A career that doesn’t feel aligned. Partnerships that feel inauthentic. Dreams that are never fulfilled. I’ve heard remnants of echoes such as these repeated so often that it would be easy to dismiss them as a collective wound. The reality is these sentiments are the results of unhealthy collective expectations.
This world has taught women to hide what it doesn’t want to see. We are asked to tuck away our loud, our lazy, our angry, our bitch. The consequence is that we spend enormous amounts of energy suppressing parts of ourselves. And until we stop suppressing and embrace our shadows, healing and authentic self-acceptance are distant dreams.
What’s a Shadow?
The shadow hides in shame in the dark alleys, secret passages, and ghost-filled attics of your consciousness. To have a shadow is not to be flawed, but to be complete.” –Deepak Chopra
The shadow represents parts of ourselves we’ve rejected and deemed unacceptable and shameful. Usually, shadows are created in childhood. For example, if we were raised by parents who demanded compliance, we might have tucked away our assertive nature to become perfectionist people pleasers. If we were taught by a teacher who belittled coloring outside the lines, we might have suppressed our creativity in favor of being more like our left-brained peers.
When we tuck away parts of ourselves within the subconscious, we don’t assign them to a specific incident; instead, we accept them as our identity, a part that needs to be suppressed. To become whole, our shadows need to see the light and the first step is finding them.
How to Find Our Shadows
When I talk to clients about shadow work, an image of Voldemort splitting his soul into Horcruxes often pops into my head. The way we disconnect from parts of ourselves isn’t that much different, and when we are disconnected, it can feel like our life lacks soul.
The good news is that we don’t need a Horcrux hunt to find our shadows; they will find us. They are hidden beneath our triggers, limiting beliefs, and patterns. When working with female entrepreneurs, I often see shadows manifest as:
- Imposter syndrome (I’m not good enough.)
- Underpricing services (I’m not worthy.)
- Perfectionism (Making mistakes isn’t safe.)
- Self-sabotage (I don’t deserve this because I’m bad.)
Healing opportunities are created when we own our triggers and don’t project them onto others. Next time you feel triggered, get excited! It’s a beautiful opportunity to find and integrate your shadows.
Working With Your Shadow
When you feel triggered, find a space where you can be, close your eyes, ask your trigger what it wants you to know, and then feel. Don’t “fix” or change the message; just sit with it and observe. As they say, “You have to feel it, to heal it,” and your shadows are desperate for your attention.
When you feel intuitively that you’ve fully sat with your shadow, it’s time to fact-check the message. Are you really not worthy, bad, undeserving?
Spoiler Alert: Sometimes we make “bad” choices, and that’s okay, but that doesn’t mean we are bad.
Also, it’s important to understand that integrating your shadow doesn’t mean you let it take over. Integrating your shadow means you stop suppressing it and accept that it’s an aspect of who you are; it’s not all of who you are. For example, if a part of you believes you are bad, own that belief, but don’t let your inner bad girl take over your life.
To quote Brené Brown, “Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.” Shadows thrive in darkness, and darkness can seem like a scary place, but darkness is where life forms and the opportunity to be seen, known, and loved is born.
Our shadows are waiting to be reclaimed. Reintegrating our shadows and shining light on them is the key to full self-acceptance, and when we step into that power, we open the door to fulfilling our roles as heart-centered, authentic female leaders.