore your creative side, this practice is for you. Pull out your drawing pad and markers.
- Schedule 30-60 minutes for this practice.
- Give shape, color, texture, symbols and energy to your shadow. What does she look like?
- Draw her opposite. What does your heroine side like?
- Post your picture on Facebook. Sharing your images will make them more real.
4. Write Your Shadow Story
“When you write, you invite your hidden parts to dance.”
Writing your shadow story deepens your awareness of what’s holding you back. Describe what keeps you in the shadows. Get full access to it. See it for what it is. When you recognize your relationship with your shadow, then you can make skillful, confident changes.
- Set a timer for 15-30 minutes.
- Ask your shadow the following questions to spark your story:
- Who are you?
- Why are you doing this to me?
- What do you want from me?
- What are you trying to show me?
- What do you have to teach me?
- And ask yourself these two questions:
- How do I sabotage myself in my business?
- What shadow issues do I need to digest to grow?
5. Make Friends with Your Shadow:
“Without friendliness and self-compassion, it is difficult to look at our darker stuff.”
Put your sword away. You will never win the battle against your shadow. Open your arms and greet your shadow with compassion. She is not evil. Your shadow contains unborn, brilliant energy. She may have the key to your next level of growth.
- Schedule a tea date with your shadow during daylight hours, when it’s less scary.
- Ask her the same questions from practice #4. You may be more comfortable speaking with her, rather than writing to her.
- Record your conversation. Listen to it over and over.
6. Embody Your Future Self:
“Your future self is real and you can see it… Your future self already has it figured out. Make it more real and start acting like it now.”
When you envision your future self, you definitely stir up some shadows. I have a tendency to project into the future and I seize up with fear, so much so that I paralyze myself from taking action. Sound familiar?
Instead of running away in fear, step into your discomfort with curiosity. Let your future self tell your current self what to do.
- Schedule 30-60 minutes for this practice.
- Read the following questions first and choose which ones appeal to you most. You can go left brain logical or right brain sensory. You don’t have to limit yourself. Be creative and invoke all your senses.
- What am I earning 5-10-20 year from now? Dream big!
- What does my impact statement look like? How many lives am I transforming? On what level?
- What does the future me look and feel like? What do I wear? What do I smell like? What do I eat? How do I walk?
- Set your timer for 5 minutes
- Close your eyes and envision who you are becoming.
- After the timer goes off, bring out your notepad or drawing pad.
- For the remaining time, Illustrate or author your responses.
- For the next week (or as long as you want) – act, speak, dress as if you were your future self. Write yourself a check for how much you want to earn in the next month. Buy yourself a new piece of jewelry, clothing. Take yourself out to an extravagant lunch, on your future self.
Do you know what I did for this one? I’ve been wearing my grandmother’s ring for a few years and it’s lost a few pearls. After our call, I took it to the jewelry repair shop. I’m replacing the missing pearls with precious stones. The future me does not walk around with missing parts. She is precious and damn worth it!
7. Explore Your Archetypes:
“We are the utterance of so many unclaimed hallelujahs rushing suddenly forth to bear witness to the birthing of our names”
Your shadow is not unidimensional She takes many different forms, depending on how the light (situation) shines on you and which “shadow expert” resource you consult. One of my favorite resources is Dominique Christina book: “This is Woman’s Work: Calling forth your inner counsel of wise, brave, crazy, rebellious, loving, luminous selves”.
In her book, Dominique provides a creative, yet challenging exploration of 20 different archetypes or “ways of positioning ourselves on the planet, what purposes they serve and in what ways they can hinder us”. While she considers “Shadow Woman” unique archetype, anyone one of the cast of characters could be hidden in your shadow.
I relate most to “Shadow Woman” (unborn, underdeveloped, waiting), “Rebel Woman” (persistent, action oriented, stubborn), “Journey Woman” (restless, explorative, flighty), and “Third Eye Woman” (vision, connected, self-doubt). When in-balance, your positive shadow qualities will arise almost without effort. When out-of balance, watchout, your shadow may suffocate you.
- Plan to do this practice over a course of a month or longer, allowing enough time to explore one archetype, one week at a time.
- Follow the google search on “shadow archetypes”
- Choose one resource.
- Choose any of the practices 1-7 to invite in a deeper connection with your shadows.
8. Seek Support
For some of us, our shadow “can be so deep that you can’t see it or speak it…It’s a sneaky devil. It’s always where you can’t see it”, Cate Stillman.
Shadow work is intense. But you don’t have to go at it alone. Here at Yoga Healer, we have 11 Ground Rules for Dynamic Groups. Our “rules” help attune and amplify our individual and group’s potential. Anyone of the rules can be applied to shadow work and how to apply group support to transform your relationship with your shadow. For this post, I chose: Engage your Edge:
“Growth means moving into new territory. Our growth has and edge; when you’re “all in”, your preference is to be at the edge. By its very nature, the edge is edgy – it’s unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and it leads to more growth. When your engage your edge, you step into new ways of being. Dynamic groups help us explore edges, take risks, and try on new ways of being. They allow us to evolve into emerging identities.”
Discomfort is your cue that you are in the shadow and on the edge of a break through. It’s the “breakdown before breakthrough” as Cate has so aptly highlighted.
We all have shadows, and we may need someone else’s light to reveal our own shadow.
So, connect with your group. Take a risk on yourself. Step into a new way of being.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
You cannot and do not have to evolve alone.
- Tell yourself right now: “I don’t have to go at this alone. I am not alone.”
- Then reach out to a friend, family, community member, counselor, hypnotist. You want your “shadow partner” to be someone you trust.
- Schedule a check in with your “shadow partner” every 1-2 months (or as often as you want). Ask your partner to reflect on your growth.
- Believe that as you take steps forward on your shadow journey, other people will reflect your new identity.
Can You Dissolve Your Shadow?
Whether you can or cannot dissolve your shadow, depends on who you ask but more importantly what you believe.
Your shadow changes as you shift into new light, new levels of growth in your business. You’ll be able to let go of some of the limiting patterns holding you back. But when you enter unfamiliar territory, your edge, your shadow issues will likely come back. Now you know you are evolving.
Where Do You Begin?
Don’t let all the ideas overwhelm you. Pick one. Dance with it for a week or more.
If the practice stirs up some growing pains, good! Now you know you are in the midst of your shadow.
When you are ready, move on to the next practice. Do as many practices as you want, as many times as you want.
Please. Turn the Light On
If you want to grow your business and enjoy the impact, income and lifestyle of your dreams, you need to know all of you.
Integrity is your intention.
So, flip the switch. Turn the light on.
Have fun. You are designing the life you want.
“Any time you are creating, the universe opens up space for you…the universe will support your efforts to define/create/author your identity”