Shadow work can make you question your whole identity, reality, and existence.
It shows you pieces of yourself that you’ve kept buried for years and exposes the vulnerable parts that you’ve been protecting.
At the same time, shadow work helps you reach a level of self-acceptance that you never dreamed possible.
Shadow work for self-love is a key part of your journey; a part that you don’t want to miss out on.
Does shadow work help with self-love?
Self-love is an integral part of shadow work.
Not only does shadow work absolutely help with acceptance of your true, raw self, as it encourages you to meet and embrace your shadow, it’s something that you should practise alongside self-love.
Shadow work is the exploration of your deeper self and all the traits that you’ve buried – your shadow.
Your shadow is comprised of all the parts of yourself that you’ve kept hidden, usually since childhood, that you’ve been taught and conditioned to hide.
For example, some shadow traits you might possess are:
All these traits are hidden from the world in your unconscious mind because either society, upbringing, culture or someone else in your life growing up has taught you to believe they’re undesirable or ‘bad’.
You therefore put on a persona to the world – the picture of how you want the world to perceive you. A more digestible, socially acceptable ‘you’. After all, all we want is to be accepted, and when we’re children, acceptance is survival.
The problem with this is, the shadow doesn’t just go away. It sits there in your unconscious, which can negatively effect how you look at yourself and the world, as well as your sense of self.
You never feel truly authentic or whole.
The shadow can therefore reveal itself against your will in high-stress, emotional situations.
The thing is, your shadow traits aren’t inherently bad, nor are they inherently good. They’re just traits that make you uniquely human.
By practising shadow work, you meet the real you and learn to embrace it. You can work on what you feel needs to be worked on, forgive yourself, and truly accept who you at your core.
You become your most true, authentic self, and it’s unbelievably liberating. It leads you to true self-love; self-love of your true self, and not your persona.
It’s also important to add that meeting your shadow can challenge what you already knew. You can experience cognitive dissonance and struggle to comes to terms with who you really are.
Therefore, it’s important to work on self-compassion before you embark on your shadow work journey, and to practise forgiveness and self-care during and after.
During my 1-on-1 Shadow Work Coaching program, Love Your Shadow, establishing a strong foundation of self-compassion is the crucial first step in the journey to self-love through shadow work.
How do you do shadow work?
Practising shadow work yourself is absolutely possible, especially if you know how to do it and can stay consistent.
#1. Practise self-awareness
Shadow work mainly comes down to introspection and self-awareness; learning what your triggers are, considering why you are the way that you are, and acknowledging your shadow are all activities you can do inside your head.
When you react emotionally or in a way that you consider out of character (i.e. not in keeping with the persona you’ve cultivated), this is your shadow pushing through to the surface. It’s therefore important to be self-aware at this time.
- Acknowledge that this is your shadow
- Take some time to think about what part of your shadow this was peaking through
- Consider why this trait is kept in your shadow
- Think about where this part of your shadow originated
- Forgive yourself for being human and experiencing normal human emotions
- Decide how you’ll move forward: Are you going to integrate this part of your shadow into your entire being? Do you want to work on it and heal this part of your shadow?
What do I mean by point six?
Well, some shadow traits, such as explosive rage and being self-destructive, may cause harm to ourselves or others.
With this in mind, you probably want to work on this so that you don’t cause harm, but equally you don’t want to relegate it back to the shadow where it will only fester and burst to the forefront during moments out of your control.
You may want to get therapy and find an outlet for this rage and positive coping mechanisms for the self-destructive behaviour.
On the flip side, shadow traits such as arrogance can be accepted and integrated into our lives. Through a different lens and self-development, arrogance could be tempered into confidence.
Confidence is nothing to be ashamed of.
This will all help you reach true self-love.
#2. Journal through your shadow work journey
Journaling has been a key part of my shadow work journey and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
Using journal prompts for shadow work can help coax the answers you’ve been looking for out of your unconscious and onto the paper.
What’s more, you can look back at your work and see how far you’ve progressed, or look for clues you might have previously missed.
