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What is shadow work?- Your guide to embracing and facing your shadow self for a fulfilling life.

We all have aspects of our personalities that we keep hidden from others. Sometimes we get so good at masking that we hide it from ourselves too.
Some of these are natural human emotions such as jealousy, anger, lust, desperation and resentment that we are taught as undesirable to exhibit, addictions or trauma.
Carl Yung, the godfather of analytical psychology and shadow psychology describes the shadow as “desires and feelings that are not acceptable to society or to the conscious psyche”
Escaping these uncomfortable emotions or experiences by burying them deep within our psyche, not consciously displaying them, however, does not erase them. Just as your light (positive traits and accomplishments) shines bright and illuminates everything around you, your shadow always follows even when you are running away from it. This article is an insightful introduction to shadow work with 5 prompts for beginners at the end.

The shadow when suffocated into the abyss of the subconscious manifests itself as insecurities, outbursts, projection, self-sabotage behaviour and unhealthy relationships; setting you up for an all-around unfulfilling human experience devoid of growth.

So what is shadow work and how does it guide you through embracing and confronting your shadow for a fulfilling life?

What is shadow work?

Shadow work is the process of assimilating your shadow into your conscious personality, confronting the cause or origin of undesirable feelings and experiences with the intention of understanding and not punishing that aspect of yourself. Shadow work keeps you in touch with the embarrassing versions of yourself, equipping you with the awareness of your innermost character and the power to embrace all of you, transforming for the better.

My shadow work journey started in December 2020 amidst what felt like a never-ending depressive and anxiety-filled episode resulting from heartbreak. The pain from the unrequited love that I experienced became a catalyst for my identity exploration. In between soaking up pillows with salty tears, endless voices in my head replaying that I was never good enough to be loved anyway and me ranting to my friends, I was inclined to go within and turn the lens on me. Microscopically, I analysed every behaviour exhibited in and out of the relationship.

What made this specific ending so painful to me? What were the insecurities I projected within the relationship, and what new insecurities have I developed due to the breakup? Why do these matter? What is the origin of my actions and reactions towards him?
Where and why did I drop the ball in that relationship with myself?


The focal point of healing from the breakup shifted to understanding myself without avoiding my shortcomings and not the actions of the other person.
As I delved deeper and deeper into every question, I peeled off layers of childhood trauma, unlocking memories of my subconscious which had informed how I showed up in life.

Without knowing it then, I had embarked on a life-changing journey of self-discovery beyond my believed consciousness.

Why do you need to do shadow work?

Wouldn’t you love to get to know every aspect of yourself, hold yourself accountable with kindness and compassion, love and develop your personality for the better? And consequently silence the negative self-talk?

Everyone needs to do some shadow work periodically because it is only through experiencing the shadow that we harness our transpersonal power. The practice of uncovering your unhealed subconscious will retire the “this is just the way I am” rhetoric when confronted by the harm we cause ourselves and others.

Doing shadow work is a way of “checking yourself”- your inner dialogue and the self that is shielded from others out of shame or fear of retribution.

It is only by merging the “darkness’ and “light” that we allow ourselves to have a human experience that transcends society’s limitations on our perception of self.

How do you practice shadow work?

Shadow work need not be daunting or scary. The negative connotations of darkness and pain attached to it are mere chatter from the group of people who deem every spiritual practice which is not rooted in Abrahamic religion as evil.
Here are three ways to do shadow work and get to know your subconscious.

1. Therapy.
Yes, therapy is a form of shadow work! Therapy is objectively the safest and most supportive form of shadow work; as you have a trained professional guiding you through uncovering your subconscious. The high costs of private therapy, lack of representation, long wait times and unreliability of the free counselling provided by the NHS in the UK generally make therapy unappealing, which prompts people to embark on this journey solo.
But if you can find a great therapist that you connect with and trust, this is my recommended option for shadow work.

