Relating To Your Shadow for Healing + Growth

Kim Kimball
4 min readFeb 14, 2023

“Have you been frustrating yourself by trying to eliminate your negative experiences instead of simply better managing them? If so, how?

Where in your life could you actually benefit from a few more negative experiences? How have you been avoiding them?” -Mark Manson

Today I want to chat about how you can’t have what you want in your life without the “shadow” side.

By shadow I mean the side that you’d rather not see, feel, experience, or potentially show others.

I have spent a whole lot of my life trying to avoid the shadow side–of myself, of others, and of life circumstances. I mean, it’s not exactly something that you want to willingly dive head first into, ya know?

Mistakenly, I thought that if I “healed enough”, self-helped enough, worked on my nervous system enough, and got to a regulated enough place, that somehow the shadow side would– poof-go away! Cease to exist!

The shadow was something I subconsciously thought I could *transcend* if I became enlightened, regulated, healed, and “fixed” enough.

But you can’t have the business / career success without facing the deep internal fears that feel like they are holding you back and stopping you in your tracks.

You can’t have the intimacy, closeness, and trust in your relationships that you desire without the difficult conversations.

You can’t have the thriving partnership without the disagreements.

You can’t have the baby without the sleepless nights.

You can’t have the growth you desire without looking at some parts of yourself that you may have previously deemed as “undesirable” that you wanted to push down, and cross your fingers that it would just go away.

When we try to have what we want without the “shadow side”, we are in resistance to life, because we are resisting the wholeness that exists in all things.

All things contain light/dark, both/and….and it’s in learning to accept this, and in our ability to turn towards it instead of away from it, that real freedom and joy is found.

My somatic therapist once told me that what makes life difficult isn’t so much difficult circumstances, but in insisting for things (yourself, others, life circumstances) to be *only one thing* (because NOTHING is only one thing!)

When we insist on pushing, contorting, and controlling our way to things being only the “light side” of things, we will constantly be in a war that will never end and that we can never win, because there will always be a shadow side for us to acknowledge, accept, and learn to relate to.

Perhaps you’re not as hard-headed and stubborn as me, and perhaps this has been more obvious to you, but it took me DECADES to truly start to embody this in my life, and doing so has brought about some of the biggest shifts that I’ve experienced in my own sense of wholeness and wellness.

When I’m resisting the shadow side, I notice myself judging myself for my very human experience, pushing myself to be somewhere else (and not accepting where I currently *am*), “shoulding” myself, carrying loads of tension in my body and mind, getting angry with *what just is* and taking out my frustrations on myself and others, just to name a few.

This way of being hasn’t worked to shift things in a meaningful way yet. Resisting the shadow only makes it crop up elsewhere; it refuses to stay buried.

I’ve learned instead to sit down to tea with these shadow parts. To cup their faces in my hands. To truly see them, validate them, and listen to their fears.

Turning towards these shadow parts instead of away from them, allowing them to be there and take up space, learning to *relate to them as part of the whole* instead of forcing them to “go away” brings a radical acceptance and deep peace to my soul.

Paradoxically, when I allow these shadow parts to be there, then I truly get to experience freedom and joy.

When my partnership no longer has to be one big bed of roses all the time, and it gets to have moments of disconnection, disagreements, and wobbles, then it can be really, truly good, right now.

When my pregnancy no longer has to be something I’m only elated and excited about, but I get to be scared about the ways my life is about to change, too, then I get to enjoy the moments of excitement that *are* present.

When I can be honest about the parts of myself that are egoic, selfish, and demanding, I can also be honest about the parts of myself that are freaking amazing.

I no longer have to wait to eliminate all the shadow parts for the goodness to be here, available, and experienced, amidst it all.

You can’t “heal enough”, self-help enough, or regulate enough to eliminate the shadow side. It will always exist, because it is part of the wholeness of life.

The shadow isn’t something to transcend, but to relate to in all our earthy humanity.

When I can *support*, accept, and love these parts of me, I get to experience the thing I thought I could only achieve by eliminating the shadow, right now.

What are your thoughts on and experiences with the shadow side of the things that you desire? I’d love to hear from you; feel free to comment below.

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Kim Kimball

Women's Leadership Coach helping women leaders, coaches, + entrepreneurs stop people pleasing + perfectionism in their biz, life, + relationships.