Understanding the ways to spot your shadow self can help provide clarity and insight into how you can make positive changes in your life.
Have you ever felt like something was holding you back from reaching your full potential? If so, it more than likely has to do with your shadow self. This is the part of your personality that often remains hidden from conscious awareness, yet shapes much of your thoughts and actions.
Think of your shadow self as the parts of you that are deeply repressed. We all have a shadow self, and it’s important to understand what it is, how to identify your shadow self and how it affects your behaviour.
Knowing this can help you evolve, learn more about yourself, and become the person you deeply desire to become. To gain more context you can check out this post on The Beginners’ Guide To Shadow Work Healing
It’s essential for your healing to identify and embrace your shadow self in order to live life authentically for yourself and not others. This article will cover the 7 ways to spot your shadow self.
What is a Shadow Self?
Your shadow self is an unconscious part of yourself that contains both the aspects of your personality that you deem negative as well as repressed thoughts, feelings, and desires.
It comprises everything about yourself that you have chosen to deny or push down deep within yourself out of fear, guilt or shame. While this may sound intimidating, recognizing and confronting your shadow self can lead to tremendous growth and transformation in your life.
The shadow is a term that was founded by Swiss Psychologist, Carl Jung. The shadow is part of other Jungian archetypes to formulate his theory on personalities and human behaviour.
The shadow self is formed out of the need to adapt to cultural norms, societal expectations which eventually influences our own judgement of what we believe to be right or wrong.
Shadow traits and behaviours can be expressed as envy, insecurity, anger, critical, controlling, greed, perfectionism, stoicism, cynical, hate, and aggression etc. Any emotion that is typically labelled as negative can be described as a shadow emotion.
7 Ways To Spot Your Shadow Self
These are 7 ways you can spot the shadow self in your personal life.
1. Identify Where You Hold Back
Some of the key ways to identify your shadow side is to identify where you hold back in your life or what in your life is out of balance or where you feel you aren’t giving 100%.
Unpicking those out-of-balance areas will inevitably reveal limiting beliefs about yourself that you have taken for granted for much of your lives, often perpetuated by family and society.
However, our shadow self can be tricky to uncover, often hiding in plain sight — in some cases, its presence can be subtle but very influential.
The clues are all there – feelings of unhappiness despite trying various avenues to resolve it; feeling like change is needed but never wanting to take up the challenge; telling ourselves that certain successes won’t last or that we don’t matter as much as others do.
We may notice the lacklustre areas of our lives, where we feel that something is just not quite right.
Wherever it may show up in your life, pay attention, take a step back and as these signs point to ways in which our shadow self has held us back, keeping us from realising our true potential.
2. What You Keep Attracting
It can be hard to believe, but you may very well be attracting the same people and experiences over and over because of what you secretly feel about yourself!
This phenomenon is aptly referred to as the “law of attraction” – we don’t attract what we want we attract what we are.
Those repressed negative beliefs that we are completely unaware of shows up in our life in the form of jobs you take, romantic partners, your friendships, down to whether or not you are the type of person who is always on the lookout for the one person that doesn’t like them!
It sounds a bit crazy, I know – but it’s something to consider if you’re running into the same problems in different areas of your life.
Is it possible that the person we may feel embarrassed or ashamed of – the shadow self – is actually working some mystical voodoo by attracting the same types of people and experiences to us? It can be a humbling yet fascinating concept to consider but it’s the only way to get your acknowledgement.
Read more: Self Love and the Shadow
3. What You Hate The Most In Others
It’s a paradox we can’t deny: the traits we most criticize in others are often those we despise in ourselves. What’s fascinating is that these subconscious insecurities show up when our ego is threatened.
To put it another way, when you catch yourself judging others, it could be your persona trying to wear the mask of perfection. If you want to spot your inner shadow self, look for one-sided conversations or behavioural patterns where you detach from empathy and rely upon formality or impartiality.
Victims of bullying often become bullies themselves due to the fear that if they drop their guard down again, they might appear vulnerable.
Becoming aware of our emotional responses can help us to identify where we have placed blame on someone or something else rather than taking ownership of our feelings.
Whether it’s a person close to you or a stranger in passing, seeing your own darkest qualities outwardly rearing its head usually means going inward and getting to work on your soul-searching spiritual journey.
As per German author Hermann Hesse:
“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”
4. Repetitive Negative Thoughts
We all have negative thoughts from time to time, but if those thoughts are repetitive or damaging then they could be an indication of your shadow self at work.
Take some time for yourself each day to reflect on these thoughts and explore where they may come from; this will help give insight into what’s really going on inside your head and allow you to address any issues that may arise as a result.
Taking time to be alone can be a great way to uncover aspects of who you really are. When we’re constantly surrounded by others or preoccupied with work, it’s difficult to tune into our innermost thoughts and feelings.
So, take some time away from distractions and obligations and explore your inner world in peace. I suggest getting a journal to do some shadow work. Write down your negative thoughts and that will help you figure out your shadow self.
5. Yours Fears, Guilt and Shame
Facing our fears, guilt and shame is never easy. It is much easier to flee from them by engaging in avoidance, lack of accountability and denial, which then becomes a part of our ‘shadow self’.
Your fears, guilt and shame could be an indication that there’s something else going on beneath the surface that needs addressing before moving forward can even become an option again (i.e., fear of success).
