The “shadow” is a concept first coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung that describes those aspects of the personality that we choose to reject and repress. For one reason or another, we all have parts of ourselves that we don’t like or that we think society won’t like so we push those parts down into our unconscious psyches. It is this collection of repressed aspects of our identity that Jung referred to as our shadow self.
According to psychology, shadow self is the side of your personality that contains all the parts of yourself that you don’t want to admit to having. It is at first an unconscious side. It is only through effort to become self-aware that we recognise our shadow. Although many infer the shadow is ‘negative’, this is not really true. The Shadow is rather what you yourself perceive as dark and weak about yourself, and therefore needing to be hidden and denied. But this depends on your own perspective on life, and your levels of self-esteem.
Suppressing the shadow is self-harmful. As Jung’s words suggest, avoiding the dark side of your personality is likely to cause suffering in the long run. Ultimately, the more we suppress feelings and negative emotions into the subconscious, the greater the power they have over us. Moreover, they can assert themselves in different ways. This could be through mental health issues, chronic illness, anxiety, addiction, and low self-esteem. Suppressing the shadow self can also prevent us from reaching our full potential. This is particularly true when specific character traits have been suppressed due to low self-esteem, anxiety or incorrect beliefs that have been instilled during childhood.
When you explore your shadow, this involves a process of bringing acceptance and compassion to areas of yourself that you have previously drawn a protective shield over. It involves gaining a deeper understanding of yourself and provides an opportunity for personal growth. While it can be challenging to take a deep look inside ourselves, learning to integrate your shadow can lead to a happier and more fulfilled state of being. Therefore, it can be beneficial as you bring your unconscious mind into your active consciousness.