Now is the Time for Authenticity, Shadows and All
I hold the well-being of all others close to my heart every single day.
I get wrapped up in trying to sort out my own emotional world, which can lead to self-absorption.
I accept that I am a complicated, emotional being with a rich internal world that is hard to explain to others, and that there is an immense amount of beauty in those complications.
I feel defensive that I can feel judged for my approaches to my life, work, and relationships.
I understand that I have blocks which I am not always able to see, and I am constantly trying to assess them to make myself a better friend, family-member, and lover.
Why doesn’t everyone else see their own blocks and change it up?
I support others wholeheartedly in their endeavors, even when, and especially because, they are similar to mine.
My moon in Scorpio screams, “Why are they more successful than me?”
I feel my intuition deeply.
Where the hell is my intuition when I need it?
To be spiritual means to have compassion for the multitude of issues that my friends, community, and the world at large goes through.
I get frustrated, irritated, annoyed at people who don’t seem to be doing their work or taking responsibility for their actions.
To be spiritual means to not get angry.
I get angry.
* * * * *
When you look at most kids, they are running around, literally screaming out their truth left and right.
Some have already been taught to hide a bit, or they may have had other hindrances that obscure their full personalities. But for the most part, they know what they want, know what they like and don’t like, and their seeming contradictions mean basically nothing to them.
But then we grow up.
I can’t quite remember when the messages starting coming through for me, but I can recall always being seen as the “good” kid and one of the few that adults enjoyed having around (I pretty much preferred to be around adults rather than children from probably age 5 on). I liked being seen as mature, smart, and worldly (this, of course, is how I thought I was being seen; the truth of the matter is that I was probably appreciated most for sitting quietly as the adults talked).
The older I got, the more I wanted to be seen as mature, but at the same time, I began to hit up against an internal world that seemed mostly connected to daydreams of stardom when I was younger, that became downright tumultuous as I hit my teens.
Knowing how to properly express those feelings was not a part of my learning. I’m guessing the same is true for most of you who are reading this.
We are raised in a culture where the expression of anything negative, frustrated, angry, selfish, painful, or taboo is not allowed. In turn, we push these aspects of ourselves down into our crevices, where it hangs out in our tissues and organs and muscles and is expressed in passive-aggressiveness, or straight up aggressiveness towards others, and usually, some form of physical disease.
I know many people who are deeply engaged with healing the planet, whether that be through environmental work, political change, the Black Lives Matter movement, feminism, Indigenous People’s rights, and many are doing so from an intersectional approach.
But I see a lot of people missing out on the healing that has to happen within themselves, even as they ‘fight’ the good fight externally. Because all of the issues on our planet stem from cultural, religious, and nationalistic shadows, while simultaneously existing inside of us – aspects we have as a collective decided to push down for sometimes hundreds of years in order to maintain a semblance of keeping our shit together.
If you haven’t noticed, our shit is not together.
* * * * *
Now is the time for authenticity.
What does that mean, exactly, the word ‘authentic’?
Merriam-Webster has a few definitions that I certainly found interesting:
a : worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact
b : conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features
c : made or done the same way as an original
d : not false or imitation : real, actual
e : true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character
Let’s make the definition concrete with the work we do to be our true selves. For most people, that means starting with some basic digging work.
- What are the feelings you immediately push down as soon as they come up?
- What do you spend time talking about to your friends, family, or partner(s)?
- What reactions do you have when things don’t seem to be going the way you want them to?
With these questions, you can begin to uncover some of your habitual patterns that are rooted in the shadow. Some answers to the first question might be: fear, irritation, anger, sadness. The second question might yield answers like: I complain about work, or how another friend is acting, or my views of what is happening in the world. Third question might look something like this: I blame someone/something else; I think I’m awful at everything I do; life is unfair to me in particular.
These are not easy answers to admit to yourself, even in the smallest way. It takes time and work to even be honest with yourself about your own point-of-view. We can see it all day for someone else, but it’s damn hard on our ego to admit it about ourselves to ourselves.
This is where compassion comes in; trying holding it in your heart as you excavate with your hand.
Only then can you begin the process of learning how to accept it.
* * * * *
What are some common manifestations of the shadow, and in which direction are you trying to head?
This question comes up a lot when I talk to students and friends about the shadow. I believe we ultimately need to figure out within ourselves how we want to integrate the shadow and express our authenticity, but here are a few loose guidelines of what that might look like:
- Do you find yourself bragging about your accomplishments, or notice others doing this, and you feel annoyed by it? (the shadow side of that is needing validation and constantly searching for it outside of yourself). Middle ground = an ability to allow your accomplishments to be seen, but the energy around them being forced to be seen by others is removed
- Do you find yourself never at the front, even though you want to be at least some of the time? (the shadow side of that is the same as above). Middle ground = stoking the inner fire of self-worth, gently telling fear to take a back seat and challenging yourself to step up at least some of the time, and see it fully through; still give yourself plenty of space to sit back when you need to
- Are you constantly giving to others, whether it’s your time, energy, gifts, and love, and feel like you aren’t getting those in return at the same level? (the shadow side of that is doing these things in order to receive love, believing you won’t get it if you hang back). Middle ground= give yourself a little time to get to know someone before overly “feeding” them, whether this be with words, actions, or physical gifts. This is a way to cut down on creating the giver/taker dynamic.
- Do you find yourself consistently alone and feel you lack community, even though you try to nurture it? (the shadow side is that you create distance often before even meeting people due to deep and profound trust issues). Middle ground = while working on your core trust issues, seek out communities of like-minded people and test the waters with expressing small parts of yourself that you feel you can give more freely, without ripping yourself apart
- Does it seem that you aren’t accomplishing your goals even though you are going after them full force? (the shadow side is about control, which involves needing things to happen, period, and often on a specific timeline in order to feel safe, secure, and loved). Middle ground = use things like EFT in order to release pent-up energy around your goals, and to shift control issues at a cellular level. Let others help, even in small ways, as a challenge to needing to do it all yourself
The ultimate goal of integrating the shadow is not to get rid of those less than shiny parts of yourself, but to allow them to be a part of who you are so that they aren’t the one secretly in control. I’ve also personally found that expressing my shadow qualities to friends (or in the case above, the world) diminishes their impact. Because they want to be seen just as much as your “good” stuff. And they can add richness and fullness to your life when you get creative with how you want to express them in an ultimately healthy manner.
Learn more about the Metamorphosis program, where we dive deeper into shadow work, here.