2. Journaling.
Want to trace your thought patterns and behaviour solo? Then journal shadow work is for you!
There is a plethora of shadow work journals out there that come with loaded questions designed to probe into your deepest psyche. But, a blank notebook, noting down the questions that arise whenever you are triggered and exploring the answers to those questions is a great starting point! As someone who processes her thoughts and emotions better through written words, I’ve found that journaling is my go-to option.

3. Meditation.
Are you a visualiser?
If yes, then guided shadow work meditations are your go-to.
A soothing voice navigates you through visualisations of feelings and actions buried deep within your subconscious, unearthing your primitive desires and confronting the ego. With meditative shadow work, visualisations can be intense and require an external support system to jolt you back to the now when breaks are needed.

So you have all the information you need, a safe space to meet yourself fully and a great support system and are ready to meet your shadow self?

Here are 5 shadow work prompts to kickstart your journey to embracing your shadow self. 

1) What are the 3 things that I am most judgemental about in others?

    i) How do each of these characteristics show up in me?

    ii) How do I feel pointing them out in myself?

Tip: don’t stop there. Explore each feeling that arises from identifying these behaviours in yourself and think about another time that you have felt that way.

2) When was the last time I felt like I was not good enough?

    i) Whose action or lack thereof prompted this feeling?

    ii) What are the value systems that I use to measure my worth?

3) When do I feel the most valued?

    i) Who has made me feel valued consistently?

    ii) How have I reciprocated this feeling and made them feel valued?

4) When have I wanted to implement a boundary but couldn’t?

     i) What was the boundary that I could not implement?

     ii) Why did I not go through with asserting this boundary?

Tip: remember that the only way to fully meet your shadow is to be honest with yourself, even when it is uncomfortable and cringy. Explore other scenarios where you have backed out of asserting the boundary which you highlighted above.

5) Who has hurt me the most in life?

    i) How did they hurt me?

    ii) How did my perception of them change before and after the hurt occurred.

Bonus question: How did my perception of myself change before and after the hurt occurred?

As you begin this practice to get to know your shadow self and transcend your ego to be your highest self, it is important to remember that healing and personal growth is a continuous journey with no final destination. So take breaks in between each shadow work session, experience your light and practically implement new strategies to embrace your shadow. New triggers will always pop up. Gradually, with more practice, confronting your shadow will be instinctive. Albeit uncomfortable and painful sometimes, the benefits of shadow work far outweigh the momentary discomfort. And your fulfilling life experience will thank you for your dedication to understanding and bettering all aspects of yourself.
Good luck shadow working using whatever method you choose!

And remember awareness without action is futile.

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5 THINGS to remember when working on your “summer body” at the gym.

On April 12th in the United Kingdom we bid farewell to Chloe Ting home workouts and our beloved resistance bands. As we all flock to the sweaty gym environments with shitty bro music and men that uninvitedly fixate on our backsides , it is imperative that we remember 5 things in our bid to get these “summer bodies”.

Society and “summer bodies”

Since its popularisation in 1961 through an ad campaign by a chain of weight-loss salons called Slenderella International, bikini body is a term that is ingrained into every society. It is used to describe the requisite features of a woman’s physique that deems it attractive enough to flaunt in summer. It is interchangeable with its not so distant cousin summer body in Black culture. Notwithstanding the fact that women from every culture are under pressure in our male-gaze centric society to only showcase the present socially acceptable body type, these body types differ in racial communities. Bikini body standards in non Black communities bolster the thin, “fit”, chiseled abs and thigh gaps look; picture Gymshark and Victoria’s not-so-Secret models in your mind’s eye. Differing from our counterparts, the Black community’s paradigm of a “summer body” emphasises the absence of fupa, “snatched waist”, slim arms and a fat ass that jiggles in your sundresses; imagine the likes of Beyonce and BBL successful surgery undertakers who now sell you work out plans on Instagram.

Our desirability as Black women is measured by an ever growing scale of requirements and the hourglass body type is only one- a very vital one if you intend on having a “hot girl summer”. Understanding that as social animals we all (well some of us at least) aim to be desired and accepted, this blog post isn’t here to judge your rationale for striving in the gym to achieve a certain look, neither is it here to shame your body type. Be it for health reasons, mental health boost or simply to look desirable, here are 5 things to remember when you head into the gym to work on your physique.

