Let’s get real about what actually goes on when we’re put to the test. Whether it’s in performance, an audition, or an interview—any time we fear being judged as ‘less than’—what’s happening?

Of course, when we’re stressed we have adrenaline and cortisol pumping, and for most of us, there’s also negative self-talk happening as well.

But there’s something even more fundamental going on. And when we understand it and start working with it (instead of against it)—it can make a world of difference.

Let me introduce you to—if you haven’t already met—your Shadow.

It’s what psychiatrist Carl Jung called the parts of ourselves that we’re ashamed of: it’s what we find unacceptable and undesirable in ourselves. Margarita Tartakovsky, in an article for Psych Central writes that the Shadow holds the . . .

“qualities we don’t dare reveal to others. . . the traits others have rejected. It’s the traits we believe deem us undeserving or unworthy of love.

You may be judgmental, weak, angry, lazy, selfish or controlling. You may hate this about yourself. Or you might’ve buried these traits so deep you don’t even realize they exist.”

We grow up convinced that if we show up as our whole and complete selves—shadows, warts, and all—that others will reject us. That even family and friends would turn away.

So, from the age when we first start to socialize with others, we do our best to “hide” these parts of ourselves. What we try to present to the world is only the “sanitized” and “socially acceptable” aspects of ourselves—a two-dimensional slice of our real potential, of our whole selves.

And there’s a real price we pay for this false front. Because our real strength comes from showing up complete and whole—shadow and all.

Think about it: you know the kind of performances where the artist holds nothing back, and “leaves it all on the field”?

Well, that can only happen when the performer stops hiding and dares to bring her full self to the performance.

And it’s the same in interviews, networking, and in any other situation in which stress and fear tempt us to hold back and “play it safe.”

To bring your best requires bonding with your Shadow.

It’s painful to confront our true selves. It’s scary to walk into a performance or any other stressful situation and bring our whole self, shadow and all. It’s all too tempting to hide behind our egos and perfectionism, trying to “prove” ourselves and gain approval from others.

The good news is there are tools to help. LA-based shrinks Phil Stutz and Barry MIchels are the authors of two terrific books: The Tools and Coming Alive.

Stutz and Michels have helped scores of Hollywood A-list performers, directors, and writers get past creative blocks and self-sabotage. Their books and website detail a set of dynamic visualization exercises that can shift your emotional state, behavior, and outlook.

When practiced regularly these tools can help you transform your mindset and your life.

Take a moment now to ‘see’ your Shadow.

As you read this, picture the version of you that you’re most ashamed of—the imagined version of your worst aspects.

In your mind’s eye, your Shadow may resemble a younger version of yourself at a particularly vulnerable time in your life. (My Shadow reminds me of how I saw myself in junior high—pimply, awkward, resentful. self-loathing—and angry.)

Or your Shadow may not even appear as human, but as a mass of energy, encompassing all that you’re ashamed of. Just notice whatever comes up for you.

My Shadow is angry and yours may be, too.

For good reason. After all, we’ve been denying and avoiding our Shadows for most of our lives, doing our best to pretend they’re not part of us.

But just imagine if you were to make amends and get to know your Shadow.

And imagine that over time, by acknowledging your Shadow and checking in with her, imagine what this might mean.

That you become more accepting of your whole self.

Accepting your whole self means acknowledging your ‘shadow urges’ and feelings. This doesn’t mean expecting less of yourself. It means feeling the fear and staying present.

To go into any stressful situation WITH your shadow. Your job is then to have your shadow’s back. To tell her, “I’m not going to abandon you,” and that you’re in this together. That you don’t care how others may judge you—that you’re in this for her.

Stutz and Michels always say you don’t have to believe in any of this stuff, just try it and see what happens.

What I can tell you is this: it’s an amazing thing to turn your fear and ego-centered focus into a selfless mobilized cause to stand by your Shadow—to back her—and be whole and present.

It’s in this change of focus—going from being caught up in ego-centered fear, to standing tall in solidarity with our Shadow—that the ‘magic’ happens. It’s where we find a strength and a resolve most of us have have never experienced before.

Here’s to developing a relationship with your Shadow and becoming who you are truly meant to be.

But make no mistake, we’re not talking about a quick fix here—changing long-established habits takes time and effort. But isn’t your creativity worth it?

For more: here’s the Tool that Phil and Barry teach to help you connect with your Shadow—and over time, form a bond that strengthens your creativity—is called Inner Authority.

Do you have a question for me about working with your Shadow?  Hit me up in our free Facebook group.

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