One of my goals for The Positivity Solution is to do things a little differently around here.
My dream is to use The Positivity Solution to truly make the world a more positive place, and I know that it won’t happen by simply sharing motivational quotes on my Twitter and Facebook accounts all day long.
I love a good quote as much as the next guy, but chances are that you also know how much I love digging into the deep and challenging stuff as much as humanly possible too.
And on that note, what I’m going to ask you to do in this blog post may be the most challenging and the most uncomfortable thing that I’ve ever asked you to do here.
Simply put, we’re going to get to know ourselves a little better.
A lot better, actually.
It’s time for us to go to “the other side,” and fair warning, it might not be too much fun.
No worries though–ready or not, we’re still going there anyway.
The Shadow Self
You might already know this, but I am absolutely fascinated by human behavior.
Even more than that, I am absolutely obsessed with discovering the mental barriers that stop us from living our best lives while we’re here on earth.
One of the key barriers that I have not talked about at all until now (and quite possibly, the most important), is something that’s called our Shadow Self.
The concept of the Shadow Self was first described by the psychologist Carl Jung, and it’s the part of ourselves that we have spent our entire lives trying to hide, repress, or deny because it makes us feel ashamed, uncomfortable, or afraid.
Or put in other words, the Shadow Self is the part of us that we don’t want the world to see.
Okay, so what does information mean for us?
Potentially, a lot.
First, it is important to be aware that everyone reading these words has a Shadow Self. I have one, you have one, and every person who you have ever known has one.
Having a Shadow Self is completely unavoidable.
Some people refer to it as their “Dark Side,” but that places too much of a negative spin on it. For all intents and purposes, I’ll be referring to it as our other side.
The problem is that most of us have lived most of our lives without any interest in understanding our other side. Even worse, many of us have made it a full-time practice to avoid our other side on a daily basis.
If you’re interested in living your best life (and I know that you are), I can promise you that ignoring your other side is the quickest way NOT to make that happen.
Don’t take my word for it though. Dr. Jung said it far better than I ever could:
Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”
Seriously, let that quote wash over your brain for a minute.
Starting today, it’s time for us to become more conscious of our shadow, aka, our other side. Choosing not to do so could cause our shadows to completely take over our lives.
Believe me, that would be the biggest mistake we could ever make.
Own It, Or Be Owned: A Story About Needing Acceptance
Speaking of mistakes, I really want people reading this blog to learn from my endless list of screw-ups that I’ve built up over the past 40 years.
One of the biggest mistakes in my life to date has been ignoring the existence of my other side.
I now know without any doubt that if you fail to own your other side, it will own you.
Allow me to give you a personal example from a couple of years ago.
For the people reading this who know me personally, you already know that I’m the type of guy who says “hi” to everyone. I’ve always believed that it’s the friendly thing to do, and since I love connecting with people, saying hi to strangers is something that comes naturally to me.
Unfortunately, the ugliness of my shadow came out in full force when I used to live in the same condo complex with a guy who refused to speak to me for some reason.
Every time I saw him I said, “good morning,” “hey, how’s it goin’?”, and simply “hi”, and every time, this dude would look at me like I sprouted a third eyeball in the center of my forehead as he completely ignored me.
I noticed that each time that he ignored me, I got more and more pissed off.
I remember muttering to myself as I sulked past him in anger, “Seriously, how hard it is for you to say ‘hi’? What in the hell is your problem?!”
This guy was a total asshole, as far as I was concerned. I was even so upset that I vented about it to a trusted friend, and she said something that hit me like a ton of bricks:
“It’s not about you.”
She was 100% right. He doesn’t have to say “hi” to me if he doesn’t want to. Why was I making this situation all about me?
My friend’s comment helped me to become more aware of one of the uglier parts of my other side. It’s the side that I used to ignore and push down for most of my adult life.
My other side desperately seeks the approval of others.
Most people can say “hi” to someone, and if they are ignored, it’s completely no big deal and they move on.
It used to drive me crazy. Now I know why.
