Self-awareness and personal growth comes from being unafraid to go within and look at ourselves more closely and honestly. The inner journey helps us to better know who we are and increases our self-perception. We can’t change or improve who we are without fully knowing ourselves.
This introspection means looking at parts of ourselves we may not like, and examining ourshadow -- a psychological term coined by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. The shadow refers to aspects of ourselves of which we may or may not be conscious, and if we are, we prefer to ignore or deny them. Traits that we hold on to, such as selfishness, self-pity, guilt or resentment, all need to be acknowledged and examined. If we look at the shadow as something we need to embrace in order to fully love ourselves, we’re more willing to acknowledge what we may not like, and open ourselves to changing those aspects that we don’t like.
Think of the shadow as something hidden beneath our clothes, like those extra pounds we’d like to lose, but haven’t. If we were going to make love with someone for the first time, we’d need to remove our clothes, right? We might think that we can hide what we don’t like about our bodies by making love in the dark, but eventually we’ll be seen in the light of day, exposing those pounds -- or shadowed traits -- we’d prefer to hide.
Hiding is hard to do. It can become exhausting, frustrating and even depressing to try to keep parts of ourselves hidden. But wouldn’t we rather be honest with ourselves about what we don’t like, and admit that we have pounds, or aspects of ourselves, that we’d prefer not to expose, yet still accept them as part of who we are?
Our shadow aspects can be something that we completely abhor or that cause us shame. But until we’re willing to embrace what disgusts us, we’ll continue to let it get in the way of loving ourselves. Not loving all the parts of ourselves makes it more difficult to be loved for who we are by others. And that affects our ability to love others with their own individual flaws and foibles.
We need to get naked, and that doesn’t just mean exposing our bodies with those extra pounds we don’t like. It means getting naked from the inside and being unafraid to expose it all -- who we are in our entirety. We need to acknowledge and recognize our insecurities, fears, flaws and aspects or characteristics we think are shameful or unlovable. Being naked from the inside means we’re willing to be seen for who we are, and, instead of hating parts of ourselves, we turn that hate into love and are ready to say, “This is me with my imperfections, and I still love myself.”
When we’re unafraid to look deep within, we can become more aware of the “authentic self;” of who we really are.
Get naked with yourself from the inside, and watch the weight of judgement and self-loathing drop away like the best diet you could find. Be ready to bare who you are with total acceptance and self-love.
Ora Nadrich is founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking and author of "Says Who? How One Simple Question Can Change the Way You Think Forever". A certified life coach and mindfulness teacher, she specializes in transformational thinking, self-discovery, and mentoring new coaches as they develop their careers.