Shadow Work: Things I’m Afraid to Tell You

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As a way of embracing my shadow (the parts of us that we’re ashamed about and try to hide away somewhere within ourselves), I’m writing this post kind of like a Things I’m Afraid to Tell You situation. Shadow work is the process of looking at all of these the and getting cool with them by releasing any shame or fear around these beliefs. These limiting beliefs I have about myself that are not true, but just a narrative I’ve built up about myself over time that was meant to protect me.

I reached a point where I realized I don’t need to be protected. My truest and most genuine self is powerful enough to protect me, because she fears nothing. She’s not afraid of being exposed or shamed or guilted, because she has owned up to her shit, faced what scared her and turned toward it all with love.

She is (I am) the Strength card in tarot. She’s acting with confidence in her connection to the Goddess/the Universe and her intuition. So here’s a weird kind of love letter to myself, my shadow, and my journey so far.

Shy/Full of herself

I was always told I was shy as a kid, but I think I was just quiet and a little dreamy. But after a while, I started to identify as shy. I equated shyness with being humble and sweet and took on that facade on as a way of protecting myself. If I was shy no one would hate me or reject me. No one would think I was full of myself (which was a terrible thing, I was taught) because I was shy, and therefore, humble.

Taking on this shyness eventually made it harder for me to interact with new people in a way that was comfortable for me. I was always in my head about how I came off to others — what should I say? What should I ask? Did they think I was full of myself? All of this mental activity becomes paralyzing on the outside. I often won’t speak up for fear of saying the wrong thing or sounding stupid. Even when I really want to say something and know it has value, I still get uncontrollably shaky, my voice trembles, and I stumble over my words.

And on the other side of the spectrum, sometimes I speak and profoundly dumb, insensitive things tumble out of my mouth at such a rapid rate that I feel like I don’t have control — resulting in a shame spiral for days, sometimes weeks afterward.

This nurtured shyness takes time to diffuse and it’s a work in progress. But one thing I recognize is that I WANT to be full of myself. I want to be so full of my own me-ness that I don’t care what others think of me. I want to be rooted in my authentic nature and shine that out into the world in a way that’s confident, yet vulnerable and kind, yet doesn’t give a fuck what they think.

And that’s why I’m doing this shadow work.

Realizing I was an introvert was a really important part of my self-awareness. It pinpointed how overwhelmed I felt in big groups, without assuming I was shy all of the time. In fact with the people closest to me, I can be loud, expressive, and silly. Sidebar: Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy. It just means you recharge your battery by having time alone and you prefer small, intimate groups and meaningful convos instead of parties and small talk.

I wished that I had known about my introverted nature sooner, as I feel like my journey of self-reflection would have been easier with this framework. It would have helped me understand why I was depressed and unsettled in college, living in cramped dormitories with lots of other girls, or why I always felt different from a lot of my friends and siblings. Having this knowledge has opened my eyes to the importance of knowing and caring for myself.

Unlovable

Perhaps one of the biggest blocks I struggle with is not feeling good enough or lovable. As far back as I can remember, I was embarrassed about being the only one of my friends from a divorced home. Embarrassed about living in a one-bedroom apartment with my mom over someone’s garage in a wealthy neighborhood. I worried people would experience my mom’s fits of rage, that deeply terrified me and always caught me off guard. I thought that if people saw these things up close they would see me as unworthy of their friendship and love. That, just like the lack I felt in my life, it was all somehow my fault.

I always felt like I had to “be” a certain way for different types of people. The me who went to school and got good grades, the me who had to manage my mom’s moods, the me who wanted to be accepted by my stepmom and my dad’s other family, the me who wanted to be adored by friends and never left out.

A long time ago I rejected who I was at my core because I thought it wasn’t worthy of attention or love. So I built up a shell around myself to show to the world what I thought it wanted to see of me, all while protecting this core part of myself that I only felt comfortable sharing with one or two people.

Now I see that this shell is kind of bullshit and holding me back from finding the true forms of joy, love, connection, and peace that I seek.