1. WE ARE STILL IN A PANDEMIC-HYGIENE IS KEY

You are clearly ecstatic to have an array of gym equipment at your disposal and discard lifting your couch when doing squats. Amid your eagerness to return to “real” workout, it is salient to recognise that Covid-19 is very much active and making its rounds in the UK, therefore high levels of hygiene in public spaces is to be maintained (you should already be doing this but just a friendly reminder because I am nice).

Gym equipments are a mechanism for the transfer of bodily fluids so before grabbing that barbell or hopping on the stair master, ensure that you use alcohol wipes to sanitise any area of the equipment that you will be touching- don’t rest your health solely on the cleaning capabilities of the gym staff. Wearing a mask while lifting and doing intense workout can be extremely uncomfortable and challenging- however if it is not a health risk for you, its a good idea to rock one.

One final thing you should not neglect about your hygiene is ensuring that your mobile phone (don’t worry android users you are included too) is sanitised alongside your personal belongings that you left marinating in that locker infested with germs.

2. GET A WORKOUT PLAN FROM A LICENSED AND EXPERIENCED PERSONAL TRAINER

So you’ve bought all the figure hugging and curve enhancing active wear, got that waist trainer and probably wrapped yourself up in cling film to “lose belly fat faster” (it doesn’t work that way btw but you will eventually figure that out). Working out at the gym can be a daunting experience if you have never been there or have been out of the game for a while. For this reason it will be beneficial for you to arm yourself with an impeccable workout plan designed by a trusted Personal trainer; knowing exactly the exercises you will be performing each session and the equipment to use makes you more confident. You will be more motivated for each session and kick its ass.

The generic squat 500 times a day workout plans sold by money-hungry “fitness influencers” with no certified knowledge on fitness and health will not cut it. Your aim to snatch your body back is simply not achievable by using workout plans which are not structured well enough to target the muscles effectively, so INVEST in an in-depth curated plan targeted to your goals. Ohmariafiit is a Black fitness trainer whose website exhibits an array of workout guides at an affordable price; check out the Guide to Booty Building 101, I know you’ll love these glute pumping exercises. Whatever your physique goals are, a well rounded workout plan targets all of the body albeit at different intensities; do not hip thrust 7 days a week while ignoring the muscles in your upper body.

3. YOUR DIET IS IMPORTANT BUT STARVING ISN’T IMPERATIVE

An integral aspect of reaching your body goals is EATING THE RIGHT STUFF for your specific goal. The epoch of fad diets has negatively impacted our fitness experience, with many rushing to laxative filled Slim Teas, weight loss shakes and the ever so popular keto diet in order to achieve their goals quicker. Fact is, your body needs time to change safely and healthily so these short cut methods will only have you running to the loo a whole lot and might actually be hindering your fitness achievements. For example, using weight loss teas to lose belly fat while simultaneously trying to grow that booty is going to render your gym work futile; as you cannot spot reduce fat, you will find yourself shitting out all the nutrients your body needs to grow those muscles.

Of course having unhealthy carbohydrate dense and fatty filled jollof rice and chicken or our plethora of ethnic meals in large quantities – 7 days a week, in conjunction to working out consistently would be paradoxical. You cannot out train a bad diet. Carbs are not your enemy though, neither is fat. Irrespective of your fitness goals, you should be having a balanced meal which includes all of your macro and micro nutrients (unless advised otherwise by a doctor). The key to enjoying your meals and your fitness journey is to research and modify your favourite foods to match your goals; you might need to reduce the quantity, substitute some ingredients or/and minimise the frequency at the which you consume these meals. Starving yourself will ruin your relationship with food and although you might lose some weight, it will be unsustainable long term and unhealthy for you. It’s not everyday chicken breast and broccoli, sometimes baked plantain instead of deep fried plantain with your beans. Food is to be enjoyed. No ingredient is bad for you, everything just needs to be consumed in moderation and you will learn what that looks like to you for optimum results.

