We like to believe that we have a good idea of who we are but do we really? I mean when was the last time you took time to actually contemplate your life?….
We currently live in a society with many advantages which our parents and granparents could only have dreamt of. Many of the things we now enjoy, back in their time would have seemed like science fiction. Technology has really taken off and in many ways has made our lives easier to handle, however with it the competitive dynamic by which most of us now live has increased. This is even more apparent in the west, I am referring to the “rat race” or “dog eat dog” world Niccolo Machievelli often referred to. Although in this article I won’t debate his philosophy of life, I have to admit many of his theories are much more predominant now than they were back then. Technology is great but so far as we find ourselves in control of it, no the other way around.
I often meet people who tell me they are feeling depressed, burned out, angry, confuse, or a mixture of all the emotions already mentioned. Looking superficially at their lives, one could say they are “successful”. They have fancy cars, big houses, all the “toys” one can imagine, can travel or buy whatever they wish, yet they are very disconnected. Upon closer inspection I find it interesting to see how these people feel isn’t that different than those whose economical life lies on the other end of the spectrum. The common denominator seems to be “lack of self knowledge” The more I dig into it, the more I’ve come to notice the already common patterns…
Most of us don’t spend any time or invest a quarter of the effort on getting to know ourselves as we do on trying to “succeed”, however human beings are not meant to be machines or to be ran like them– we are much more complex than a technological tool. We need rest, we need peace, we need love, we need safety, we need to experience joy; not just moments of happiness; none of which can be satisfied with material things.
The more I inspect this matter, the more I realize, it is not entirely our fault. We are being preconditioned not to look at ourselves. We grow afraid to look at who we really are. We make choices mostly based on survival and by the time most of us get older, we don’t even recognize who is the person on the mirror looking back. That is the primordial “life crisis” which tends to happen at intervals.
Most see life’s “crises” as something to medicate and/or avoid, however such crises are life’s gifts to us. It is life trying to help us get back to who we originally were…our essence. It is trying to get you not to be stuck in the past but to remain true to your essence, your dreams, based on your heart, mind and soul (unity instead of division.) Life knows there is no reason why you can’t have it all. Life isn’t’ asking you to burn yourself out in exchange for materialistic things with no joy in them. Life is trying to tell you… you can have the abundance and also the fulfillment but you will need to look in and discover yourself once more.
Looking inside of us scares us all. We are afraid investing the time to look in won’t be worth it; in reality what we are afraid of is that we will discover something terrible about ourselves. We are afraid we will experience too much pain, fear, sadness, anguish, anger, uncertainty, guilt or shame and we won’t be able to handle it, live with it, much less transmute it. We experience a subconscious programmed fantasy that if we don’t look at ourselves closely, no one else will. We believe if something hurts, bothers or scares us, the best thing to do is not to look at it; that way we delude ourselves into being ok.
We have been preconditioned by the media that our best option is to escape life, for if we were to open Pandora’s box we won’t have any idea how to close it. What they don’t tell us is, we don’t have to close it; we have to dust it, clean it, organize it. We need to get rid of things which no longer serve us; when all is said and done we can add new things to our magical box while maintaining the treasures we collected while on this road called life.
My proposal to you is to dare to open it, but to do so slowly, so as not be left feeling scared. Today a little bit, next week a little more, next month another little bit and so on. That way little by little we will start looking at each part of our psyche and soul and have the energy to rearrange whatever needs to be moved inside. By following the structure I am proposing, we give ourselves enough time to process what comes out.
Running away from ourselves is madness, sooner or later life will catch up with you and if you have been focusing on not looking in, the world as you know it will start to crumble. By the time your shadow catches up with you, you will feel sad, distressed or you might experience a mental crisis or a complete breakdown; the point is, it will happen sooner or later, the question is “how”. Do you want to meet your shadow on your terms or do you want to be overrun by it? So why push things to the limit? Better get down to work and go for it.
I am not trying to sound as if shadow work is easy work. I speak as someone who tried to outran her shadow and failed. I had to collapse, experience total loss, void, pain, anger and felt as if I couldn’t do life anymore, before I realized I had the strength within me to face myself. When I did, I started to understand that by looking at myself on my terms I could handle the range of emotions better. There are still times when I will be triggered and will experience a cluster of emotions which leaves me feeling drained or even wondering whether or not I will be able to make it to the other side, yet more and more I have grown confident that I will. I came to understand that by looking in…by “purging” I allow new energy in; after the “dark night of the soul” I arise feeling renew, healthy, happier, and more like myself; the real me. Easy?…clearly not, if it was everyone would have no problem doing it and our world would be a much better place.