For me, journaling also helps my thoughts become more concise; I find a type of clarity I can’t reach within my own head.
I have plenty of shadow work prompts aimed at achieving self-love later in this post.
#3. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
Another way to practise shadow work yourself is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Doing this helps us become more forgiving, which is important when it comes to shadow work.
Forgiving ourselves for being human is a key part of self-love.
You can do this in a number of ways. For example:
- Watch a movie with a villain and imagine yourself playing the villain; do you now understand their motive?
- Read a book and focus on a character who’s supposed to be ‘bad’; consider their perspective
- When disagreeing or arguing with someone, stop and think about their point of view for a moment; does this change yours?
- Always listen to a range of differing opinions
- Spot when you’re projecting your shadow traits onto others; if someone annoys you, think about why – is this because you unconsciously possess these ‘annoying’ traits and you’re therefore projecting them onto an easy target?
The point of these exercises is to allow yourself to understand your shadow.
Our shadow becomes our shadow because we’re hiding away what we deem to be negative traits, but if we can understand where these traits come from, we can begin to forgive ourselves and develop as a person.
We also become more empathetic in general.
Meditation is really good for clearing your mind after practising shadow work.
This, as well as grounding and centring, are crucial for keeping your feet on the ground during what can be a confusing time.
A grounding exercise I love is to simply find some grass or ground and walk on it barefoot.
Wiggle your toes and feel the earth beneath you.
Now imagine roots growing from the soles of your feet into the earth. Let them root you to the ground; feel the energy from the earth calming you and filtering any excess, anxious energy from your body.
Take some deep breaths and feel connected to the earth.
#5. Practise self-care and self-love
It’s so important for you to practise self-care and acts of self-love before, during, and shadow work, especially if you’re doing shadow work alone.
You need a good, strong-minded foundation of self-love in place so that you don’t spiral or, if you find yourself in denial, push your shadow even deeper.
Cognitive dissonance – when we hold conflicting beliefs, morals and values – can be stressful; it can take a toll on our mental health because suddenly we’re confronted with this shadow that we’ve been trying to repress our entire lives.
The persona we’ve spent years building is shattered and our true, authentic self is standing there, naked, in all its glory.
This needs to happen. Our persona needs to be broken so that our true self can be built back up.
However, this is why it’s vital that we have love for ourselves so that we can continue our shadow work journey without causing further damage.
Self-care is a key element that I actively encourage.
Some great exercises you can do to improve self-love are:
- Repeat affirmations for self-love
- Practise self-care that focuses on the parts of yourself you don’t like
- Journal and using journal prompts for self-love
- Educate yourself on why you may not like certain things about yourself and understanding where this comes from (for example, if you dislike your body, you may want to research into the body acceptance movement)
- Redirect negative self-talk
- Learn your boundaries and express these to others
- Practise gratitude
How do I love my shadow self?
Discovering and loving your true self unapologetically sounds good in theory, but it can be really difficult in practise.
Firstly, we’ve been taught to suppress our shadow traits for a reason. These reasons range from:
- Upbringing/parenting style
- Societal norms and expectations
- Social conditioning
- Parent’s morals and values
- Other outsides influences
We deem these traits to be undesirable in a person and ultimately negative.
Shadow work should encourage you to view these traits neutrally. They’re neither positive or negative, they’re just human traits that we experience due to one of the many factors mentioned above.
This is key when practising shadow work for self-love.
You need to see your shadow for what it is and love yourself anyway.
A journaling exercise you may want to try in order to help promote self-love alongside shadow work is:
- Write down the shadow trait that you dislike about yourself; a trait that’s preventing you from loving yourself fully.
- Write about where you think this trait comes from and why you’ve repressed it.
- Now write down why you don’t like it.
- Think of someone you admire who exhibits this trait, even a little. For example, if your shadow trait is arrogance, you may choose to look at a strong character from a movie you love. In order to be a strong character, surely they must possess a little bit of arrogance? Or do you view it as confidence when it’s someone else and only arrogance when it’s yourself? Alternatively, maybe you do see arrogance in a character you love. Explore this a little bit in your journal.
