Shadow Self – Liability to Asset

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I am intense. My mind fires off ideas at such an explosive rate that I’ve taken to writing down my thoughts to keep track of them all.  My intensity helps me solve problems; helps me focus on and accomplish goals; helps me hone in on the nuances of human behavior; to gain insight & understanding.

I used to deny my intensity.  I used to say things like “what are you talking about I’m not intense, you are just shallow”.

I was unaware of how I showed up to others.  I went through a period of my life where I forced levity.  It was not natural.  I could pull it off for awhile and then I would resort back to my natural state; intense.  It occurred to me one day that denying an aspect of myself was not working any more than being unaware of it was.  So I started to own it.  I started to say things like “I am intense, don’t pay any attention to it, it’s just my way of tackling life”.  This ownership of my personality – making it ok to be me – allowed others to make it ok too.

“A man is whole only when he takes into account his shadow.” – Djuna Barnes

I hear less often that I’m ‘intense’.  Recently though, I forgot this is how I can show up at times and was introduced to a new group of people.  I forgot to let them know “I’m intense and don’t pay any attention to it”.  As a result of my unawareness, there was a reaction to that aspect of my personality.

Other peoples reactions are a reminder for me to pay attention to how I show up.

It’s easy to dismiss or make their reactions wrong.  However, how will this help me grow?  How will this create a context where they feel heard or understood?  It is important to own up to what they are seeing; not in a defensive way or in a way that makes me wrong either.

We all have aspects of our personality that show up.  Some people are so tuned into those personality traits they learn to master how they show up and become very successful.  Comedians come to mind.  I can imagine they were singled out in life as being disruptive, speaking out of turn, and being a distraction. Rather than attempt to change their nature; they learned to lean into it.  By owning this part of their personality they were able to step into their power.

When someone confronts you on the way you show up to them, own up to it.  Figure out what they see that you may be missing.  They are your teacher.  They give you a new way of seeing yourself and that can be an adventure into personal growth.  We don’t have to change our nature to accommodate others. Instead we own up to how we show up.  We can be aware of, and develop, that side of our personality.  Then it can be an asset, instead of a liability.  What makes that aspect of our personality a liability is lack of awareness. When we show up unconsciously and unaware of how we show up,  then we leave the conversation frustrated and misunderstood.

Embrace those parts of your personality and let what others are seeing sink in.  Use it to grow and stretch. At first this may be uncomfortable.  If the personality trait is something that you can see blocking your success then perhaps it is worth healing and changing; like an anger issue.  But if it’s something in your personality that you like, then you can learn how to make it work for you in an effective way.  The point is that awareness is what sets us free.  Awareness helps us live more consciously and see how we show up in life.  Be aware.  Be open.  Be honest.  Be vulnerable.  Let go of fear.  Let go of anger.  Let go of your own hurt feelings that someone pointed out the obvious which caught you off guard because of your own lack of awareness not theirs.

Then Laugh.  Laugh really really hard at your own folly.  Very few things are more healing than being able to laugh at ourself!

“A smile starts on the lips, A grin spreads to the eyes, A chuckle comes from the belly; But a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, Overflows, and bubbles all around.” – Carolyn Birmingham

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Charlie T.

    Intensity that inspires others is another word for leadership…superb leadership! And that, my friend, is one of your most valuable gifts.

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