Shadow work is a colossal journey but the most important one. It will require your effort, it implies accepting that you don’t know yourself to begin with and then learning to own who you really are; people who do this are not freaks, odd, weird, eccentric….they are brave.
I have always been called and “old soul” and a “nerd”, I won’t deny I have always liked knowing the “why” of things, however my journey towards looking in started when I was twenty years old; on and off. I am now 40, so I know what I am telling you is not easy nor a fast process … so what? What I am saying should not discourage you, rather it should encourage you. I am now 40 and for the last 10 years I noticed how I started coming into my own; now I am starting to not just embrace myself but own myself. I like who I see in the mirror. My journey of introspection and healing isn’t over; it’s a life time process; the difference is now I am more in control of my life. Rather than letting my subconscious ran my life, I am creating my life in a way that honours who I am and is enjoyable. Anything that requires great effort brings with it great rewards; for it is within the things that seem to have a lot of risk involved that generate important changes within us. It is at those times when life leaves its mark on us; you choose whether it will be a good mark or regret. I recommend investing on knowing yourself, for at the end you will say “It wasn’t the simplest thing in the world to do but I was brave and I did it!”
Most of us have a “character” playing and have gotten so used to it we have come to identify ourselves with it, often thinking change is not possible. The truth is this character is a tremendous and effective INVENTION of our minds created to survive. I am not asking you to reproach or hate this character; after all it has taken you this far; but look at what cost…. you are so much more than just the masks. Our “personality of survival” has been shaped in such a way that we might as well equate it as someone walking on eggshells, avoiding the big elephant in the room.
We are born into this world with incredible potential, full of magic, strength, stubbornness and dreams, yet we are fed a lot of false information that says we have to give up who we are in order to fit in. At times; the stubborn ones, the weirds ones, those who try to hold onto their original self; are often forced to change trough guilt, bullying, blackmail (if you don’t do this, you won’t be loved). If by some miracle you managed to hold onto most of your essence, you are then considered a freak or arrogant. This typically happens because those closest to you; such as your family and friends; won’t accept the real you…they want the masks so they don’t have to be force to look in at their own lives.
We are taught it is best not to attract attention to your own uniqueness. We are taught not to celebrate ourselves but instead be humble ( yet the word has been twisted so out of context, it is now more related to self sacrifice than to dignity) We are encouraged to “pretend”, if we do so then we are labeled as “good” or “normal”. We are taught to invest on attracting false attention so we may feel as if we have some value yet that value is always dependent of others. We are conditioned to believe looking in is a waste of time or dangerous because “you might lose your mind”, yet as Nietzsche tried to teach us– sometimes you have to lose your mind (false conditioning) in order to claim who you really are; a genuine, wonderful being with tremendous power…you just simply have forgotten it.
Facing the “abyss” has its dangers of course, but those are less when you choose to look at the abyss instead of waiting for life to force you to do so. By looking in, you get to make changes and every change has a price but the rewards are great and permanent. The interesting thing is this, if you choose not to look in, there will still be a price to pay– a permanent price–your life–and it is a price you will pay without real rewards.
We all have fears; however, when we choose not to look in, FEAR goes from being a momentary emotion to a permanent state of being (you just pretend it isn’t there, and that which you choose to deny cannot be changed nor transmuted) We are afraid to stand up, to set limits, to pursue our dream job, to invest hours following our dreams; we often see failure not as lesson but as a sign not to try again. We like to say, “if you fail, try, try again” yet very few of us know what that really entails. We might be afraid to end a cycle which has already ended yet we hold on because of what others may say or status, we may be afraid to lose family if we say no…in general we are afraid to stand up and expose ourselves as we are because if we did, others may not “love us”.
Discovering ourselves is starting the process of reconquering, in which you collect the pieces of who you are and put them in their respective places. 95% of people believe they know those close to them well, the statistical reality is that only 10-15% really know each other. This often is the result of needing to impress one another or of having fallen victim to the new creed “I don’t like any negativity, so I stay away from anything which may lower my vibes” in other words “I don’t have the mental resilience nor capacity to open my space to anything which may shatter my make believe world, nor do I want to look in at my own life.”