4. FOCUS ON YOURSELF AT THE GYM- THIS FITNESS JOURNEY IS FOR YOU

Ever so often we can become overwhelmed by everyone else at the gym, especially if you are new to this. The weights section as a woman resembles a lion’s den with hungry wild cats preying on you as you squat and thrust your way to a better booty. Some might even interrupt your sessions to mansplain an exercise or drop their numbers. You might simply be intimidated by the woman next to you squatting 100kg upwards while you struggle to balance yourself with a measly 20kg barbell. Focusing on everything around you can make you self aware and insecure; honestly everyone at the gym is also on their own fitness journey so aside from the thirsty lurking men, others are not really judging you for lifting and exercising at your own pace.

Some try to combat this by competing to “prove” their knowledge on the equipment or weight lifting capacity; this will mess your routine up – and your back. Lifting more weight than you can handle and using equipment incorrectly could result in life threatening injury; so I advice that you ask for help if needed and go at your own pace, this is solely your journey after all. In addition to possible injury, using equipment incorrectly also affects your form/posture which will make your workout ineffective as you will not be targeting the muscles correctly. It is always form>weight load.

5. YOUR BODY IS ALREADY A “SUMMER BODY”

Slim thick, fat, thick, curvy, slim, thin, skinny, no booty, small booty, fat ass, no titties, big titties – whatever your body type, shape or size, your body is already a summer body. This sounds cliche, I know; have you taken time to process the seasons your body has seen you through? This meat suit you wear has sustained you through your blissful moments and most challenging moments in life, how dare you tell it that it isn’t desirable for a season? Through all seasons of life you spend the most time with one person, the person whose desire you need the most, the person whose validation you need the most – YOU.

It is okay to want to improve your body to have a better chance at a longer and healthier life. It is however not okay for you to despise your body through this process of improvement. You are remodelling it to be better not because you are embarrassed by it. Being desired by others is a beautiful feeling but darling, at the end of the day you come back home to you when the screens are off and you nurture you – desire your body first. Your fitness journey should not be damaging your mental health or your physical body, bring yourself to a space where you are not enveloped by other’s fitness results or the ideal body type. Enjoy your own body’s journey; yours tells a different story – your story.

So your summer body is already wrapped around you but if you want to improve it, do so safely and enjoy the process. Remember you should not be worrying about if your body is ready for summer; you should be wondering if summer is ready to deal with all of the gorgeousness that is your body.

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Unrequited Love: How to Move on from Loving Someone who DOESN’T Love You.

This post has all the information you need to take back your love and move on healthily open to loving someone else in the future. You have unfortunately experienced one of the most painful forms of heartbreak; join the gang darling x. If you are not currently experiencing this, you might be reading to prep yourself so if the universe ever decides to do a negative 360 on you, you are ready to spin that shit right back.

What Is Unrequited Love?

Unrequited Love is defined as a feeling of love that is not returned. A very simple sentence to define something that can eat away at valuable weeks, months and even years of your life if you do not learn how to process and move on from it healthily.

Why Does Loving Someone Who Does not Love You back HURT this much?

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

You are not alone. In fact you are actually part of about 80% of the population who will at some point love someone who cannot love them back; the 20% who do not experience this are lucky bastards… so for those of us who aren’t so lucky we have to understand and process it. You will be tempted to wait or try to convince this person to love you….. darling, DON’T. Darling, you can never make someone love you if they do not want to. So process the hurt and let go.


REJECTION

This right here is the culprit. When someone tells you that they cannot respond to your emotions in the way you want them to, you feel rejected and that shit sucks! You feel insecure, unwanted and undesirable. It sucks so bad that there has been multiple studies to analyse how the brain reacts to being rejected so lets take a little dive into the research:

Firstly, your emotions are absolutely valid. Do not ever punish yourself for loving someone, it is natural as “humans have a fundamental need to belong. Just as we have needs for food and water, we also have needs for positive and lasting relationships”- C.Nathan Dewall.

