Disclaimer: This post may include affiliate links. That means if you click and make a purchase through one of our links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We're grateful for your support in helping Bloom and Manifest stay up and running! For more info- see our disclosure page.
We all have a hidden shadow side and the less we acknowledge it, the darker it gets.
It’s not the funnest or easiest thing to talk about, but it’s one of the most important parts of our spiritual awakening journey and healing process.
This idea of having an inner shadow self originates from Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. His teachings on the shadow make up the foundation of the modern “shadow self” we hear about in spirituality and psychology.
Shadow work as a component of self development and self improvement also stem from Jungian teachings- you can reference his work if you’d like a deeper understanding on the origins of this shadow concept.
As I mentioned- although it’s not always easy, addressing the shadow self is one of the most important parts of healing, spiritual awakening and stepping into our true power.
I’ll go into more about what the shadow self is, aspects of the shadow self, how it can appear in our life unconsciously, and how to do shadow work so that you can begin deepening your self awareness and healing empowerment practices.
What is the shadow self?
I can’t emphasize it enough- facing and addressing the shadow self is one of the biggest steps we can take on our journey of self growth.
In order to know how to do shadow work, we must first identify what the shadow is.
So, how do you know what your shadow self is?
It can show up in a lot of ways and can often look like the following:
- Negative Thoughts
- Operating from Ego
- Judgement of others and self
- Lack of Accountability
- Lack of Self Awareness
- Attachment to “Victim Mentality”
- Feeling Superior to Others
- Having a “God Complex”
- Being Biased
- Being overly guarded from other people
- Playing Small
- Hiding Your Gifts
- Not trusting yourself
- Not being able to admit you are wrong
- Allowing triggers to derail you or your life
….these are just a few ways our shadow selves can show up. Trust me, there are MANY other ways it can appear.
Recognizing the traits of ours that stem from our shadow self is where true healing and awakening begins.
These traits and the examples above are all side effects of needing to examine our shadow and perhaps do some shadow work.
The compilation of traits, qualities, memories and experiences that have hurt us and may have been repressed are our shadow self.
All of the parts we try to ignore about ourselves, our “dark” side or parts that we hide from the world… those too.
We often reject these parts without recognizing what a big influence they have on our life.
Until we accept, address and face the shadow self- it ultimately can run the show in our life without us even being conscious of it.
So by all means, “love and light” your way through life, but if you’ve not examined the shadow or begun the process of shadow work… you may be missing out on a huge opportunity to heal and really expand yourself for abundance and love.
Before you begin shadow work…
Prior to beginning your dive into the shadow- please consider a few things.
Have you developed a solid self-care practice?
Shadow work can be emotionally overwhelming, stressful, and flat out challenging. It’s good to have a handful of healthy self-care habits and routines that you can utilize to help yourself decompress after getting into shadow work.
Check out my self-care guide here.
Have you developed a strong sense of self-worth and self-love?
If not, I suggest you begin there instead. Shadow work can be overwhelming, triggering and challenging- if you do not have a strong sense of self-worth it may leave you feeling worse off than when you began.
So please, if you are someone who struggles with loving yourself or seeing your own inner strength and power- begin your shadow work journey by first building your self-esteem and self-love.
Examine if you are ready for truth (or if you’re still seeking to be coddled and validated).
May sound harsh but many people are not ready to face the truth that resides in the depth of their shadows.
You have to come from a neutral and open space. Regardless of if strong emotions come up or not- you should be in a place where you feel confident to accept the root of your triggers and your challenges. Honor the truth that lies within your shadow self.
Know that you are not your emotions or your thoughts.
What I mean by that is- you may think negative things but that does not mean they are true or that they define you.
You may experience struggle, but you are not cursed. You may experience grief, but you are not unlucky. You may have experienced bad treatment from others, but you are not unworthy of love.
Have a solid understanding that though you may deeply feel and experience specific thoughts or emotions, you are not those things and negative experiences do not define you.
Release any shame or self-judgement.
If you’ve been through trauma or have stored negative experiences within you, be sure you’re in a place where you are able to release shame and self-judgement. When we go through spiritual growth, we are essentially creating space for new experiences and new vibrations. Because of that, we have to be able to release shame and self-judgement for anything we may have been through.
(Note: If you feel you have deep wounds and trauma that require external guidance or professional help unpacking- please be encouraged to seek support.)
What is shadow work?
Simply put, shadow work is taking the time to address and begin healing the unconscious parts of ourselves that manifest in negative ways.
When we identify the aspects of our shadow that need attention, we can begin true healing and growth. Allow this work to encourage you and present opportunities to expand to your next personal level.
We all have parts of ourselves that we tend to hide or even ignore. Limiting beliefs or negative self talk, grief or feelings of isolation- it varies from individual to individual.
Unpacking the aspects of our shadow self and discovering the root of its effects is part of the journey when healing or spiritually awakening.