If the surface, I am outgoing and confident, but deep down there lies a part of me that is filled with fears and insecurities. The harder I try to avoid confronting those negative emotions, the worse it gets; my fear morphs from insecurities to guilt or shame, to denial and then back again in an endless cycle.
If I’m ever going to break free of this vicious circle, I have to be brave enough to address these feelings head on, no matter how much they hurt.
Avoidance and denial keep us trapped in repeating patterns of self-sabotaging behaviour, so when it comes down to it, facing reality is a necessary step towards identifying and healing your shadow self.
6. Your Dreams
Dreams offer us insight into our subconscious minds and can reveal repressed feelings that we may not have been aware of before.
Despite what the movies might make you believe, I don’t think recurrent dreams are bad omens of a murky supernatural future.
Instead, I view them as an undeniable opportunity for meaningful self reflection and a way to spot your shadow self. From the same character making repeated appearances to the setting that’s always vivid and lifelike, our dreams are wondrous trips into our subconscious world –
Although not all dreams are meant for deep interpretation, some are merely humorous while others could be a byproduct of trauma, so take these reoccurring dreams with a grain of salt.
Jung claims that shadow dreams or visions can take the form of a snake, a monster, a demon, a dragon, or some other dark, wild, or exotic figure.
Keep a dream journal by your bedside, so that when you wake up at night or in the morning, you can jot down any dreams or impressions you have upon waking up.
7. Habits, Feelings And Patterns When Triggered
Have you ever been triggered and suddenly found yourself in an emotional free-fall? Pay attention to how you react and behave when someone or something triggers your shadow self. Are they a result of something internalized from childhood or something more recent? The answers may surprise you!
You may have felt angry, anxious, unloved or shamed – these are all unresolved issues from your past that are resurfacing and can help you to figure out your shadow self lurking in the background. See if there’s any common thread running through them all.
For example, do you often find yourself avoiding difficult conversations because it makes you feel uncomfortable? Or do certain topics bring about intense emotional reactions even though they shouldn’t? Observing these patterns can reveal much about who we really are underneath all the surface level stuff.
So, the next time you feel as if your emotions spiralling out of control like a giant leaky faucet, pause and reflect on the possibility that your feelings may contain a valuable message just waiting to be heard.
The more aware we are of our triggers and reactions, the better able we will be to navigate life’s ebbs and flow with greater confidence and control.
This Is What Happens When You Ignore Your Shadow Self
When you don’t take ownership of your shadow self, it starts to control you.
- You often feel overwhelmed or anxious when faced with making decisions.
- You find yourself acting impulsively without considering the consequences.
- You struggle with feeling stuck and uninspired.
- You have difficulty taking responsibility for your behavior or decisions.
- You experience strong feelings such as anger, resentment, and envy towards others without knowing why.
- You easily get defensive when challenged about certain topics.
- You’re struggling with codependency or addiction issues such as substance abuse or gambling.
- You tend to make excuses rather than taking ownership of mistakes or poor choices.
Be kind to yourself, remember that while uncovering our shadows can be difficult work sometimes it’s important to also recognise when enough is enough (i..e., when things start becoming too overwhelming) — give yourself permission to rest & regroup if necessary
Examples Of Shadow Self In Real-Life Scenarios
The shadow self can manifest in different ways. An example of a negative manifestation of the shadow self is an addiction to pornography due to repressed sexuality. Overtime, just like an addiction to cocaine, the person looks more extreme forms of porn to get the initial high.
Another example is when you are shamed for wanting nice things and being materialistic. You may avoid treating your self to nice things because you feel selfish and therefore guilty for spending so much money on yourself. You start to grow deep resentment and envy for those who spoil themselves.
The shadow self can manifest in positive ways too. If your artistic talents was seen as taboo growing up, you may have suppressed that side of yourself. Inevitably, the need for creativity will keep coming up and you will soon have no choice but to indulge in creative pursuits.
Lastly, if you come from a super religious background and was expected to be perfect all the time. Some parts of your identity may have been squashed because it was seen as ungodly and immoral. If left unchecked, the person might start to feel sanctimonious and judge others harshly for being true to themselves.
Shadow Self And Spirituality
It’s easy to gloss over certain parts of ourselves because we don’t want to acknowledge them or may even be afraid of facing them head-on; however, being honest with yourself is key in identifying your shadow self.
Following these 7 ways to spot your shadow self can help guide you along the path towards figuring out the hidden parts of yourself.
Understanding & accepting all aspects of who you are is key in helping you move towards a life that is unhindered by the fear, guilt & shame associated with repressed emotions & experiences.
By acknowledging how this aspect of yourself plays a role in who you are, your experiences and choices, you will be able to make more mindful choices connected to your soul.
Once embraced properly, this newfound knowledge can lead to greater peace & joy within one’s own soul — allowing you to become your most authentic version yet!
Wow, this is so insightful and creates the need for meaningful reflection. I see this making a difference in so many lives. Thank you for writing this!
Wow thank you so much I’m so touched to hear that!
Wow! This was such a great read. I didn’t start learning about shadow work until recently, and it has been life-changing for me. Thank you so much for your insightfulness in this post. I’m sure it will help whoever reads it!
Wow so happy to know that shadow work has been working for you! It’s life changing tbh.
what a read.! wow thank you. Will def look into this more
Thanks for reading!