There is a lot of people out there,who struggle with themselves on a regulary basis. At least I do. If you’re like me, this article is for you. Enjoy!
Once we reach early adulthood we usually have a rather clear defined self-image. We think we know how we are, and how we are not. We think we know what we like and what we don’t like. In our minds we carry around a sophisticated and complex story about ourselves. It contains all the attributes we ascribe to ourselves, our believes about ourselves and our conscious values. I am talking about the story, you tell to people when they ask you “Who are you? What do you like? What do you don’t like?” Think of yourself for a minute. How do you see yourself? How would you describe yourself? What distinguishes you from others? You can have a positive self-image or a negative one. Either way, I am here to tell you:
This story is one big fat lie.
At best, this story only tells half the truth. Why is that so? Because the human mind likes to deal in binary absolutes, clear black and white, and not murky grayscales. We describe ourselves in absolute, non-relative terms. A plain “I am a honest person” implies that we are always honest. This tendency of absolute statements shows itself in many other issues but for now i want to focus on our self-image and self-story.
For example, when we say we are hardworking, honest, and intelligent we are automatically saying, that we are NOT lazy, dishonest, and dumb. And this almost always turns out to be untrue.
We might be relatively hardworking, honest and intelligent, but every hardworking person has a lazy side, every honest person has told atleast a thousand lies and every intelligent human has made at least a dozen dumbfuck-stupid mistakes.
This shows us that we have a two-faced nature. To every aspect of ourselves there is a counterpart, lurking somewhere beneath the radar. Sometimes this counterpart is gentle, sometimes it is not. I distinguish between the conscious persona and the unconscious shadow. It is called a shadow because A) it always follows you and B) we tend to project its qualities outward onto others.
The conscious persona is made up of all the things we like about ourselves and is mostly how we wish to be. It is the face we show to the world. The unconscious shadow is made up of all our “sins”, the things we don’t like about ourselves. Those are the immoral, “bad” tendencies and needs which conflict with our conscious values. These tendencies are usually not accepted by society. No matter what our society says, these traits are there.
Don’t just believe me, check for yourself. Have you ever done anything that is incongruent to your self-image? How do think about this part of you? Look closely and skeptical inside, we are very good at hiding stuff that conflicts with the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Which brings me to the next point:
We hide, disown, hate, suppress and deny our unconscious shadow. We try to separate ourselves from it and “make it go away”.
I hope you can intuit that this leads to a whole bunch of problems. You cannot separate yourself from your shadow. The shadow is you, it is a fundamental part of you. By denying and disowning it you create a painful fissure in your own psyche. You start to struggle with yourself, one part of you tries to fight the other part. Guilt and forceful suppression are the main weapons of your conscious persona, look our for them. This battle inside you can be quite brutal and very ruthless. Guess who the main casualty is? You.
Why do we act in such a self-destructive way?
Because we are deeply afraid of our shadow tendencies, values and needs. We feel irrationally threatened by them. We fear that if we let them walk free our life would fall apart. The hardworking entrepreneur is afraid to relax because he already sees his business crumbling if he lays back for even a short break. The kind woman is afraid to protect her personal boundaries with strong, anger-fuled words because she thinks being angry is always wrong. The homosexual teenager is horribly afraid of coming out because homosexuality is a terrible sin in the eyes of his catholic believes. The soft, loving husband is afraid to be honest about his harsher sexual preferences, because he sees them as inhuman and misogynistic. The left-wing radical is afraid of his suppressed striving for capitalistic consumes and riches. The tough macho guy is afraid of his emotional and vulnerable side because he thinks being emotional and vulnerable threatens his masculinity.
I could go on and on and on, but i think you get the point. The shadow exists in us and we are afraid of it. This fear causes us to be aggressive towards ourselves and this of course causes unnecessary suffering. One objection i alreadyhear is as follows: “But i need to fight my bad sides, otherwise they will never go away.” I understand, on first sight fighting and suppressing seems like a viable solution. Check for yourself tough, you have been fighting yourself for years, even decades. How well has it worked out so far? Speaking from my own experience it doesn’t work at all. On the contrary, it worsens the whole thing. Through your aggression your disliked parts are forced deeper into the unconscious. Here they become corrupted and surface again as all kinds of neurotic behaviors, addictions and mental problems, mostly stress, anxiety and depression. Not a very pleasant outcome if you ask me.
So what’s the alternative?
Embracing your shadow. Instead of moving away from your disowned parts, pull a counter-intuitive move and hug them kindly. The grand vision we’re shooting for it to accept every part of yourself, even and especially the ugly ones. Integrate them, let them co-exist without constant battle and let the synergy of the whole permeate through your being to fulfill your true potential. Oh boy, that sounded fancy as fuck. To put it in non-show-off, down to earth terms: love yourself, don’t hate yourself. It is good for you. To name a few benefits, izt will make you more confident, more decisive and overall more happy and fulfilled. Without a fragmented psyche you can act effectively in the world. Strangely enough it will also grow a certain kindness and forgiveness towards others in you.
You probably heard the saying “You are your own worst enemy”. This will no longer apply for you.
That was a long-ass article, here a short summary of important insights and to-do’s.
We have a two-faced nature. Personality is not a simple, one-dimensional thing but rather complex and with many many layers. We are not bound to one certain way of being. We have different, even conflicting tendencies, needs and values in ourselves. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not a problem, but actually just the given nature of the mind.
We suppress and hide disliked parts of ourselves. This doesn’t make them go away, but instead strengthens and corrupts them.
Stop judging yourself so harshly. Find those hidden, disowned parts of yourself. Notice yourself demonizing and fighting them. Hug them, invite them to surface in a appropriate manner and give them the space they deserve. Don’t forget, these parts are literally you. And you are okay the way you are.
Thanks for reading!
That is the article for today. Don’t forget to leave your mail in the subscribe-box at the bottom of the page! This way you get notifications when I post something new. No spam or ads, guaranteed!
Here are some more links, to articles I deem very important for life. Go check them out!