As Carl Jung was quoted as saying, 'There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection'.
The shadow side of ourselves is the part we reject , repress or suppress. These parts of ourselves are not necessarily negative, yet we may see them as so. For example if you were raised in a competitive household, you may try to reject your gentle, sensitive side.
We contain all things - highs and lows, saint and sinner, puritan and hedonist, insecurity and confidence etc .... It is about accepting that you are more than just what you show to the world. True self-esteem comes through being authentic and compassionate with yourself, and this will only occur if we accept our whole self, darkness & light. It doesn't mean allowing your shadow to take over your personality, but finding constructive expression and release, ie aggression released through sports and exercise; stress released through meditation.
I know for myself I was a hedonist when young and have become more puritanical as I have grown up...although I do still have hedonistic tendencies. I accept that this is me and find a greater balance since embracing this part of my shadow, instead of suppressing it.
Ishin Yoshimoto, Buddhist priest, developed The Three-Question Reality Check or naikan, which means 'looking inward'. It's purpose is to develop a more expanded, realistic view of yourself. So you pick a person you know and ask yourself three questions -
1. What have I received from _____________?
2. What have I given to _______________?
3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused____________?
(Sourced from Everyday Enlightenment, By Dan Millman)
When we look at how we have been the source of worry, trouble, and inconvenience, it can transform our attitudes from resentment to gratitude to others who we may now realise have given us more than we had previously thought.
It is actually a great relief when we accept ourselves just as we are. Yeh, I'm not perfect, you're not perfect and that is perfectly okay. We are all falliable human beings....sometimes we are patient, sometimes impatient, sometimes we are confident, other times insecure. When we embrace our own quirks or foibles, we will be more open to being compassionate with others imperfections also.
The beauty of accepting our whole self is that we can also poke a bit of fun at our quirks and idiosyncrasies. To laugh at ourselves is to take the stress out of everyday life. We always have a CHOICE about how we respond to life....why not laugh instead of stress?
As parents we can model this ability to laugh at ourselves, so as to help children appreciate the silliness and humour in everyday life. I feel so light and refreshed when I can laugh at my own personality quirks and minor mistakes.
Healthy laughter rather than laughter which hurts others.....we have a saying at home 'it has to be funny or fun for everyone'.
So as Socrates stated 'Know thyself'......let's open our shadow sides up to the world, accepting our whole selves and letting go of the self-importance that goes along with trying to be 'perfect' or having an unauthentic constructed mask.
How freeing to walk in the world without the burden of defending yourself or judging others. To embrace ALL parts of ourselves and laugh at our silliness and imperfections.
Let's all help develop our children's ability to laugh at themselves and develop a wonderful sense of humour. What a life skill to have!