Over the past decade, I have coached many individuals. Reflecting through the various coaching moments, I want to share some insights on,
How do you handle your shadow side?
How do you deal with other shadows at life and work?
How can you deal with this shadow before it becomes toxic?
But what does a ‘shadow side’ mean?
It is the ‘dark side’ of your personality that contains emotions and behaviour traits that you don’t want to admit to having. The term ‘the shadow’ or ‘shadow self’ was coined by renowned Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung. It describes certain parts of our personality that we choose to reject or repress either because we don’t like it, or because society won’t like it. So, we push those parts down into our subconscious.
Some situations where you can feel your or other’s shadow side –
- Contradictory Behaviours: Have you observed for example, some people who preach high morals, but suddenly get caught in a compromising situation?
You would certainly be aware of the #MeToo Movement that swept across the globe. Is it not amazing how seemingly respectable people get ensnared in their own web of contradictory behaviours?
- Emotional Outbursts: Have you observed some leaders suddenly shouting at someone and blaming it on them being perfectionists? It is their dark side manifesting on those less powerful.
- Denial: Have you observed some people showcasing themselves as the victims while they are themselves in fact, the persecutors?
- Accidental Behaviour: Have you observed a leader who champions for diversity, displaying misogynism over a drink at the office party? When their guard comes down, their shadow shows up.
- Over Idealization: “Some people believe in something so much that they walk around with blinkers. Their conviction blinds them to other possibilities.” Examples are the leaders who display a fixed mindset.
How can you “confront your dark side” effectively to become an authentic leader?
We cannot get rid of the shadow, but we can learn to identify, accept and work with it.
Every change begins with Self Awareness,
- Recognise the Shadow: Make note of situations/ characteristics/ traits/ skills that has stirred your shadow. Bring it into the light. Talk about it with someone whom you believe will listen to you openly without confronting you immediately. Who is that person? Name them.
- Accept it:
- Learn to embrace your shadow and not disown it.
- Set up cues. At least begin with a few cues, as to how you will positively redirect your shadow for achieving something more meaningful.
- Give a youthful twist to your shadow: Start wondering what your eight-year-old self will do with this shadow?
This is an optional yet useful step that will help you tap into your right brain energies and save you from your left-brain hijack of many years.
- While learning to explore your shadow, you will then finally feel comfortable to display it without fearing what others might think. This leads to a kind of authenticity that draws people towards you.
A couple of tips for you to succeed
- Draw inspiration from role models
- Create a layer of constructive purpose that your shadow can accomplish, that it will no longer trouble you but elevate you.
This is a surprisingly difficult area to address yet an opportunity for you to enjoy a level of authenticity that will be hard to explain or express. The ‘shadow side’ is unconscious at first but through effort we can be more conscious of it. When we recognize and face our shadow, we become more balanced and whole and in turn become better leaders.