We all know that we should love ourselves just the way we are, but it’s not always easy to do. For many women, body image is a huge issue. You’re constantly bombarded with images of airbrushed celebrities and “perfect” bodies, and it’s tough not to feel like you need to compare yourself to them. But what if there was another way?
What if you could learn to love your body just the way it is without having to change a thing? Shadow work can help you do just that. Keep reading for more information on what shadow work is and how it can help you build a better relationship with your body.
What Is Shadow Work?
Shadow work is the act of exploring the unconscious parts of yourself that you typically keep hidden. This could be classified as baggage or scarring from past experiences, but it also includes ugly personality traits that you may refrain from admitting to yourself. Though shadow work can (and could) be done independently, it might benefit you to visit a licensed therapist – especially if your memories are known to haunt you quite frequently/to a severe degree.
What Is Your Inner Shadow?
Your inner shadow is made up of the things you don’t want to admit about yourself. It’s the parts of you that you’re ashamed of or embarrassed by. It might be aspects of your personality that you keep hidden, or it could be physical “flaws” that you wish you could change. Basically, anything that makes you feel less than perfect is part of your shadow.
Carl Jung, a famous psychologist, popularized the idea of an inner shadow self. He explained it as your hidden side that consists of all the suppressed qualities and aspects of yourself. He also believed in something called the collective unconscious, which contained eight archetypes:
- Persona: The mask you wear to show the world while you protect your inner self
- Hero: The one who always does what’s right and stands up for others
- Shadow: Your darkness – everything you suppress or deny about yourself
- Wise old man: A personification of the self that contains your wisdom
- Trickster: A mischievous part of you that often gets you into trouble; your dark side
- Anima: An image of an idealized woman that draws people into their feminine side
- Animus: A part that idealizes self-realization
- Self: The center of the personality or psyche — your conscious awareness
Jung defined the shadow archetype to be the underside of your personality, whether that darkness is emotional or immoral.
What Happens If You Ignore Your Inner Shadow?
There are tons of reasons why you might want to ignore your inner shadow. Maybe you’re afraid of what you’ll find, or maybe you just don’t think it’s worth exploring. But the truth is, if you ignore your shadow self, it will only get bigger and darker.
That’s because the things you repress have a way of coming back to haunt you. They might manifest as anxiety, negative emotions, depression, or addiction. Or they might show up as relationship issues or anger management problems. If you don’t deal with your shadow self, it will eventually find a way to come out – and it’s usually in a not-so-pretty way.
How Can Shadow Work Help Improve Body Image?
One of the biggest benefits of shadow work is that it can help you learn to love your body just the way it is. While exploring the things you don’t like about yourself, you can start to understand why they bother you so much. And once you understand them, it’s easier to accept them.
For example, let’s say you’re unhappy with a part of your body that you feel is too big. If you can’t seem to stop thinking about it, it’s probably because there’s something deeper going on. Maybe you’re afraid of being seen as weak or unworthy. Or maybe you’re afraid that people will think less of you if they see that part of your body.
Whatever the reason may be, exploring it through shadow work can help you come to terms with it. And once you come to terms with it, it will be easier to love and accept that part of your body – even if you can’t change it.
What Is The Goal Of Shadow Work Prompts And Exercises?
The shadow self is an important aspect of who you are, and it should be accepted, not ignored. It’s all about bringing the unconscious mind to your conscious awareness. Shadow work helps you to become more aware of your different sides so that you can learn to accept all parts of yourself. This type of work can be both therapeutic and spiritual, providing insights into your own psyche.
If you have been really good at avoiding your shadow in the past- for example, because it is extremely different from how you see yourself or what impression you want to give off- then shadow work is admitting that shadows exist and there is a willingness to learn more about them.
