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Episode 142 Transcript: Stepping into Responsibility through Shadow Work

Nancy: When we reclaim these parts of ourselves that we don’t want to be and we don’t think we are, we are essentially returning pieces of our puzzle to ourselves so that we can move into wholeness. Now, I can of course, simply say, I am mean. I am greedy, I am nasty. And what I would give to have been able to own those qualities back then. Because owning those qualities would’ve allowed me to have a mediation where I honored 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 another episode of The Nancy Levin Show. I’m thrilled you’re here. And today we are going to be exploring the power of responsibility and in particular self-responsibility. If you’ve been listening to the show for a while, then you’ve likely heard me talking about shadow work, and I will be sharing much more about the power and potency of shadow work over the coming months.

Essentially, our shadow is filled with all the parts of ourselves that we have disowned, that we have denied, that we have repressed. The parts of ourselves we don’t want to be and don’t think we are as well as the parts of ourselves we want to be, but don’t think we are. And all of this is living in our unconscious. 

When we are able to do the deep dive into our shadow and reclaim these lost pieces of ourselves, we are moving toward wholeness. The goal of the soul is to be whole. And everything we see outside of us, exists within us as well. Every quality, every characteristic that we see in another person exists within us. And so in order to achieve this wholeness that we are seeking, we need to be able to work with our shadow. 

So as I was saying, today we’re going to be diving into responsibility, which is one of the stages of shadow work. And in terms of self-responsibility, there are a couple of things I want to point out. So first is when we don’t take responsibility for what is ours to take responsibility for, we end up staying in the role of victim in the role of blaming others instead of truly stepping into empowerment. There’s a flip side here as well. For all my people pleasers out there, there’s also a way in which we will take more responsibility than is ours to take, often to avoid conflict. So we need to be able to strike a balance between taking the responsibility that is ours to take and leaving the rest of it for the other person. 

One of the quotes I love the most, I first heard from Wyatt Web, “We are each 100% responsible for 50% of every relationship.” I’m gonna say that again because it’s so important to really grasp it. “We are each 100% responsible for 50% of every relationship.” Now, I know in my people-pleasing past when I was highly conflict avoidant, I did everything I could to absorb everything, to take responsibility for everything and everyone because that was how I could feel safe. I could control what was happening around me, or at least I thought I could. 

So one of the ways we take more responsibility than is ours is when we are attempting to manage someone else’s emotional landscape. When we are crossing our own boundaries into the territory of another, and we are trying to make sure that everything is okay with them. Because of codependency, we then are getting our need for peace met. So if you’ve ever been in that mindset of what do I need to do or say to make everything be okay here, that is a way in which you’re taking more responsibility than is yours to take. And really what it’s masking is a fear of being able to simply show up and be in whatever is alive in the relationship.

I think we tended to take more responsibility than is ours to take because we are unable to sit with the discomfort of things being a bit chaotic and the need to smooth things out and make sure that no one’s mad at us, and make sure that we are doing absolutely every single thing and more that we can to ensure we are safe and loved. But what will often happen is when we are taking more responsibility than is ours to take, we are also making sure that the other person or people involved don’t have to take responsibility. So the invitation here is to learn how to hold other people capable of taking responsibility for what is theirs. And in doing so, we want to calibrate to how much responsibility we are taking. 

I wanna share a story that illustrates this. I was actually just out for a hike in the snow, I live in Boulder, Colorado, and we got a big snow yesterday. I was out for a hike in the snow, and I was thinking about this story, and so I’m gonna share it with you. I share a bit about it in my book, Worthy, but I’m going to expand upon it here. So for those of you who don’t know all the details of my story, I’m going to share just a few pieces to give you context here. 

I was married for 18 years. I was the sole breadwinner throughout our marriage. And in being the sole breadwinner, I also felt an overdeveloped sense of responsibility to not only take care of my then husband, but also to provide him with things that he never had access to. I felt it was really my responsibility to make sure he had everything that he wanted. And so I fell into this habit of buying him things, of giving him things, of creating experiences, all to serve his intense pleasure receptor. I’m trying to think of even a better way to say that. He had such a passion for pleasure, for recreation, for fun, for play, and I had such a passion for work and responsibility and making sure that everything was how it needed to be. And that was actually at the time, quite a clash. Moving forward into my divorce mediation as the sole breadwinner. And the fact that he was quite capable and in fact quite talented and very artistic and an amazing cook. And you know, one of these sort of renaissance men, jack of all trades, he just didn’t wanna work. And I enabled him not to.

