How To See The Gifts Of Your Flaws And How To Embrace Them
We all have flaws. You know that you are disorganized or talk too much, but there are certain sides of ourselves that we hide away from the world, hoping no one will ever notice. That part of us is called our shadow side, a term coined by psychiatrist, Carl Jung.
The shadow side is hidden even from ourselves very often. There are a few ways to discover your shadow side so that you can begin loosening it’s choke hold on you.
I’ve recently been re-reading the book by Debbie Ford called, The Dark Side Of The Light Chasers. In her book, Ford has several visualizations and activities to help you discover that dark side. One of the activities that was most eye opening to me was to write down the names of three people I hate and the qualities of each that bothers me most. These can be famous people or people in your own life. The qualities I hated were being selfish, critical and manipulative.
Ford goes on to explain that you have all of the qualities you hate and you hide them from the world and often yourself. If you’re like me, you’ll think, “No way! I am not like that at all!”, but she asks you to think of a time when you were like that. Is there somewhere in your childhood or adult life that you acted that way?
For me, there were times when I acted in a way that was selfish or critical and even manipulative. Ford then asks you to look for the gifts in behaving in those ways. You may be thinking, “What, how could there be a gift in being selfish?”. I thought the same, but as I thought more, I realized that I had to act in a selfish way sometimes in order to protect myself from those that wanted to take advantage of me. The same goes for being manipulative. If I hadn’t told a tiny white lie to shift things in my favor, that person would have destroyed my life, or at the very least, made things extremely difficult. What about being critical? What is the gift in that? Being critical allows you to find traits in others that you do not want to display. “He talks too much and makes me feel overwhelmed.” “She gossips about everyone and I don’t feel safe to share with her.” “He’s very aggressive when he gets angry and it is off putting.”
Of course these are not always good traits to show. Of course there is a negative side, but if we hide these traits from ourselves and the world, we keep attracting other people with these traits into our lives. There it is. The ugly part of the shadow self. I had a huge ah-ha moment when I read that again. I have been attracting selfish, critical, manipulative people into my life for years. Ford says if we embrace those characteristics in ourselves, we will no longer attract others into our lives with those traits. I am working super hard on embracing! Haha!
We also focus on those traits when we are trying to hide them in ourselves. By embracing my own critical side, I won’t be so triggered by my husband’s criticism. By embracing my own selfishness, I won’t be bothered as much by my daughter’s selfishness. By accepting my own tendency to be manipulative at times, I no longer feel so ashamed by it and I won’t attract manipulative people.
Still having trouble figuring out your shadow traits? Take note of your thoughts as you watch others. Are you thinking, “She brags too much!”, “He’s greedy!” or “I can’t stand when she acts so helpless!”? Well, there’s your clue to your own shadow side. When have you ever bragged too much, acted greedy or helpless? What do you think the gifts in those traits could be?
Bragging too much? It helped you land that job that had so much competition. Being greedy? It helped you get the food you needed in your house full of children growing up. Acting helpless? It helped you get the training you needed to understand that new computer program and get a promotion.
There is a gift to every character trait if you just look for it. Do we want to always act critical, greedy or helpless? No, of course not, but we also need to not walk around in shame. If you feel like an apology is in order, apologize. If you need to speak up and tell your truth, speak up. Forgive others for their mistakes and move on from those that continue to cross your boundaries. Just because you recognize a shadow side to someone else, does not mean you have to live with it in your life.
Embrace and appreciate all of your characteristics and the gifts they bring to you.