The Cyberball research by Naomi Eisenberger in 2003 concluded that the areas of the brain triggered in people who experienced rejection are the exact same areas triggered when we experience physical pain.

Another research by Ethan Kross in 2011 revealed that when images of their ex was shown to people who had recently broken up with their partners, their brain regions triggered by physical pain lit up. So this tells us that you are not just in your head about how much it hurts, your brain processes rejection as a form of pain and with pain, there is always a treatment; sometimes this treatment is quick and numbs it immediately, other times it takes just a little bit longer.

So now you know this, How do you Move On without being bitter?

Moving on from a romantic bond takes a lot of self reflection. Of course some people will say “get under someone new, to get over someone else”. Whether it is a crush who does not feel the same, someone you were dating that changed their mind or a relationship where your partner decided they wanted something else in life that does not include you; the hurt will be there and getting under someone new only gets you a new person to pile on more hurt to what was not healed.

Here are some steps to process unrequited love and actually healing leaving you positive and open for more love in the future:

REALISATION (Take them off the pedestal): When you are in love or attracted to someone, it is all roses and the passion makes you focus on all the positive things about them. The idea of being with them becomes your main source of dopamine. This passion usually prevents us from actually getting to know them as a person as opposed to the object of our desires. The idea of them you have is one that makes you blur out their flaws and only focus on your ideal perfection; so to you, there is no one in the world as amazing as this person.

Truth is, if you take a moment and actually focus on the behaviours of that person, you will learn that they are not as special as you have made them out to be. Like you and everyone else, they have flaws and are just human. This realisation will take you out of the scarcity mindset and you will gradually realise that the only perfection this person has, is the perfection you attributed to them.

SELF REFLECTION AND FOCUS: This is often the task that we fail at miserably. Self reflection is not an exercise to chastise yourself to the point of invalidating your feelings. Saying things like “I am stupid, why would I allow myself to love someone who clearly does not want me” does not get you any step closer to healthy healing.

Self reflection is understanding why the rejection might be affecting you that intensely or longer than others.

It is understanding your attachment style. Take the attachment style quiz here. Understanding this arms you with information to compassionately assess your emotions and process them as opposed to avoiding them. “The cure for not receiving love does not lie in avoiding to experience it”.

Once you have understood this, flip that camera and keep that lens focused on you. Now is a great time to take on tasks that reward you and give you that dopamine satisfaction the wanting for your loved one provided. Be careful not to bury yourself in work and socialising as a way to avoid feeling the uncomfortable feelings of rejection, your healing is not a race. Take your time.

DISTANCE: “Out of sight, out of mind”. Putting a considerable amount of distance between you and the other party is important for you to process your emotions healthily without relapsing.

This includes not stalking them on social media after you have unfollowed/blocked them. Your mind needs time to create an accurate perception of this person and if you are still in communication or consuming the life of this person visually, you don’t give yourself the environment to unlearn and take them off the pedestal you have put them on.

So block them. Unfollow them. Delete their number and cut off all communication until you get to the mind-frame where you can maintain communication with them without expecting love.

ACCEPTANCE: Going through the first two steps and implementing some distance will get you to this final point. This is the point where you take deep breaths, your mind is clear and you have accepted that you fell in love with someone who simply does not love you. Whatever that person’s reasons are for not loving you has no bearing on your self worth or desirability.

They are just ONE person and this planet is filled with millions of people. Yes, they might be a dope ass person but there are many dope ass people everywhere. You are deserving of the love you envisioned but you can never force someone to give it to you. Take the time to work on your emotional attachments and balance it out without totally giving up on love.

Unrequited Love and rejection can lead to depression, obsession and in some extreme cases physical harm. If you feel like your mental health is rapidly deteriorating and you are having life threatening thoughts towards yourself or others, seek help from a supportive structure and or medical help. Don’t allow one person’s NO to negatively throw you off your life’s path. Another person is never worth you losing a considerable amount of life’s most valuable currency- time.