Do you know your shadow self?

shaylee edwards
4 min readMar 11, 2023
My shadow..s. New Orleans, 2022

First, ‘shadow.’ What does that mean?

Your shadow is a collection of your behaviors, patterns of thinking, ways of relating, and lenses of perception that aren’t welcomed by your conscious self.

They’re the parts that you don’t think are good enough, you’re afraid you can’t control, and/or are related to experiences that are too painful to face head-on. You guessed it, not all of us are rolling with the same level of shade. Some of our shadows are pitch black, others just a fuzzy, beige’y gray. The ‘darker’ it is, the harder it is for you to see it, and the more fear (anxiety) you likely wrestle day-to-day.

Seeing your shadow aspects are acknowledging them as part of the spectrum of your experience and expression. It’s cute — we really do want to be good people. We so badly want to be that we’ll exclude parts of ourselves that might compromise us *thinking* that we are.

The aspects of yourself that you banish to your shadow aren’t erased from your expression or experience.

I like to explain shadows like dinosaur tails. Big ol’ bulky ones. You, as the dino, set things up with your hands. Then you turn around and knock them over with your tail. But, because you can’t see your own tail, you assume somebody or something else is knockin’ your stuff over.

Carl Jung says it a little more grown-up’ly —

‘Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.’

Let’s look at some examples.

Example 1:

Most adult humans have a fairly natural sexual urge. Our culture doesn’t really honor that inner experience and so we learn to suppress it into a shadow. Your sexual shadow might show up as you being critical of others who have a more open sexual experience. It might be distorted into some kind of behavior like secretive porn usage. Or you might ‘do nothing’ that shows signs of suppression and instead lose access to things that come with that kind of energy, like creativity and vitality.

Example 2:

I’ll put this plainly — darling, most everything that you’re judging in someone else is yours. Here’s an example — “My boss acts like he knows everything. He never listens. It’s his way or the highway..” You will 100% think this is who he is. And he might be. And yet, in most cases, if you looked for it, you’d probably find those same patterns somewhere in your own behavior. Maybe you’re that way with your kids. Maybe you’re that way about your religion. Maybe that’s the flavor of your inner dialogue.

Until you ‘integrate’ that aspect of yourself and Own it, it will Own you. That means that you’ll keep running into it in life and feeling some-type-of-way about it until you come to 1. See. 2. Accept. 3. Forgive. and 4. Start to change your own behavior.

Example 3:

‘I’m just a lil lamb and big, bad wolves keep getting me!’ This is one of my fav shadows to light up. Maybe you tried what I suggested in #2 and you’re like, ‘No, I am not a raging a$$hole. I’m actually a good person. That stuff isn’t me.’ Good, I’m happy you’re able to know that.

Your shadow here then is DENIAL of your power. It’s likely a pattern you learned through fear and pain. You probably gave away AWARENESS of your power for real reasons back in the day.

Here, the shadow is not being aware of your power to do something about your situation. You’ve abdicated your truth, ability to stand up for yourself, and/or belief in alternative possibilities.

(Of course, there are instances more complex than this, so please know I respect that and am happy to hear about situations you find outside of these short-post simplifications.)

You use a lot of energy keeping something in your shadow. It’s like constantly fidgeting with a shirt that you think looks a little too tight or revealing. You can’t relax. You might also be mildly to completely terrified of life. Your shadow is made of natural things you can’t control (as in example #1), ‘bad’ patterns you don’t think are ‘right’ (like #2), and your bad-ass and complete claim of power, worth, and intelligence (#3). Why wouldn’t you be a little wary of life with that mix?

Shadow work is coming to see these parts are legit and lovable, all of ’em. No matter what your mix of #1’s, 2’s, and 3’s, you can find peace with them. Which is the same as finding peace with yourself. Which is the same as finding peace with life.

Can you be shadow-free? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t want to be. ..Although at one time I did want to be. But that’s because part of my shadow was thinking that shadows were bad. Nah babe, they’re the yang to our yin. Yes, of course, tidy up the parts that rain on your parade and the parts that aren’t respectful to other people. But the rest, f’n celebrate it.

The shadow contains some of the coolest parts of being human — raw aliveness, a sense of adventure, a portal to infinite potential, the end ranges of emotion, creativity, individuality, sexuality, and alllll the joys of creaturehood.

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Thank you for reading ‘n being ❤ Visit me at www.habitbook.com to book sessions to come to find, love, and live in your wholeness.

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