Shadow work can sound intimidating - like some mystical dark art that involves incantations and sacrifice but really it's just a way of getting to know yourself better, especially the bits you usually either ignore or have lost contact with. The bits that hide in the shadows.
The work can sometimes feel challenging as it requires you to stretch your comfort zone a little, but the benefits are worth it.
If you're tired of people pleasing and listening to your inner critic, shadow work might be for you - but there are also a range of side benefits that come from doing this work too. Here are some of my favourites.
More discernment. A bonus feature of shadow work is that it can end up saving you money (as well as time, energy and effort). and that's because when you connect with what matters to you, that comes with the ability to be more discerning about how you spend your money and what's really worth your investment.
You also get to realise that you are 100% worth investing in too.
Formerly, I would have had magpie shiny object syndrome and would want to buy All The Things in a misguided attempt to feel satisfied and fulfilled. Through developing a deeper sense of connection with myself, who I really am and what I really want, I’ve realised that buying all the things is not what I actually want or need.
When you know what matters; are clear on what you need and feel connected to what you want then the autopilot buy buy buy reaction gets switched off. No more FOMO abut the latest trends. No more knee jerk reactions to sales emails; no more hoping that buying all the self-help books is actually going to be the magic bullet.
Discernment becomes a love language of really knowing yourself and trusting that you can make aligned choices with care and quality rather than settling for whatever comes your way.
More joy. Shadow work has a reputation for being about digging around in the dark corners of your soul and being all about the darkness, but actually when you do start to spend time with your shadow self, there is much joy to find in there too.
Your shadow is where all the things you loved as a child that someone eventually told you were weird, childish, stupid or not cool, go to hide. For me, it was tarot, crystals and believing in magic – all things I loved when I was child yet once I hit that certain age and went off to “big school” they got tucked away in favour of fitting in.
Now, through the self-connection that comes from shadow work and spending time listening to my inner child, I’ve realised these are things that bring me joy and I’ve welcomed them back.
Not only does shadow work put you back in touch with the things that bring you joy, it can also support you to embrace them without worrying about what other people think of you and what brings you joy.
Deeper compassion for others (even when they are being dickheads). When you begin your own shadow work journey, you realise that it won’t go far or last long unless you are meeting those dark parts of you with lots of self-compassion and non-judgement.
These are the foundations of shadow work, and from these foundations comes deeper self-acceptance, but also a new lens to view others with too.
Compassion for others is a wonderful bi product of doing work on your own shadow as you begin to realise that we are all fighting battles with our own inner demons; bottling up feelings like shame, fear and anger; making choices that suit others before we suit ourselves and just trying to find our way through life.
Knowing the complexity and duality of your own inner world gives you a new perspective through which you can view others. That person cutting you up in traffic – maybe they're distracted by some bad news. That person who didn’t say thank you – maybe they were feeling shy and awkward. And that person who talks over you in meetings – maybe they fear not being good enough and have been trying too hard their whole life to win approval from others
Compassion for others is not a get out of jail free card for poor behaviour or disrespect, but it does provide a release valve for the stress that comes when we allow other people’s actions to negatively impact us. Imagine if we were all just a little bit more understanding with each other?
You feel bolder. This is perhaps one of may favourite shadow work side effects – the deeper sense of not giving a fuck-ness that comes from knowing that you don’t need anyone else’s approval because you are growing your own sense of inner validation and it is deep and rich!
Being bolder means that people pleasing tendencies like struggling to say no; going over and above; diminishing your light so you don’t outshine others – all of those things become less of a pull on your energy.
You’ll find yourself taking up more physical space – standing taller and holding your ground. You’ll become less interested in what others want from you and more focused on what YOU want FOR you. Most exciting of all is that taking risks, being adventurous, daring to be different and rocking the boat of status quo takes on a playful, experimental quality where the outcome means less than the experience itself.
Increased resilience. I will admit that being bolder does comes with more risks and more risks can lead to more outcomes that do not (on the surface) seem appealing. And this is where this last benefit comes in to make those risks worthwhile.
Shadow work can support you to build your resilience and your capacity to ride the waves of life.
Shadow work leads you to know, understand, accept and embrace yourself more. With that comes deep knowing and trusting that you can have your own back and be able to work your way through and out of anything that comes your way opens the road to making bolder, more confident decisions and action in all things. Life becomes worth living.
For me, Shadow work has truly been transformative. It’s a way of coming to know your dark side better that comes with all of these built-in bonus features and more besides.