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Episode 139 Transcript: Using Shadow Work as a Tool for Professional Growth

Nancy: Believe me, the shadow work kicked my ass. But the truth is, it has made me who I am today. Because I was willing to look at every single quality that I was convinced I wasn’t, that I pointed a finger at others for being, and I was able to begin this vast journey of reclaiming all of these lost pieces of myself.

Nancy: Welcome to the Nancy Levin Show. I’m Nancy Levin, Founder of Levin Life Coach Academy, best-selling author, master coach, and your host. I help overachieving people pleasers set boundaries that stick and own self-worth, anchored in empowered action, so you can feel free. Plus, if you’re an aspiring or current coach, you are in the right place. Join me each week for coaching and compelling conversations designed to support you in the spotlight, as you take center stage of your own life. Let’s dive in. 

Nancy: Welcome back to The Nancy Levin Show. And today we are going to be exploring how embracing your shadow is the transformational key if you are a coach or an entrepreneur, a solopreneur, if you are someone who is wearing the business owner hat. And you are going to hear me talk about the shadow over the next few months for sure, quite a bit, because I have a brand new book coming out in June, 2024 called Embrace Your Shadow to Find Your Light. And it is a shadow work journal. It’s quite robust and I will take you through the seven alchemical stages of shadow work. 

But today I want to sort of unpack how doing shadow work can help anyone who is operating their own business. And if you’re not familiar with the term, I will let you know that shadow as well as its meaning in this context was first coined by Carl Jung. And most simply put, our shadow is made up of all the parts of ourselves that we hide, that we deny or suppress that we don’t see in ourselves. And this refers to what we deem as positive as well as what we deem as negative. So our shadow is ultimately all the aspects of ourselves that we reject out of shame or fear or disapproval.

So the reason that being able to embrace your shadow supports you as an entrepreneur, as a business owner, as a coach, is that it is highly essential that when you are working in a capacity where you are supporting others in some way, that you continue doing the inner work yourself. I have seen too many people decide that they are done with doing their own inner work when they begin helping others.

And the truth is that we are not going to grow to our full capacity as guides, as supporters if we are not continuing our own investigation, doing our own excavation of what is living inside of our shadow. 

And I will share with you that I first became aware of the shadow probably 20 years ago, maybe even longer, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I really immersed myself in shadow work with my teacher and mentor the late Debbie Ford.

And it was the most pivotal turning point in my experience of working with the aspects of myself that I had been hiding. And quite frankly, I had been hiding elements of my life, my truth, because I was really invested in having people see me through the lens that I gave them to see me through. So I was very invested in operating from a place of I am perfect and there is nothing wrong here and no one will ever see me sweat.

So I was creating this barrier to intimacy by the armor that I was wearing. And when we do this, when we are crafting this armor around ourselves, what we’re really doing is in the moment deciding this characteristic is bad. I do not wanna be this or this characteristic. While it’s good, I can’t possibly be that. So when I was saying before about the aspects that are positive and negative, we wanna look at our lives as a whole. And the bottom line is the goal of the soul is to be whole. And in fact, we are always whole. We are not broken, we do not have other halves. We are always whole. But the deal is that we have relegated aspects of ourselves into our shadow. So again, we wanna look at these qualities that we see in others that we get triggered by, that we get activated by, that we are convinced we are not. We’re talking about qualities like lazy or needy or irresponsible. Whatever quality is really activating for you in other people, it’s highly likely that you have disowned that quality. You have decided I am not that. And in fact, what you’ve been doing is overcompensating for the existence of that quality.

In other words, to not be seen as needy, you instead, are the most independent person who ever lived. Instead of being lazy, you lean into your overachiever. Instead of being irresponsible, you have a reputation for being hyper responsible. This is what we do. We lean into the overcompensation so that we don’t have to be with a quality we don’t wanna be, and we don’t ever let anyone else see that quality inside of us. 

The same happens with the qualities that are quote unquote positive or light qualities. These are the kinds of qualities like courageous or creative or confident or generous, the qualities we are enamored by in others, the qualities that we feel inspired by, enthralled by in others that we don’t think we could possibly be.

And yet, as I was saying before, every single quality that exists in anyone in the world exists within us. We just simply have qualities that we have shoved into the shadow that are dusty, that are dormant, and it is time to bring them out, give them airtime, and give them light. So it then becomes about how do I reclaim this quality? How do I own and integrate not only irresponsible, but also reclaim confident? 

