Hat’s off to all of us who are authentically on the growth and development journey. We become adept at acknowledging our dark sides, asking for feedback, and exploring all the shadows of our complicated souls. We know we are works in progress with much yet to learn and transform. And we continue to dig in, committed as we are to polishing the diamond of our selves.
But in the process, we sometimes forget to trust our own goodness. We become so good at looking for a “below the line” or negative/shadow motivation that we lose track of who we are actually becoming. We assume our shadow is bigger than it is, and often, it isn’t.
Let me give you an example. I recently had an acquaintance ask me to look at some of his writing. He had a contract with a major publisher and wanted my opinion and even a blurb. He was referencing neuroscience and coaching so I took a look. And, dear reader, it was terrible. Unfocused and unclear, a rehash of old ideas packaged as “breakthrough” learning. I could barely get through the first two chapters.
As I am pondering what to do, here comes my shadow, saying, “You just don’t like this because you’re jealous! He has a more prominent publisher than you do, and you can’t stand for anyone else to be in the neuroscience and coaching space. You can’t possibly be fair in this instance.” But was that true? Really? And to what degree? Maybe 5% of that old, envious Ann is still there, but it really isn’t my dominant operating system any more. Truth be told, I simply didn’t like or admire the book.
Another example came up recently with a client. We happened to be chatting before we started the coaching session, catching up on some mutual acquaintances. One had left to go to a different company, and I said something along the lines of “Yeah, I never found it very easy to connect with her.”
My client breathed out a huge sigh a relief. “Oh my goodness, I thought it was just me! I could never figure out why I didn’t like her and was sure I was just being intolerant.” Now, this client is one of the world’s truly good people. She never–and I mean NEVER–judges, complains, or criticizes anyone. She is one of the most tolerant people I have ever met.
So here is the challenge as I see is to a) trust our own goodness while b) still being aware of the shadow. For me, that meant checking in with the jealousy and acknowledging that there was a twinge, but also looking at the issue with rationality. And the truth is, I am the first person to cheer when someone produces good, groundbreaking work. I tend to be generous in my praise and am happy to share. My higher self understands there is plenty of room in the pool. And yes, I still have a small, dark part of me that wants to be the only one! But this part of me doesn’t tend to make decisions or run my life in any way. Not any more.
When we don’t look at and acknowledge our shadows, we tend to project onto other people, judging them and separating ourselves as we desperately try to avoid what we are afraid is true. But when we don’t also look at an acknowledge our light, trusting our sense of things, we can’t make good decisions about who, what and where to devote our energy. We shut down that “spidey” sense that this person, organization or situation isn’t trustworthy, honest, or, frankly, safe.
So, check out your dark side, but also, trust your goodness.