Alcohol abuser

There were times in my life when I regularly binge drank because I wanted a shortcut to connection, bonding, and fun. I wanted to not feel the constraints of my anxiety or shyness. I desperately wanted a feeling of peace with myself and to stop overthinking or strategically hiding parts of myself — it was exhausting.

So instead of confronting my shame or consciously being honest and vulnerable, I drank. I drank because my friends were drinking and that’s how we had fun. I drank because I wanted to dance and it didn’t seem socially appropriate to do so without being drunk. I drank because I wanted to get to a place where we could all speak freely with each other, overshare, and be bigger and bolder than we let ourselves be in normal life.

I did this because I didn’t know any better. I was out of alignment with my soul a lot of the time and I had no idea how to feel better, so I went the reckless, wild child route. I didn’t know I had alternatives to feeling good about myself or that my soul was trying to tell me something by feeling sad, scared, nervous, and reckless a lot of the time.

To be clear, I still drink. While I have definitely abused alcohol in the past, I don’t identify as an alcoholic. After a lot of self-care and self-discovery, I’ve recalibrated my relationship to alcohol and now I don’t use it as a crutch. I’m more mindful and try to fully engage with my senses when I’m having a drink. I check in with myself, I’m aware of how I’m feeling. It’s a part of mealtimes and enjoying the fullness of life, not drinking to get drunk to feel something and nothing at the same time.

I’m doing the hard work. This shadow work. This love work. Because I know that’s how my soul and my humanness will align, quelling that restless feeling — when I accept and embrace all parts of myself. Being shameless about my own story and my desire for deep connection in my friendships and marriage is part of this work. Knowing my worth and my enoughness is part of this work. And dancing my face off whenever I want is part of this work because it makes me feel free in a way that alcohol only mimics.

Like The Devil card in tarot, to say it’s about vices is only seeing the surface. When we dig deeper into our shadow, we find that it’s really about what frees us. What feelings are we searching for and seeking out in unhealthy ways? How can we pivot to get our needs met and feel the way we want to?

Finding the grounded, more sustainable routes to these feelings will be what liberates us (not the quick hits we get from shopping, drinking, drugs, codependence — all of which leave us worse for wear in the end).

We’re seeking out feelings like connection, love, release, and freedom because our soul is craving them. It’s how we get there that makes the difference between honoring and hindering ourselves. For me it’s finding freedom in dancing and movement in nature. Finding connection in learning about tarot, witchy wellness, plant medicine, and comedy. Release in breath work, diving in the ocean, crying, and laughing. Anxiety busting with herbs, food, and story telling.

Cancer Rising, Leo Sun / My Life Lesson

Speaking of shells, I honestly think my journey in life is to figure out how to create a crab (the sign of Cancer) shell for myself that allows me to express my big hearted, bright, and curious Leonine personality in a way that feels comfortable and serves my well-being.

It’s the Queen of Wands water and fire combination of being authentically myself and in tune with my intuition, having the confidence be myself in every situation, and watching the magnetic magic that unfolds as a result. It’s being comfortable in my skin and as my genuine self. That’s the lesson I’m meant to learn in this life — to embrace my light and shadow and fully see the magic that comes from my watery intuitive, feeling, receptive side and my fiery excited, active and creative side. Realizing every complicated and contradictory part of me is what makes me powerful and worthy.

That, along with some fun and delicious sensual pleasures and self-care (good food, beautiful scenery, essential oils, music, sex magic) from my Taurus Moon, is what my Witchy Wellness mission is all about.

Our worth and enoughness are in tact, they may just be buried. Once we slough off the layers of conditioning and stories we’ve used to build our shells and step into our truest self, we find all the power, strength, and manifestation ability we could ever need. That’s why we have to do this shadow work.

This journey to self-discovery and authenticity doesn’t really end because we’re HUMAN and the crap that holds us back will crop up in lots of different and sneaky ways. But know that we will undoubtedly progress in great leaps, ultimately shifting the vibration of this planet. And along the way we can take care of ourselves with food, herbs, journaling, tarot, meditation, nature, movement, community, and celebration.

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