About five years ago, I came upon a book that would leave a lasting mark on my life, contributing to a “rebirth” about a year later.
The book was The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford.
I had just moved to Washington, DC for a graduate program, guided by gut impulses, and a desire to travel and learn to be independent.
When I wasn’t in class, I explored personal and spiritual development concepts. I loved exploring the self, as much as I loved exploring a new neighborhood. So many new sights with each view!
Somewhere along the way, I discovered Debbie’s book, which centers on the idea of a “shadow,” a concept originated by Carl Jung. A shadow refers to the aspects of one’s self that we hide from others, under the assumption that they are inherently bad or reprehensible.
Behind this idea of the shadow is the belief that unleashing all hidden aspects unearths one’s fullest potential, and that one’s fullest potential can’t be achieved unless and until this happens.
As I worked through the book’s exercises, I was surprised to discover that two of my biggest hidden qualities were anger and selfishness.
According to the book, that which most bothers us in another points to what lies hidden within ourselves. If we judge another for displaying an emotion or a way of being, we’re likely to hide it away or ignore it when it shows up for us.
I abhorred selfishness. I judged even my closest friends for it.
The book had me explore these hidden aspects. I tackled selfishness, first, realizing that my anger tended to be directed toward acts of perceived selfishness.
First question: Why did I hide, or hide from, selfishness?
Pretty simple. I hid it because I was taught it was bad. The message was perpetuated by several sources during my childhood.
Second question: How did I hide it or hide from it?
Well, that was trickier.
I hid it by overcompensating, just as I did with anger. I overextended myself to try to please everyone, so I wouldn’t come across as selfish. I put everything on the backburner just to monitor and control others’ perception of me. I wanted them to think that I was cool, that I was wonderful, that I was selfless. Please think I’m selfless *smile*.
But I couldn’t control it. Life had already taught me that, I just didn’t know how to let it go (cue the Disney song).
Third question: what was I giving up by hiding from selfishness and perceiving it as negative?
I wasn’t putting my needs first. I wasn’t being honest. I felt weaker when I lied and overcompensated. I tended to feel off-balance while around others. At its worst, it manifested itself as social anxiety.
I was hiding behind a wall of thin, crumbling, transparent lies and overcompensation.
Last question: What would change if I didn’t hide from selfishness?
Best question of all. Honest answer? I didn’t know. I could guess, but I really wouldn’t know until I stepped into opening myself up to it. I guessed that I would start putting my needs, first.
I was right, and it was great. There’s nothing like being a good mother to yourself.
Best of all, my spiritual development sky-rocketed. That was a huge unexpected bonus.
I started being more honest with myself and others. This meant I started feeling stronger, which meant I started seeing myself as stronger, which meant I started exploring more of myself and my potential, which meant I started seeing more of my potential, which meant that my whole world opened up and what I had previously thought was possible paled in comparison to what I was now envisioning. It meant I now had the courage, comfort, and self-esteem to explore concepts and visions like never before.
It was revolutionary.
It also meant I entered a new level of love for self and others. I can’t begin to express how important this was. By seeing the value in being selfish, I stopped accumulating resentment toward friends. My friendships started showing up differently in my life. They transformed when I did.
I’m now an advocate of exploring one’s needs and desires, and for putting them, first. You can’t help anyone else if your own tank is empty, or if your own needs are hidden away.
So, what needs and qualities are you hiding from? What would change in your life if you embraced these?
What spiritual revolutions await you being selfish enough to explore them?
Also by Amparo: How to Release Your Triggers
Photo: Chris Sardegna