Your 'Shadow Self': What It Means And Why It's Not As Bad As It Sounds

Most of us will admit that we are not perfect. There are likely qualities we have that we'd rather no one knew about, especially in this comparison culture we are currently in. Envy, greed, jealousy — these do not reflect our finest moments and when we catch ourselves becoming jealous of one of our girlfriends or getting angrier than we'd like at a family member, instant remorse and shame usually enter quickly. In most cases, we believe that these feelings are unacceptable and embarrassing, never realizing that it's actually okay to have a shadow self. 


If you have these feelings emerge, it can be comforting to know that every single person out there has them, too. No matter how happy or selfless a person seems, there are qualities they have that they'd rather not possess. However, these seemingly negative traits are really not all that bad for us. There is actually something good that can come from embracing the shadow side of yourself.

Your shadow self defined

Your shadow self is the part of you that you try to hide from others, so they don't know that you really feel jealous of your neighbor or excited at the thought of making a lot of money. You may expose the shadow parts of yourself to a family member or a close loved one, but your shadow self is one you may ultimately try to hide in the shadows of your life. The term was first coined by psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who deemed these undesirable qualities to be "primitive" and "uncivilized," per Harley Therapy. Lately, psychologists have a different perspective on our shadow selves.


The jealousy, comparison, and anger we feel isn't something we are proud of; therefore, the more our negative qualities plague us, the worse we feel about ourselves. Although it may seem counterintuitive, we actually need this less attractive side of ourselves to thrive in our everyday lives. Honoring our edginess can lead to great things. It assists us in speaking up when we know something isn't right, it helps us to honor our own boundaries, and it allows us to demand better treatment for ourselves and others around us.

How to access your shadow self

In order to access your shadow side and make it work in your favor, you need to stop ignoring these feelings that you perceive as "negative." Instead, acknowledge each feeling of anger, resentment, and shame, and evaluate why you are having those feelings. Repressing these emotions and pushing them away from you will only encourage more to bubble up to the surface. Spend time thinking about when these negative qualities tend to show up so that you can access the good that can come from them. Keeping a journal, talking to a therapist, or meditating on these thoughts can give you insight into your shadow self (via BetterUp).


In order to fully embrace the human experience, we need to honor our anger, sadness, and jealousy for what they do for us. By allowing these feelings to come through instead of pushing them down, we can make way for growth, healing, creativity, and balance. Life is quite the wild ride, and we need all parts of ourselves to truly live out our potential.