Up until a year or two ago, I had an idea or a mental image of how I should look that was nothing like I actually looked. I had it in my head that other people all looked pulled together, well groomed, and polished. I, on the other hand, was always a little untidy with messy, unruly hair. I tried new products in my hair, new hairstyles, new hair stylists, but nothing helped. I could not control my unruly hair and it never looked good, and therefore, in my mind, neither did I.
It wasn’t until I read the book The tools : transform your problems into courage, confidence, and creativity by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels that I realized that I had created this mental image of how I should look and therefore I had created the stress that it caused me when I didn’t measure up.
As children we have a real sense of our true selves – our inner selves. Little children don’t care what other people think about them. However as we age we start to care very much about what others think and we look outside of ourselves for approval. So we start to hide things about ourselves that we think others won’t like. These hidden things eventually replace our inner self and become something negative that we carry around with us – our “Shadow”. We basically turn “something that was beautiful – the inner self – into something we despise: the Shadow. It may seem like the worst part of us, but really, it’s the doorway to the inner self. Only when that doorway is open can we truly express ourselves.”
To open that doorway, imagine “you’re in front of a group of people who make you feel insecure and self-conscious. Focus on the emotions this brings up. Now push those feelings out in front of you and imagine they form a being with a face and body”. When I did this, I came up with the image of an older woman, very badly dressed (think bag lady), short, frumpy, with horrible grey frizzy hair – my Shadow.
Our Shadow is “everything we don’t want to be but fear we are, represented in a single image.” By putting a face and body on my Shadow, I effectively set her free. She was no longer something I hid inside but she became something outside of me – she became an ally. So when I faced myself in the mirror and did not see a polished, pulled together image looking back, instead of panicking and thinking I look terrible, my hair is horrible, I would see my Shadow smiling at me and that made it easier for me to be me. Even though she used to be something I tried to hide, now that she was out, I really liked her. She made me feel good when I pictured her smiling at me.
So without doing anything physical to my hair, I have totally changed the way I look. I have stopped fighting my hair and trying, unsuccessfully, to control it. I still have crazy, wavy salt and pepper (mostly salt) hair. But the difference is that I’m okay with it now. I’m no longer trying to tame it to be something that it’s not. Even though nothing on the outside has changed, I feel good about the way I look and other people notice it too. I actually get compliments on my crazy, wavy, grey hair. I no longer strive to be something I’m not, even when I am around very well groomed people with manageable hair. And when I forget and slip back into my old ways, my Shadow is there to remind me that my true inner self is a good thing.
What does your Shadow look like?