I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast where we're adventuring into the world of mindful modern magic and authentic spiritual practice. It's December 30, 2021, and today's topic is setting shadow resolutions as opposed to traditional resolutions. Are you ready to grow your soul?
I do a lot of thinking around new year’s time about spiritual growth and evolution, shadow work, that kind of thing, but I’m not a fan of resolutions. Lots of people aren’t, there’s tons of discourse on what’s wrong with doing the kind of goal setting that most people do when they set new year’s resolutions, the kind where it’s, like, significant change which involves depriving yourself or holding yourself to very high standards and expectations to reach goals that are, you know, usually in pretty strong opposition to the way we conduct ourselves otherwise. It’s almost always an attempt to willpower our way away from our shadow aspects and that’s why resolutions almost never work.
But I think we all on some level know that. We understand that resolutions aren’t likely to be effective in the long term unless we do them in a very specific way. We know that because we’ve all set dumb resolutions, right?
So I don’t want to do a whole episode on that. No need to dwell on that. But I don’t think that the core concept of resolutions is bad. Definitely there’s a benefit in wanting to make conscious change, to want to self-improve, to evolve, to grow. It’s just the tactics we use in general that don’t work for us, first of all, and then also the things we target to change about ourselves and our lives. So first I want to kind of dip into this whole issue of shadow work and frame this drive some of us have to make resolutions in the context of shadow work.
So, if you’re new to the topic and new to the podcast, in a nutshell, your shadow self, your shadow aspects, are the parts of yourself which are unacknowledged, which are repressed, denied, and hidden away. It’s not the parts that are quote unquote bad. That’s definitely not the focus. That kind of judgment is actually what drives the creation of our shadow aspects, at least in part. Those things about ourselves that we feel guilt, shame, embarrassment, that sort of thing about, those are the things we get to focus on when we’re doing shadow work.
And the point is not to get rid of those things, those aspects. Shadow work is healing work, integration work. It’s recognizing that those aspects do have a part in our sense of self, and once we recognize them and integrate them, then we can think about whether or not we’re okay with those things being part of our self identity in the long term.
So if we set the kind of resolution for ourselves, whether it’s at the new year or not, which aligns with our shadow work, our integration and evolution, they’ll tend to look less like significant lifestyle changes or transformations of self and more like, you know, taking smaller steps towards authenticity. Being our authentic selves. Not trying to be something other than who we are, but being more of who we are.
Of course, the difficulty in that is that integration is a process focused on the uncomfortable, the process of digging up and bringing our less admirable traits, the things we’re afraid to be judged for or whatever, into the light and coming to terms with the fact that those are actually parts of who we are. Which is exactly the opposite of how we usually undertake self improvement, right? Usually we do stuff like, you know, I’m not in very good shape and I feel bad about how I look and so I’m going to fix that and dedicate myself to working out on a regular basis, and we don’t usually do the real work of saying, like, I feel bad about not being in very good shape so I’m going to dig into myself and get to know that part of me that is worried about this, figure out what motivates that aspect of myself, and then figure out if those motivations are something I want to embrace or if it’s something I need to heal.
The end result isn’t… The thing with shadow work as opposed to what we usually do in self-improvement efforts is that shadow work doesn’t pick out an end goal and figure out how to get there. Shadow work is discovery driven. It’s a process, a journey. It’s about finding answers more than executing solutions. It’s not a question of how can we be better, it’s a question of who are we and why are we the way we are, and then do we want to continue being who we’ve become.
Which, like, I’m a Scorpio with Virgo moon and Virgo rising, I’m totally into death and rebirth and going inward and all of that, so all this shadow work is my jam. So this year as we’re turning the corner into a new year and everyone is talking about transitions and goals and resolutions, it’s probably no surprise that an idea popped into my head about what it might look like to make a shadow work resolution instead of a traditional one. And I’ll get into that idea next.
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Now back to the episode!
The most difficult part of shadow work, I think, is the integration. Like, it’s easier to come to terms with the fact that there are parts of us that are real, they’ve come to be part of us for a reason, even if we’re not particularly proud of those parts. Actually reintegrating those parts of ourselves back into our identity, incorporating them into our sense of self is really uncomfortable and really difficult.
I always think of things like, you know… You know when someone does something that’s problematic or hurts someone, offends someone, and they apologize by saying, like, oh my god, that’s not who I am, that’s not me? That’s them. Like, those things are parts of our shadow selves. Not every part of our shadow selves are like that, not all of our shadow aspects are problematic, but the problematic aspects of ourselves are definitely parts of our shadow selves.
So if there’s something about yourself that you at some level understand is part of who you are but you don’t like that part of you, how do you integrate it? In most cases those shadow aspects are things that we’ve actively tried to deny because we think there’s going to be a negative consequence for their existence. So, like, things we’re closeted about. Traits we’ve gotten crap for and feel like they’re detrimental or at least not acceptable to others. Things about us that we wish we could be but don’t feel like we’d be allowed to embrace.
Now, particularly the second one, the stuff we feel is detrimental or frowned upon so we’ve pushed it aside so people don’t associate us with those things, those are the hardest ones a lot of the time to integrate because if they were easy to not be those things, if it were easy to just willpower our way out of those traits or patterns or qualities or whatever, we’d have done it, right?
So, like, my go-to example right now is my procrastination. I literally always feel like I’m behind on my grand to-do list. And despite the fact that I’m, like, always afraid that someone I’m supposed to be doing work for will check up on whatever I’m doing and find out I’m behind schedule or haven’t gotten something started yet, I still struggle sometimes to do things, to get those things done. I wait until the last minute to get things done a lot of the time. I always have. In high school, one year I had fifth hour physics and sixth hour chemistry, so I would do my physics homework at lunch and my chemistry homework during physics. And I’ve gotten crap for it, I’ve been shamed for it, and still it’s not something I’ve been able to just change, right?
