Think of one or two of your flaws, your weak spots.
And no, not the flaws or weak spots you’d offer up in an interview (i.e. “I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m not very good with numbers). Not what I’m talking about here. Not flaws or weak spots that are endearing, cute or insignificant.
Think of the dark ones, the ugly, the truly unappealing. The ones that, after they’re exposed, make you want to curl up in the corner of the room.
These are what psychologist, Carl Jung, said make up the “shadow side” of our personality. It’s the side of us made up predominately of primitive, negative emotions and impulses like lust, greed, selfishness, envy, anger…
Or, as I hear it (and tell it), on phone calls with friends and clients, it’s:
spiraling out of control
smothering my partner
or withdrawing completely
Like I said, not the stuff you’d offer up in an interview.
But it’s a part of you, no? It’s part of me, too.
Now, as a coach, it’s my job to encourage and facilitate change. To help you be the best version of you. But, there’s this truth that’s been following me around lately:
>> Being “better,” doing “better” isn’t all there is and isn’t always the pathway to the “best version of you” <<
What if overcoming our ugliness (aka “changing”) isn’t as important as accepting ourselves as we are, ugly parts and all?
What if it’s within our acceptance that transformation actually happens.
Although Jung referred to this shadow side as the “reservoir for human darkness” he also called it the “seat of creativity” or the “true spirit of life.” So perhaps it’s in getting to know our ugliness (vs. pushing it away), that we could discover something quite beautiful.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting we give up on growth, on change… no, no, no. We don’t get up in people’s faces screaming, “Well, this is me! Deal with it!” Nor do we focus so much on the shadow side that we sink into a negativity that feels out of control.
Really, my suggestion is just to press the “Pause” button for a moment. Pause the resolutions and goal-oriented thinking, and spend time this winter weekend getting to know a bit about your shadow side.
>> What parts of yourself do you so desperately try to hide and/or change?
>> What might be at the root of those emotions/impulses?
>> What behaviors do you use to cover up these feelings?
>> What do you fear might happen if you allow this to be a part of who you are?
>> What could this part of yourself be telling you? What could it be looking for?
>> How could you show yourself some compassion?
This week, my professor defined intimacy as:
“Receiving someone for who they are, with their virtues and imperfections. Allowing someone to be real with you.”
If we hope to receive others in this way (which I know I do) we have to first receive ourselves in this way.
So, for now, I’m going to toss out the idea of a “better” you and a “better” me and instead propose we get on the path to a more real you, a more real me; the beautiful, the ugly, and everything in between.