Actually recognising your negative traits or problematic behaviours is where self development begins. I can say that in my past I’ve definitely displayed some questionable traits and poor behaviours. I would find it so hard to express my anger that I would fall at either end of the spectrum; complete pacifist to an extreme raging monster. My disproportionate, displaced anger had the people I loved walking on eggshells. I had some problematic relationships, friendships, habits, behaviours and I was an active participant in them all. To be clear, I am not taking responsibility for the maltreatment I received from some, but I acknowledge my own maladaptive coping mechanisms which hurt some people. It has taken me years to deconstruct who I am, my morals, what I value, figuring out my worth but also face my shadow parts; the envy, anger, addiction, self-hatred and judgemental parts of me. That is not to say I don’t encounter or wrestle with these shadow parts anymore, and I would never think for a second that I am done developing as a person, but there has been some progress.
I am all for supporting others to find their worth, self esteem, self love, etc but I also encourage you to look at your more hidden, darker, shadow parts as they are just as important to who you are. Most likely they developed out of a need to protect yourself, or to fit in, potentially learnt behaviours, but they probably don’t serve you anymore.
These parts of you may be what’s standing in your way, stopping you from obtaining what you really want; self acceptance, confidence, love, independence, health or friends.
So how do you do this? I of course recommend therapy, it would be strange if I didn’t – but it’s not the only path. Here are 3 other ways to explore this yourself:
- People are mirrors.Next time you are around other people take note of how you feel. Often when we experience someone who displays traits or behaviours we dislike, it is because we have them too.Carl Jung ‘Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.’
People are mirrors, whether we like it or not. Make notes of these dislikes and see if you can trace them back to you.
- Expand your content consumption.We surround ourselves with others who think like us, which makes sense. It’s supportive and comforting but not challenging. Get your hands on papers, articles, books, audiobooks, blogs, Instagram accounts etc, that make you question, think and feel. I can’t emphasise enough the power of exposing yourself to diverse content. Read things you would normally not give a second thought, step outside of your comfort zone. Listen to other peoples lived experiences, what does it bring up for you?
- Write.It doesn’t matter where, when, on what, or why, just write. Sit down and allow all of your honest, ugly, crass, spiteful thoughts to tumble out and onto paper (or device). It doesn’t have to make sense, there is no need for sentences, punctuation or a narrative – allow yourself to engage in free association. By giving these shadow parts a voice in a safe space it takes the power out of them. It also allows you to see what’s been stewing in you. Then get rid of it, delete it, tear it up, burn it, but don’t hold onto it.
Once you have an understanding of your shadow parts start to challenge them. How does it feel to drill down on your thoughts? How do other people respond to you when you behave differently? What are these parts trying to communicate to you? Do they show you your needs, desires, wounds etc. Pick up the information these shadows are putting down for you.