What if our true potential lies within the part of ourselves of which
we are most ashamed?
This question has been rolling around in my head for the last couple weeks and it won't go away.
It began when I was listening to Michael Hyatt's Podcast, and he posed this somewhat related question, "What if everything about who you are; the great, the good, the bad, and the real bad, was posted all over the internet tomorrow. What would crush you the most?"
I started to wonder, "What is the one thing about who I am that I don't want anyone to know?" and that was followed by, "What is the one thing about me that I don't want MYSELF to know?" Hmmmmm.......
A few days later I went to see a Shaman. In Shamanic cultures, the word "Shaman" has come to mean "the one who sees in the dark" or "the one who knows". They are spiritual guides and teachers. Shamanism is the most ancient spiritual practice known to humans and was around long before established religions. To put it simply, Shamans know about deep, dark, old, spiritual stuff.
“Are you aware of the fact that you are almost ALWAYS smiling?” he asked me.
“What is wrong with that?” I thought. “It’s better than frowning all the time and I know plenty of people who do that. I am NOT a frowner. I see myself as a carrier of positivity, of course I am smiling all the time!”
I didn't have time to respond out loud when he continued, "You say you are in a 'funk', that things haven't been going so great, and yet, you have had a huge smile plastered on your face since you walked in”.
“Uhhhh,” I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know I was smiling.
Then he uttered the 2 words that made me want to run away and disappear. “It’s fake”.
“Is this really happening?” I thought. “Did he just call the Co-founder of the Real ME Project, FAKE? OMG, kill me now.”
But I’ve had several days to think about it, and I know this man is trying to help me. As much as I hate to admit it, he’s onto something big.
Although enthusiasm and positivity are strengths of mine, it seems I may have used those qualities to cover up parts of myself that I didn’t like, for decades, without even realizing it. Oops.
I asked him, "So you're saying that I have been hiding my bad feelings behind a veil of optimism and joy?"
"What do you think?" he asked.
The truth really blows sometimes.
This realization was a bit jarring because I was under the impression that I was pretty advanced at this self discovery shit. I had left the dark behind for good many years ago, and now I was supposed to dive headfirst BACK into it?
I had spent over 10 years working on this stuff already. I had transformed from victim to victor, sick to healthy, anxious to centered, depressed to happy, isolated to connected, phony to real…right?
What was this? Phase 2? Apparently, yes. This next phase was not about overcoming or conquering anything. It was about surrendering. Surrendering to the dark.
According to the psychologist Carl Jung, we all have a dark side; the part of ourselves that we hate the most and try to cover up. He called it the "shadow". So I asked myself, "What is my shadow?", "What is my dark side?" Once I asked, my answer came almost immediately and I could not believe how blind I had been to it for so long.
I want to share it with you in 4 parts in the hopes you may find this format useful for your own self discovery. Have fun ;-)
Part 1: Acknowledging the dark side.
Part 2: Listing all the ways I have been covering it up in my life.
Part 3: Asking, "What could be great about my dark side?"
Part 4: Finding a way to perceive and integrate the dark side into my life in a positive way.
Before we get into this, let me be clear. This is not about taking a big crap on yourself and pointing out what's "wrong". It is actually the opposite. By acknowledging the truth, we can bring the dark into the light and love ourselves more. That is the whole point. Good? Good.
Part 1: My Dark Side
Historically, the “real me” has been a total pushover. If you look back on the majority of my 42 years you would see that ever since I was a kid, I would rather back down, then fight. I lack assertiveness, backbone, and am overly nice. I easily give up and quit. I can be a real wimp. I avoid confrontation, am easily intimidated and am emotionally weak. I can’t even watch scary movies. This is the part of the real me that I hate….until now. This is my dark side that I want to hide and have been trying to hide for my whole life...until now.
Part 2: What Have I Done to Hide?
To hide my dark side, I have:
1. Distracted people with my enthusiasm, positivity, smile, energy and optimism so they would not have a chance to see that I am weak.
2. Participated in Spartan races and lifted weights in the hopes that if I looked strong on the outside than people would think I was strong on the inside.
3. Used “rebel” and “free spirit” personas to send the message that I don’t care what other people think, even though I really care, probably more than you.
4. Hung out with people who I consider strong and badass in the hopes that it would wear off on me and give me street cred. Ha!
5. Took my Haymakers for Hope Fight, NOT to raise money for cancer, but so people would think I was tough.
6. Have often criticized and judged quitters!
There's a lot more than that, but you get the point. Imagine how much time, energy and money I have spent trying to cover ME up? Imagine what I could have been doing instead?
Part 3 - What is great about this? or What COULD be great?
What is great about having the nature of a non-badass? Well, let's see...
1. My non-badassness makes me a very compassionate, forgiving person. Being overly sensitive, makes me very sensitive to other people's pain.
2. My non-badassness is the inspiration behind all the work I do; coaching, writing and speaking. I want to empower people because I know what it feels like to be dis-empowered.
3. My non-badassness has pushed me to go out and try to acquire perseverance and strength. Ironically enough, all that boxing and obstacle racing that I've done in the hopes of hiding my weakness, has actually made me physically and mentally tougher.
4. Those are 3 pretty great things.
Part 4 - How can I integrate this, instead of deny it?
With this new found awareness, I realize that I couldn't have any of those positives, if I didn't have the BIG negative. And that is true for everyone.
There is another awesome thing going on here. Once we shine the light on our dark side, it loses its power. It becomes just another part of who we are, instead of a dark force of which we are unaware. We are free!
Now that my dark side is out in the open, it doesn't have a hold on me. I feel stronger because I am not TRYING so hard to be strong. Does that make sense?
My job now? To keep the light on.
So what do you say? If you are willing, flip on ALL the lights and ask yourself, "What is my dark side?", "What do I hate the most about myself?"
Maybe you're a liar, or a bitch, or manipulative, or hypocritical, or a wimp like me… whatever your dark side is, are you willing to haul it out into the open? Everyone has ALL the human qualities in SOME percentage inside them, so let's take the moral judgement out of this.
If you can acknowledge the part you hate the most, are you willing to ask yourself, "What is great about this part of me?” or "What COULD be great?"
I believe that our purpose in this world and our true potential is found in the part of ourselves of which we are most ashamed. The only way to reach our true potential is to stop hiding what we hate, and embrace it for what it is; a part of the whole. Our WHOLE self.
"Your defects are the ways that glory gets manifested.
Whoever sees clearly what is diseased in himself
begins to gallop on the way. - Rumi