One of the enquiries I am doing this month is about parts of myself I hide from the world. When I came across this enquiry, I thought, I don’t hide any parts! I used to have a period in my life when I generally hid away from life, but not anymore. But the question stayed with me and I started noticing…
Last Monday, I had a meeting with a fellow writer. I was grumpy and tetchy at home, but as soon as I walked into the cafe where we were meeting up, I pulled myself together. Literally. I felt taller, I walked with more confidence, I put on a smile, I handled the meeting beautifully. Then I got home and it was like the light switch went off. I was back to being grumpy.
I’ve been aware of my ‘public persona’ part for a long time. I used to ‘wear’ it at work all the time. What did people expect of me? Confidence, efficiency, reliability – whatever it was, I gave it to them. A smile decorated my face at all times, even when internally I mourned and cried. I’ve been on maternity leave for most of 2013 and this year, so the need for that persona has reduced so dramatically that I forgot I still had it. I realised with sadness that there are parts of myself I deem unacceptable in public: I cannot be sad, angry, bitter, loud, talkative, even too happy. It’s like every time I enter a public domain, I leave significant parts of myself behind. No wonder I’ve been hiding out a lot.
But here is the thing: without shadow there is no authenticity. If we want to be true to ourselves, we need to embrace all of who we are, including hurting parts. No, let me rephrase that, particularly hurting parts. Only when we allow ourselves to be messy, clunky and perfectly imperfect, we can stay true to who we truly are. Hiding shadow suppresses our light, joy and happiness.
There is no shadow without light. Likewise, without embracing our shadow, we cannot fully shine our light in the world.