Once we got to our divorce mediation, my lawyer had said, our position is no maintenance. We’re not going to pay maintenance in this divorce because he is capable. He just doesn’t wanna work. And so I was all ready to go into that mediation, believing that we were not going to pay anything. Moments into the mediation, the negotiation began. The mediator came into the room from the room he and his lawyer were in and presented what they were requesting. And instead of saying, we are not going to negotiate, we are not going to pay any maintenance. My lawyer began negotiating. And I was dumbfounded because my lawyer had said, our position is no maintenance. And yet here he was negotiating a maintenance package. And because I didn’t know how to set a boundary, because I didn’t know how to stand up for myself, because I didn’t know how to take responsibility for myself in this way, I allowed the negotiation to continue all the way through nine hours, nine hours of negotiating. We don’t even have children together. And it took nine hours. And at no point did I walk out, even though by the end of the mediation, I found myself signing over a property I had bought, agreeing to pay three years of the mortgage on said property, paying for all of his debt. 

In other words, because I didn’t know how to stand up for myself and because I didn’t know how to hold him capable of taking care of his financial situation, I believing, that I was indispensable, believing that there was no way he would be able to make it in the world without me. I felt this sort of double bind. In one breath I just wanted him to be responsible. I wanted him to be able to do whatever he needed to do. And on the other hand, I still wanted to feel the power, the upper hand of being in charge financially of feeling needed of that indispensability. It’s very complex what happens when, I’ll use the terms that are most common, he was a narcissist and I was the empath, and I was the one who believed that he needed me. I got something out of being needed in that way. And the narcissism of the empath is when we believe we can fix, save, heal, and rescue someone else. I absolutely felt that on the day that we met. It was, I often tell the story that is, it was as if he introduced himself by saying, Hi, I’m broken. And I said, well, great. I am superwoman and I will fix you. And as our relationship became more enmeshed as it progressed, I sublimated all of my wants and needs to take care of all of his. And I eventually lost myself in the marriage. 

So back to the mediation agreement, I sat in that room, I let my lawyer do what he did, I signed the papers, and yet I still kept telling the story to people. And mind you, this is nearly 15 years ago. Yeah, nearly 15 years ago. I told the story to people, I have to pay him. I had to give him a property. I have to pay his mortgage. I had to absorb his debt. I told that story for about two years. I have to, I had to, I had no choice. Every single thing changed ehen I finally said, I said yes to these things, meaning I take responsibility for giving him a property, for paying his mortgage, for taking care of his debt. I said, yes. I take responsibility for saying yes. 

In retrospect, I’m aware of how many choices I had. I could have fired my lawyer right there. I could have said we need a recess. And talked to my lawyer and said, Hey, you said no maintenance. Now you’re negotiating. I could have called off the mediation entirely and rescheduled. I mean, there were so many things I could have done that I only now know in retrospect. 

This is, this is the bite of one of these catch 22 situations. I wouldn’t know what I know now had I not gone through what I did then. So in many ways I am grateful for that experience because it really taught me something incredibly valuable that I do not think I could have learned without it.

I was so ingrained, I was so enmeshed, I was so deep in this belief that I couldn’t do anything other than agree, that it took the experience of being taken advantage of which I enabled to have me be willing to take responsibility for what I said yes to. 

And when we look at this from the aspect of the shadow, I had disowned qualities like mean, greedy, nasty. So I still believed it would’ve been mean to say no to him on some level. I believed that it would have been greedy for me to not give him anything. I believed it would’ve been nasty to leave him without a home. Because my conviction to making sure that those parts of myself mean, greedy, nasty, stayed in the dark, stayed underground, stayed in the shadow, stayed disowned. The harm I created for myself was exponential. 

When we reclaim these parts of ourselves that we don’t want to be and we don’t think we are, we are essentially returning pieces of our puzzle to ourselves so that we can move into wholeness. Now, I can of course, simply say, I am mean, I am greedy, I am nasty. And what I would give to have been able to own those qualities back then. Because owning those qualities would’ve allowed me to have a mediation where I honored myself. 

Nancy: Hi, it’s Nancy interrupting my own show. I’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up 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: So I share that story with you so that you can begin looking through your own lens of what are the qualities specifically that I don’t want to be, that I don’t think I am. What are those quote unquote negative qualities that you expend so much energy covering up, that you expend energy overcompensating for? I overcompensated for the existence of mean, greedy, nasty by overgiving in my divorce mediation, to the point that I was the one who suffered. Reclaiming these lost pieces of ourselves allow us to see that each of these qualities has a gift, each of these can be an asset and that we can choose to turn them on at any time when we know that they’ll support us. 

So part of this is really recognizing that the qualities themselves are neutral. We put the spin on them of positive or negative because in my divorce, mediation, being greedy, being mean, being nasty, sure would’ve been great qualities to call upon to serve me best, but because I was so insistent upon not being those things, disowning those qualities, I created a scenario to be walked on. 

I hope that what I’m sharing here today is helping you see the parts of yourselves that you’ve been disowning because you don’t wanna be them. And how you can shift your perspective around the gifts and assets they can provide you. Like I said, in the coming months, I will be sharing much more around the shadow, and I hope you will keep listening and you will keep learning how to reclaim your wholeness. 

Thanks so much for being here today, and I’ll be back with you again next week.

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.