How to Love Yourself Completely
Shadow work for radical self-acceptance
Radical self-love is not about loving the face you show to the world, the perfect smile on social media, the healthy meal you made, the great workout you had, or the awesome vacation you took to that magical beach halfway around the world. Radical self-love asks that you look beyond the face you show to the world to the parts you keep hidden. The way you secretly think about yourself and others, the feelings and doubts you have, the fears and challenges you face. The parts of you that you judge as not fit to print, as it were…and which you may have rejected so completely that you have even forgotten they are there.
These are the shadow aspects of yourself. And they can be tricky to see.
Gaining awareness of these hidden parts of self takes determination. The patterns of hiding, denying, and ignoring run deep. But you are here, so give yourself a huge pat on the back, or a hug even...because being here means that you are already aware that you have got some unloved aspects of yourself and you are ready to do the work.
Finding your shadow
You may be wondering how you can love parts of yourself you either aren’t even aware exist, or cannot quite name or put your finger on. Your shadow aspects show up again and again in the people and situations in your life; often, in those people and situations that make you the most uncomfortable. They are in your life so you can know thyself.
Here is an exercise to help you. All you will need is a pen and a journal or paper.
First, make two lists:
List 1: Everyone you dislike or despise. And I mean everyone. No holds barred. Write without thinking too much. Don't be limited by how long ago this person was in your life. If you dislike or despise them, they make the list. And you do not know to “know” this person. Do not limit yourself. You might list anyone from a family member to a school mate, a teacher to a politician, a boss or co-worker to a celebrity.
List 2: Every situation past, present, or imagined that makes you really uncomfortable. Think of things that happened that you responded to in a way you judge was less than optimal. You can even list the thoughts you have had about how to respond to a situation. Like maybe you left the grocery store and noticed you forgot to have the clerk scan the mondo bag of cat litter on the bottom of the cart and you decided just load it in the car and head home. Again, unedited, no holds barred.
How to Love All of You
4-Step Shadow Work for Radical Self-Acceptance
In order to love the unlovable in you, start by picking one of the people you listed...someone who you really (I mean really) dislike. This is someone you avoid at all costs. This is someone who makes you uncomfortable or jealous or envious. This is someone you feel has wronged you or is just plain wrong in being the way they are. Pick someone who is part of your life or was part of it in the past.
1. Bring this person to mind very clearly as you write 10 unlikeable qualities they have.
2. Next, make a list of three good qualities they have. This may be challenging, but stick with it.
3. Now, look over the 10 qualities you dislike. Close your eyes and feel into each one. Circle three that you feel could be reflections of yourself.
4. Write a new list including the three good qualities and the 3 circled unlikeable qualities.
Working with your list of six
The three circled unlikeable qualities may represent aspects of yourself that you have rejected and ignored...the shadow parts.
To bring light to these aspects, write about each in turn in a non-stop, let-it-flow kind of way. As an example, if the circled qualities are selfish, dark, and deceptive, you will write about each, exploring how it shows up in your life and in you. Write as much as possible, unedited.
The three good qualities represent things you can nurture and develop in yourself. Just like above, pick one at a time and explore how you can start integrating it more in your life.
Lessons from the shadow side are not always easy to see and integrate. But they are an invitation to deepen your self-knowledge and self-acceptance.