Nancy: Hi, it’s Nancy interrupting my own show. I’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up in in 2024, including a brand new book plus a group coaching opportunity, unlike anything else I have ever offered before. To make sure you are in the know, pop on over to my website now and sign up for my free weekly newsletter at nancylevin.com/newsletter so you don’t miss a thing. Okay, back to the show. 

Nancy: Now, many of us have an aversion to claiming and integrating the qualities we have decided are negative. So we’re using irresponsible here. I may not be irresponsible in the same way that someone else is. I might be triggered by someone else’s irresponsibility that presents as them saying they’re going to do something but not following through. And that is what irks me. I then have to look at how does irresponsibility arise in me? What is my version of irresponsibility? 

So I might say my version of irresponsibility is, sometimes there are emails that I don’t think are a priority and I might let them go for a week before I respond. That’s irresponsible. That’s how irresponsibility shows up in me. Once I can claim I am irresponsible, now it doesn’t mean I’m always irresponsible, it simply means I’m responsible and irresponsible. I’m both. I have the capacity for irresponsibility. 

Once I can really name that and claim I am responsible, I am irresponsible. It gives me compassion for the irresponsibility of others. I may not like their behavior and I may decide to set some boundaries. However, it’s always an invitation when I’m activated by something outside of me to come back inside of myself and ask myself some questions. This is essential when we are doing work with others, whether we’re doing one-on-one work, whether we’re doing group work, whether it’s B2B, it’s essential that we are willing to investigate inside of ourselves and acknowledge these shadow aspects. 

So when I really dove into the immersion of shadow work in 2010 with Debbie was as I was contemplating leaving my marriage, and believe me, the shadow work kicked my ass. But the truth is, it has made me who I am today because I was willing to look at every single quality that I was convinced I wasn’t, that I pointed a finger at others for being. And I was able to begin this vast journey of reclaiming all of these lost pieces of myself.

Not just the qualities like irresponsible, but also the qualities like confident and generous and creative and courageous by recognizing that they lived in me and I no longer need to reject them and project them onto others. 

So you know, there are a few different ways that I’ve heard this said. One way is, you know, if we’re pointing a finger at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at us. There’s also, you know, what Debbie used to always say is there’s no one else out there. Everyone is simply a mirror reflecting you back to you. And if you really go through your life like this and you recognize that what we are so quick to put on others or blame others for is simply part of ourself. This really invites us to be self-aware. 

And the role of self-awareness in whatever work we do is vital. Again, as coaches or consultants, business owners, entrepreneurs, the more self-aware we are, the more we are likely to have empathy and understanding toward our clients, the more we are able to create a work environment where people are welcome to show up as they are. Where they’re not feeling that they need to hide some part of themselves in order to be accepted. And what I find is when we are inviting the people we work with to come as they are, that is a trickle down effect. We come as we are. They come as they are. It ripples out and gives others permission to do the same.

 I have seen many coaches, many entrepreneurs, business owners who have had a dramatic shift not only in their own personal lives, but also in the environment of work, when they have been willing to look within instead of blaming without. 

And one of the ways that you can begin a very simple self-inquiry here, is simply what I was saying earlier, what is a quality in someone else that activates you, that triggers you, that you’re convinced you are not? Find that quality there. There likely will be a big long list. Find the quality that you would most be horrified if it was describing you in the headline of the New York Times. And then what you get to do is see how you overcompensate for its existence Again, I overcompensate for the laziness that lives in me because every quality lives in me. I overcompensate with it by being a workaholic, by being an overachiever. So no one would ever say, boy, Nancy is lazy. But the truth is, I am lazy and I present my laziness when I lay on the sofa in the middle of the afternoon and binge watch my favorite show. And then we wanna find the gift. What is the gift in lazy? What is the gift in irresponsible? What is the gift in needy? 

This is not easy work, but it is work that will reward you. A millionfold. Socrates is famous for saying, the unexamined life is not worth living. I trust that since you’re here with me, you want to be living an examined life and recognizing these disowned qualities and reclaiming them and owning them and integrating is part of that.

So I simply wanna remind you that when you are working with other people, when you have your own business, when you’re coaching, when you’re consulting, when you have employees, when you’re a business owner, it’s essential to show up doing your own work first and being a role model for those around you and giving permission for other people to show up as themselves as well.

So I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and I will look forward to being back here with you again next time.

Thanks so much for joining me today. I invite you to head on over to nancylevin.com to check out all the goodies I have there for you. And if you’ve enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, leave a rating and a review. I’ll meet you back here next week.