I saw my shadow today. It had the shape of independence.
Often, when my inner critic speaks, I get an earful about my penchant for acting alone. Perhaps my inner critic is merely echoing what someone told another about me (“He’s overly independent”) and I’ve been looking for evidence ever since.
To be sure, there plenty of evidence to back up their observation. I started my consulting practice nearly twenty years ago on my own and with little consultation with the most important person in my life—my wife. I’ve also chosen since to start a number of initiatives from scratch rather than join someone who’s already engaged in similar ventures. And when it comes to new ideas, I find that I’m resistant to exploring how others might have approached it, preferring to pound them out on my own, even if they’re not as good as someone else’s or take much longer as a result.
Yes, my inner critic can have a heyday focusing on the shadow. And so can yours. But the shadow is just that—a shadow. Upstream from it is the gift. Mine is to start things. Independence is the shadowy projection of that strength. The brighter the gift, the longer the shadow.
The question is, which will draw your focus? They are different.
The shadow criticizes. The gift empowers.
The shadow sees limits. The gift sees possibilities.
The shadow protects itself. The gift takes risks.
This is not to say that we can’t learn from our shadow. I’ve learned from mine to seek out the advice of others, to be more open to collaboration and to appreciate the excellence I’ve seen in others. But these learnings are there to strengthen the gift, not to reinforce the shadow.
If my only focus is on the shadow and I forget the gift from which it emanates, I’ll live a little smaller. For I’ve neglected the gift that God gave me to accomplish something greater.
What have you learned from your shadow?
From my shadow, I’ve learned more humility, or something akin to it, anyway.
And just as in me a strong side runs flip-side to my shadow side, so does it run in other people, too.