When my neighbor ignored me, it was deeper than just being ignored. To me, it meant that he was withholding the approval I needed to be happy.
Looking back on my life, I noticed a very disturbing trend in my life when I wasn’t aware of this “other side” of myself:
I would engage in some very unhealthy activities in my insatiable need for approval.
I would date women who treated me like complete crap because I desperately needed their approval.
I would spend money that I didn’t have, to buy stuff that I didn’t need, in order to gain the approval of people who I didn’t even know.
I would hide certain parts of myself at work (specifically, my friendliness and the fact that I smile “too often”) in order to get the approval of the senior executive team.
In other words, the lack of a conscious awareness of my shadow, or other self, caused it to become “blacker and denser” until it was affecting every area of my life negatively.
Thankfully, things started to quickly improve as soon as I woke up and became aware of what was really going on in my brain.
I hate to tell you this, but there’s no amount of positive thinking, meditation, or (ahem) Positivity Solution blog posts that will make your “other self” disappear.
It just ain’t going to happen. Your shadow, or your other self, is a part of you.
That’s 100% okay. The good news is that having a shadow is completely normal.
However–ignoring, suppressing, or denying your other self will cause you more unnecessary grief than you can imagine.
It is only when we face and own these aspects of ourselves that we’ll be free to change and make more productive choices.
Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time getting to understand my other self, and I feel like I know him much better now. Here is just a small sample of what this dude is all about:
My other self can be incredibly insecure at times and is consistently searching for other people’s approval.
My other self would much rather eat sugary and greasy crap than eat something that would be much healthier.
My other self would rather buy useless stuff that he would never use instead of being more disciplined about saving money.
(Shola’s note: believe me, I could keep going, but I’ll stop here for now.)
It is important for me to share this stuff with you so that you know that I’m right there next to you in the trenches, working hard to be a more positive person everyday.
Things are very different now, and even though my other self hasn’t disappeared (and never will), there has been one very significant change.
My awareness of my other self has put me back in control of my life, while officially taking the control away from him at the same time.
I know that my other self will urge me to swing by the Burger King Drive-thru for a large Original Chicken sandwich value meal instead choosing something healthier whenever I’m hungry.
I know that my other self will try to dilute aspects of who I truly am in order to please others.
I know that my other self will tell me to skip writing the next chapter in my book and take a nap.
These days, instead of ignoring or fighting against my other self, I fully accept that this guy will be a part of my life as long as I’m alive.
The good news is that my awareness and acceptance of my other self gives me my power back.
And because I am fully awake and aware, I can make a better choice.
So far, so good.
The Friend In The Shadows
Contrary to popular belief, our other selves aren’t the enemy. Our other selves are our friends.
My other self has helped me to uncover my weak spots and has allowed me to sharpen my skills in ways that I could never imagine.
It is no exaggeration to say that my other self has given me the opportunity to become the best possible version of myself.
Knowing that there’s a part of me that craves acceptance, keeps me on my toes when I’m drifting toward unhealthy habits in search of that acceptance.
And as I said earlier, it all starts with awareness.
I’m not sure if there’s a more useful and worthwhile thing that we can do than truly understand and become aware of our shadows.
If we’re always dating the same losers, sabotaging our diets, losing our temper, or consistently people-pleasing at the detriment of our happiness (my hand is raised on that last one), it is only our awareness that can start the process of dealing with the issue.
That’s because our awareness gives us the freedom to make better, healthier, and more productive choices.
Sure, I know that getting to know our private, deeply-repressed, and sometimes-ugly side of ourselves isn’t a lot of fun, but do you know what’s worse?
Allowing that private, deeply-repressed, and sometimes-ugly side of ourselves to control us by ignoring its existence.
That can no longer be an option.
Our other selves, just like all shadows, lose their power when you shine the light on them.
And I have some very good news for you:
You’re the light.
It’s time to start shining.
Are you aware of your “other side” or shadow self? How has its presence affected your life? Time to get personal, people! As always, don’t hesitate to jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!