And that’s… I think if we really look at the stuff we tend to make resolutions about, those are the kinds of things. It’s the stuff we really do want to change at some level. It tends to be not so much the stuff that we hate about ourselves, but the stuff we’ve been told and taught that we ought to hate about ourselves, so since it’s really hard to just, like, not be like we are, we suppress it. We push it away.
So it’s that stuff which is especially hard to integrate because we’ve been taught to hate it, to reject it, and we’re not entirely sure why we can’t just not be that way because it’s not something we have learned to wish we could openly be, not in the same way as things that we know are true about us, things we think shouldn’t be judged about us but that we feel compelled to be closeted about because they’re unacceptable in some way or the things we love about ourselves but tone down in the interest of conformity and not seeming weird.
So integration for those harder things begins with acceptance. Coming to accept that they really are part of us and that they aren’t necessarily bad, at least not in their entirety. Moving them into the third category instead of the second. And this is… magic especially is one of those spiritual pursuits that asks us to kind of pick things apart and think about why they are the way they are. Why is it that we’re pressured or feel pressured to change these things about us? What benefit do we get from these aspects of ourselves? Because there’s absolutely a benefit. There’s a reason these are such deeply engrained aspects of ourselves.
And it’s not always easy to uncover those reasons. I’ve… in my own experience I can often pinpoint what made me target various aspects of my way of being as bad, the things that turned them into shadow aspects and made me feel bad about them, but it’s not as easy to figure out why I cling to them. Whether they’re coping mechanisms or just, like, personality traits or what. Like, what do I get out of procrastinating? What do I get out of being late so much? Why is it that those things are so hard to fix or change?
That’s what I want to get into next, how we can actually start to figure this out.
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Now, into the meat of matter. And here’s how this thought kind of formed in my brain.
So, this procrastination thing has been a focus of mine off and on for a while now just because I realized last year that it’s really a tight knot of… like, there are a ton of my own personal hangups and trauma responses and all kinds of stuff wrapped up in it. So when… I was approached by a company called Monk Manual to try their journal thing, and it’s a 90 day thing, a 90 day journal for, like, spiritual growth and mindfulness and self-improvement and all of that, so when I tried it out I chose to focus on that. Because, like, that’s a huge source of guilt and stress in my life, this constant feeling that, like, I’m not living up to expectations, I’m not doing the things I should be doing, I might get in trouble any moment, all of that.
So anyway, I had just come out of a mindset session at work and was thinking about the nature of shadow work, the things we tell our clients who are entrepreneurs about leaning into those things that are authentic about them, those things that they think they shouldn’t be in front of potential clients, like… So, a lot of people who become entrepreneurs, and in other contexts, but especially going into business where you are the brand, you are the business, there is often this belief that success in that case means presenting yourself in a certain way, not in an authentic way. Like, people need to only see your very professional side, your very polished way of presenting yourself and your skills, and anything else is going to be detrimental. So entrepreneurs end up pushing down all their authentic aspects and basically cosplaying as whatever they think successful people in their field or their niche need to be like. But really, it’s the whole thing of people not really connecting with people who come across without authentic energy.
So overcoming a lot of that stuff, including impostor syndrome and all the things that come along with it, involves self honesty and leaning into those things that might have been hidden before. Like, okay, you’re disorganized and scatterbrained? Great, be openly disorganized and scatterbrained because that’s going to be what draws people who identify with that, who connect with that, it’ll draw them to you because you understand them. That kind of thing.
Anyway, coming out of a session where we were dealing with that, I had this realization that, like, I’ve been a procrastinator all my life. What would happen if I leaned into it? Resolved that in 2022, instead of trying to not procrastinate, be purposeful about it. Don’t do today what doesn’t need to be prioritized until tomorrow. Don’t push my own priorities aside to people please when it’s only out of fear of not being perfect.
Because if I stop engaging in the behavior, if I stop procrastinating, I don’t give myself the opportunity to examine my emotions and choices in the moment and untangle the whys. When we do resolution type efforts at changing and improving ourselves, we don’t just force ourselves into inauthentic behavior patterns, we cut ourselves off from the experience that gives us the insight we need into the sources of those patterns.
So that’s my shadow resolution for 2022. Procrastinate. Like, I’m going to master the skill. And I don’t mean just, like, crap all over deadlines and disrespect everyone. The thing is, that’s not what I’ve ever been doing in my tendency to leave things to the last minute. I’ve been taking on too much, I’ve been desperately trying to balance my own motivations and life goals with the need to keep people happy, etc, etc… But it’s never been an act of disregard or disrespect.
When I’ve tried to be more disciplined and structured, though, that’s exactly the message I’ve reinforced for myself. Stop doing this, doing this is bad. This, though, this shadow resolution approach is not about stop doing this because it’s bad. It’s about keep doing this and figure out for sure what about it might be bad. Because there’s good in there. I’ve already realized it. Like, I’m far more efficient a lot of the time when I procrastinate than when I do things well before deadline. The pressure of a deadline makes me focus on what’s really necessary and not get bogged down or distracted in the unnecessary. Also, I’ve realized that the things that I usually distract myself with when I feel like I’m procrastinating on something important usually boil down to the things I wish I could prioritize in my life. It’s about me feeling like my own desires aren’t or haven’t ever been important and I’ve always been expected to deprioritize them. So when I’m pushing off obligations for the things I want to do, it’s probably a sign I’m not taking care of myself, not giving myself space for what’s personally important.
So if you’re connected to me on social media, I’d love to hear what your shadow resolutions might be for 2022! Let’s make this a year when we really work towards authenticity, no matter what else happens around us.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.