Many of us are familiar with the concept of our ‘shadow selves’ – those parts of us that we would rather not be. Carl Jung brought these ideas to us in the 20th century and in doing so gave us some incredible tools to understand ourselves and our behaviors on a deeper level.
The concept of our ‘light shadow’ however is not known quite as well…and it wasn’t until January 2018 – when I picked up a book called ‘The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self‘, by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford and Marianne Williamson – that I ’rounded-out’ my own understanding of the shadow by learning about this other component of our shadow…a component that can be used as a GPS to our own path of self-development and that of our teams.
What is our light shadow?
Our light shadow is similar to our dark shadow in that we have hidden it from ourselves – we cannot see it when we ‘look at ourselves’. When we project our dark shadow onto someone else, we are seeing a quality that we have disowned within ourselves, and we are projecting it onto someone else…a quality we are often disgusted by, hence why we have hidden it. The light shadow works in a similar way except with ‘positive qualities’. A telltale sign that we are projecting our light shadow onto someone else is when we feel a positive buzz – or when we are ‘triggered’ in a positive way – by someone. If you are putting someone on a pedestal, for example, this is also a clue that you might be projecting your light shadow onto that person.
Ford asserts in ‘The Shadow Effect’ that what is really going on when this happens is that the person we get the buzz from is more fully owning a certain quality that resides within us, but has not been fully developed in us yet. This person is further along the path in this specific area.
The fantastic news about this is that when we get these feelings of glowing admiration about someone – it can be really gratifying and even exhilarating to learn that we, in fact, have these same qualities. Yes!
How can we ‘be the change’ and explore this ‘light shadow’ more within ourselves as leaders?
One way to explore this phenomenon personally – before we take it to our teams – is to do the following exercise with yourself:
1. Who do you admire? / Who do you get a ‘positive buzz’ from?
2. What qualities does this person have that you admire?
3. Identify one action you could take – one action for each quality – to ‘own’ this quality more for yourself.
I will do this exercise myself, so you can see how it works.
One person who gives me a ‘positive buzz’ is the Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I often wonder if she is the most incredible human being alive on the planet today. The times I have seen her speak in person, my body can’t help but give her a standing ovation – and often before she even steps foot into the room!
Three qualities that I admire about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
1. Her worldly intelligence
2. The way she carries herself – with unapologetic confidence
3. The way she owns her interest in fashion – whilst being (at the same time) a serious person doing serious work in the world
Actions that I can take to more fully own these qualities within myself:
1. Create a habit whereby I am consistently reading high-quality publications from a variety of different regions across the world.
2. Take a class on confidence; I have a friend who is creating fantastic content in this space, so I could start there.
3. Take one or two – what my person considers to be – small risks on the fashion front, and simply notice what happens: inside of me and outside of me.
OK; now your turn!
How can we bring this concept into our teams and allow it to transform our company culture for the better?
A great first step is understanding and applying this concept ourselves. The book referenced above is a good place to start if you would like to learn more. Once you have a strong grasp on the concept, then it’s time to bring it to your team. Do the exercise above together – starting out in small groups. Explain the concept and then delve into your examples. Ask your team members to come up with their own examples in their life – starting out with public figures, for example. Then: commit to keeping each other accountable for the actions that everyone has agreed to take. After that? Continue to practice the skill.
Being able – as individuals and as groups – to distinguish the difference between praise and (light) projection opens the door to extraordinary potential for personal and group growth, because what used to be perceived as simple praise, now becomes a trail of breadcrumbs to unlocking the genius of your team members.
We can’t do this alone; we need each other to see these extraordinary parts of ourselves that are hidden.
Vanessa Kettner (Growmotely’s Creative Writer and seasoned personal productivity coach)
Shaped and nurtured by:
Theodora Gatin (Growmotely’s Marketing & Brand Officer)