If your shadow is connected to trauma, the goal of this work would be to help you process that trauma so that you can accept the part of yourself that was suppressed or ridiculed throughout your life. By owning up to your own shadow and making the unconscious conscious, you gain an understanding of how your thoughts and emotions inspire your actions. With this knowledge comes power- now you have control over your life and can start living deliberately and authentically.
Doing shadow work can be difficult and challenging, but it is also incredibly rewarding. By exploring how your shadow affects your personality, you can learn to love and accept all parts of yourself – even the parts you might be ashamed of. And in the process, you might just find that you’re not so different from everyone else after all.
Other Benefits That Come With Shadow Work
There are lots of benefits that come with accepting our shadow selves; here are some of them:
1. Gain More Confidence, Self-awareness, And Self-esteem
Confidently achieving your goals starts with accepting yourself, shadows, and all. When you no longer try to hide parts of yourself that you don’t like, self-doubt disappears. And without self-doubt weighing you down, confidence is free to soar.
While you become more self-aware of less desirable traits, which you typically try to hide, these can actually be valuable assets. However, if they are weaknesses, it is helpful to understand them better so that you can manage them more effectively. You are least in control of your shadow when you remain unaware of its existence.
2. Improved Decision-making
Your shadow self contains all of the aspects of yourself that you have suppressed or tried to ignore. When you’re not in touch with your shadow, it’s easy to make decisions based on what you think you should do instead of what you really want to do.
However, when you take the time to get to know your shadow, you can start making decisions from a place of authenticity. You’ll be able to tap into your true desires and find solutions that are aligned with your values.
3. Self-Reflection And A Deeper Understanding Of Yourself And Others
One of the benefits of shadow work is that it helps you understand yourself on a deeper level. By exploring the parts of yourself that you’ve been avoiding, you can start to see the world through a new lens.
In addition, shadow work can also help you understand other people better. When you’re able to see the shadows in yourself, it becomes easier to see the shadows in others. And when you can see the shadows in others, it’s easier to have compassion for them.
4. Greater Clarity And Focus
When you’re trying to ignore your shadow self, it’s easy to become scattered and unfocused. Your mind is constantly trying to keep the shadows at bay, which takes up a lot of energy. As a result, you might find it difficult to concentrate or stick with anything for very long.
However, when you embrace your shadow side, you’ll find that you have more mental clarity and focus. You’ll be able to put your attention on what you want to achieve without being pulled in a million different directions
5. More Meaningful Relationships
Relationships are built on trust and honesty, two things that are difficult to come by when you’re trying to hide parts of yourself. When you’re not being authentic, it’s hard to let people in and form deep, meaningful connections.
However, when you do shadow work, you open yourself up to the possibility of forming more intimate relationships. By sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings with others, you create a space for true connection. And when you’re authentic with others, they’re more likely to be authentic with you.
6. Discover Your Hidden Talent
By uncovering the “gold in your shadow bags,” or your inner strengths and resources, you can overcome anything you once thought was too difficult. Although it may seem like there is more darkness than light when looking at your shadow side, usually, the opposite is true. There is so much potential for goodness that just never had a chance to develop before. However, by doing some form of shadow work, you give this hidden side of yourself permission to come out and show you what growth looks like.
7. Self Compassion And Self Acceptance
One of the hardest things to do is sit with your “dark side” and have compassion for it. However, this is one of the bravest and most worthwhile things you can do for yourself. By recognizing that these aspects of yourself exist, you are able to accept them as a part of who you are. And when you can accept yourself, warts and all, you open up the possibility for true self-love.
Shadow work can be difficult and uncomfortable, but the rewards of exploring the shadow aspects of yourself are more than worth it. When you’re able to confront your shadow self, you open yourself up to a world of possibilities. You’ll find that you’re more confident, decisive, and focused. You’ll also develop deeper relationships and discover hidden talents. So if you’re ready to start exploring your shadow, there’s no time like the present.
Want to learn more about how shadow work can help you improve your body image and self-esteem? Contact Lesley today for a free consultation.