- List the positive outcomes and characteristics that grow from this shadow trait. In the case of arrogance, it could manifest as you always showing up for yourself and having trust in your own abilities.
- How can you begin to make peace with this trait, bring it out of the shadows, and integrate it into your life? If arrogance is your shadow trait, this means that your persona may come across as the opposite: humble. By integrating your shadow, you don’t have to allow it to completely take over, we merely have to acknowledge its presence. By allowing your arrogance to come to the forefront a little more, what could you achieve? What would be so wrong in that? There’s nothing inherently wrong with being arrogant, as long as you’re not allowing it to rule you or using it to hurt others. Think on this for a while. Could you use a little arrogance? If not, remember, as I’ve already said, you don’t have to allow your shadow to take over, we simply have to acknowledge that it’s there and that it’s okay.
- Finally, list some traits that that you’re grateful to possess, whether these be shadow traits or traits you’ve been aware of your entire life. What do you like about yourself?
You may still not love everything little thing about yourself, but you accept it, and forgive yourself for it.
By embracing your true self – shadow and all – you can learn to love yourself completely and wholly.
Shadow work journal prompts for self-love
Remember, it’s really important to work on self-love before starting your shadow work, as well as during and after, since shadow work is a lifelong journey.
Simply pick one of these shadow work for self-love prompts at a time and write about them in your journal.
- How do you currently feel about yourself as a human being?
- How much does your physical appearance affect self-love?
- What are your core values?
- How have your morals and values been impacted by other people?
- How has other peoples’ opinions and comments on your physical appearance affected you?
- How much do other people’s opinions affect you overall?
- How much do the people around you affect your sense of self?
- If you could speak to your younger self now, what would you say?
- What makes you *you*?
- What does ‘self-love’ mean to you?
- How did you feel about yourself as a child?
- Write about a person who made you feel unworthy growing up?
- How do you handle criticism?
- How do you hope to feel about yourself in the future?
- What’s a shadow trait that you dislike about yourself? Why?
- How can you work on not disliking your shadow traits?
- What’s a shadow trait that you’ve discovered that you actually quite like?
- How has your shadow effected your ability to fully love yourself?
- How do you feel about yourself now that you’ve discovered your shadow?
- If your shadow was a different person and not part of you, what would they look like?
- Are there shadow traits that you like in others, but not yourself?
- What are three traits you admire in others that you wish you possessed?
- Why do you think you might be more accepting of others than yourself?
- How do you tend to show love for others?
- How do you show yourself love?
- What are five of your favourite self-care activities?
- If you could go back in time and confront one person you hurt you, what would you say?
- When someone upsets you, what age do you feel?
- How do you react when someone upsets you?
- How did you react as a child when someone upset you?
- Where does your sense of self stem from? Is it your style, appearance, values?
- What does your ideal self look like?
- How does your ideal self act? What are their values?
- How does showing yourself love make you feel?
- What are three ways you can show yourself love today?
- What’s a way you can show your inner child love today?
- How does the idea of integrating your shadow sound to you?
- What’s one way you can show your shadow love today?
- What are three reasons you’re grateful for discovering your shadow?
- If you could tell your shadow one thing, what would it be?
If you’re ready to discover self-love through shadow work but…
- You’re feeling a bit lost
- You still don’t really understand or know where to start
- You struggle to stay motivated with shadow work and know that consistency is key
- You need someone to hold you accountable during your journey
… my 1-on-1 Shadow Work Coaching program – Love Your Shadow – is for YOU and I’m currently taking on new clients. Come on over and get started today, or book a free discovery call to see if we’re a good fit.
A witchy ray of sunshine who loves to help others on their journal journey. I’ve been journaling since childhood and have since gone on to earn a degree in English and a diploma in Shadow Work. I love my plant babies, yoga, and anything spooky. Find out more on my about me page.