These type of people often believe themselves to be much more “awakened” or “wiser” than others, when in reality they have become sarcastic and superficial; the only difference between them and the person who likes to victimize his or herself, is that one seeks recognition and validation through self pity while the other seeks recognition and validation through false enlightment/healing. Neither extreme is good, yet many people live life that way day in and day out. We lie to ourselves saying there is nothing we can do to change things, that everything that happens in our lives is the fault of others or destiny. We also lie to ourselves by pretending all is well all the time, that we are super “positive” and that our lives are “normal” in comparison those “crazy” enough to look at themselves without reservations. By feeding such extremes, we are procrastinating our healing and therefore our lives; in other words, we are not choosing to live but to survive.
Self-knowledge leads to love of oneself, to real compassion for others without blinders, but it also gives you the strength to stand up against that which violates your rights or those of others. Self knowledge provides us the opportunity to feel aligned with who we are, which leads to healthier energy, a more realistic view of life, and the ability to genuinely shine even when others do not approve of us. Knowing yourself will provide you with clarity in every way; sometimes we don’t realize by denying our weak points we also deny the strong ones. By choosing not to look at our shadow, we have chosen to go through life as if we were anesthetized, therefore we don’t really feel; we like to tell ourselves that we do yet reality is when life challenges us to show empathy, compassion or to stand up against an unfair situation, we often hide or make excuses; therefore exposing our true colors and the lack of maturity of our psyche and soul.
When we meet our shadow, a certain cluster of emotions begins to surface. These cluster of emotions can be confusing; on the one hand we experience pain while on the other we experience genuine strength to walk through our own darkness. Every time we complete the cycle of “pain clearing, healing-breath again” our self-esteem goes up; after all, we were brave… we looked inside ourselves and accepted what was there. As we do this, we start to remove each layer of false conditioning, making us more loving towards ourselves; our capacity for self acceptance increases and we realize we have more to give. We realize we are capable and worthy of receiving genuine love and acceptance.
By understanding ourselves more a beautiful paradox is produced in which we understand others better. Understanding generates real acceptance and real acceptance generates inner peace; as you can see, it is quite an investment! With practice and time you will truly increase your confidence and creativity, you will be more able to trust your decisions and have more honest relationships. By meeting your shadow you become an observant of the vessel, it is you but a healthier you. You stop blaming yourself and accept your mistakes as lessons, learning from them so as not to commit the same mistakes over and over again. You learn more about your reactions and by doing so you can anticipate how you will handle things and the consequences of your actions–you have less reactivity and more proactivity.
Those who know themselves better, communicate their needs and their limits better; they do so honestly, no games, no trying to look tough or with a false sense of confidence. They are not afraid to seem needy or cold. Those who know themselves better, have more authentic relationships, jobs that are fullfilling, are less dependent of false acceptance and tend to stop falling victim to false conditioning. In other words, although they may seem “weird” they are happier.
Knowing you, rather than “changing you” (the quick fix that some coaches like to sell/ “fake it till you make it”) is to remove layers of false beliefs, fears and stories that no longer serve you and which are stopping you from simply being. If you don’t know yourself you can’t love yourself, if you don’t love yourself you can’t respect yourself, if you don’t respect yourself you can’t take care of yourself, if you don’t take care of yourself, your body and your self-esteem will suffer. If you don’t love yourself you can’t offer love to anyone else; you may preach it; even buy into the idea that what you are giving is real, but how can a mask be real?
Start getting to know yourself, you deserve healing, you deserve to live. You are worthy of investing on, so start investing your time and energy on meeting your shadow and you will start to see just how freeing that is. You owe it to yourself, because when you see yourself from the heart, you will allow yourself to shine and that is the greatest gift you will ever receive and a beautiful thing to offer others.
Your genuine being is within you, waiting for you and wanting the opportunity to manifest!
Simple, true, and profound—the effort is endless, and endlessly worthwhile. Very much enjoyed this.
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So well explained..
Yes we got to keep.making efforts to rediscover, reinvent ourselves…
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Fantastic! I’ve been on a similar journey in the last few years (at 40 now). Lots of wisdom here. You’re a talented writer.
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Thank you kindly for your kind words!!