Start by identifying the following:
Are there any ancestral or familial behaviors or beliefs that you’ve absorbed into your being? (Examples: racism, poverty, abuse, helplessness)
Oftentimes we inherit traits or mentalities from our family and it can develop into negativity within ourselves. When repressed or unaddressed- this becomes a part of our shadow self.
This doesn’t mean they are bad or did anything wrong (usually), but when we become aware of the patterns or beliefs we may have been programmed with- powerful healing and growth can occur. Identify any beliefs or behaviors that you currently notice within yourself that may have been absorbed from negative family experiences or teachings.
Examine limiting beliefs
Do you currently operate with limiting beliefs? Do you often think thoughts like “that could never happen for me” or “I could never achieve that” or “I grew up this way so I’ll always live this way?” …if so, you may be operating from limiting beliefs.
Shadow work involves examining beliefs about ourselves and about life. When we identify areas we may be blocking or restricting ourselves- we can begin the process of healing the shadow.
You May Also Like: How to Manifest in 7 Easy Steps
Addressing and caring for the inner child
Inner child work is one of the most powerful things I’ve discovered on my shadow work and healing journey.
It’s as simple as “talking” to your inner child. Envision yourself as a kid again, and tune into what you needed to hear or needed overall as a child. Tell yourself what you needed to hear. Maybe it was “I love you” or “I support you” or “I’m proud of you.”
Look at pictures of yourself as a child and remember what it felt like to be little. Acknowledge the innocence of your inner child and visualize connecting with yourself at that age. It might seem weird but just envisioning your current self talking to or hugging your self as a kid can be so healing.
Shadow work often involves us identifying and learning from our ego.
When we identify the difference between our ego (false self) and our soul/higher self (true self) it becomes much easier to grow and heal.
The ego does the following:
- Views everything as separate
- Acts from jealousy or anger
- Focuses on power and materialism
- Blocks us with Pride
- Denies our own need to heal or improve
The higher self does the following:
- Accepts easily
- Views everything as one and connected
- Acts from a place of love
- Is grateful, friendly and open
- Appreciates simplicity
- Acknowledges their part in things
- Focuses on the present moment
This is one of the hardest parts- learning how to view our triggers as teachers.
Everytime someone triggers us- they are simply pointing to something within ourselves that we need to heal.
This may be a hard one to accept, but it’s true.
If we are not triggered by something, that means we are coming from a place of understanding and are grounded and connected to our higher self.
But when someone triggers us, that means we are being shown an area within our own self that needs to be addressed.
Negative patterns and habits
Shadow work is about looking into the darker parts of ourselves. This means our negative qualities or bad habits. These things often reveal to us what needs healing.
Being able to admit and acknowledge our negative patterns and habits is a huge healing step in itself.
How to do shadow work
So we talked about what shadow work is, how to identify our shadow, things we should be aware of before and during shadow work… now lets go over a few things we can use to help guide us through our journey of working with our shadow self.
When assessing all the ways shadow appears in our life, and where the root of these qualities come from, its very helpful to journal and write down everything we discover. This helps us to process and come to terms with our emotions and experiences.
Download my Self-Discovery Journal Prompts Below!
44 Questions to Ask Yourself to Identify Blocks and Step Into Your Truth
We can do a lot of powerful shadow work while in meditation. Some of my favorite shadow work to do in meditation is connecting with my inner child and identifying what she needs/needed.
I mentioned this above but sometimes we need help when diving into our wounds and our shadow self. There are plenty of incredible and qualified (shadow work trained!) therapists out there. If you feel you need that type of support in this journey (many do) then begin your search for a therapist that fits well with you. Don’t be afraid to talk with several and “interview” them until you find the right one.
A spiritual coach or life coach can help guide us through our shadow work and give us tools to use to empower ourselves through this process of shadow work.
I’ve had the opportunity of working with a wonderful coach who helped me to identify the parts of my shadow self that were seeking to be healed. It’s a huge benefit to get an outsider’s perspective and advice on how to use this work to help ourselves grow and become more free to walk into our best self.
Addressing ancestral / familial programming, examining our limiting beliefs, caring for our inner child, acknowledging our ego, and reassessing our negative patterns and habits are all wonderful ways to begin the journey of shadow work.
Doing so helps us to to further heal and grow as a person.
Doing shadow work can lead to deep spiritual growth and awakening, finding a sense of purpose, truly healing from negative past experiences, and clearing our blocks so we can manifest the life we want.
This work often leads us to be able to navigate challenges with an optimistic and empowered mindset.
Only focusing on “love and light” has its limitations. That approach does not allow us to face our full self, our shadow and our wounds. True healing and awakening calls for deep dives into the shadow. Its a must to be able to move forward to the next level.
Hopefully this guide was helpful to you. Shadow work is a deep and complex practice with so many moving parts, but my goal was to offer a starting point for working with the shadow.
Let me know what you think- have you experienced growth from shadow work? Have you begun your shadow work journey? Would love to hear about it.