top of page

What is the Shadow Self + Shadow Work

Hello my beautiful souls!

Welcome back to the Modern Manifestation blog. Feel free to listen in to today's topic using the audio player below or by finding this topic in the podcast.

Let's talk about the shadow self and shadow work: What they are, where they come from, and some techniques you might be able to use you’re interested in this work.

What Shadow Work is Not

Let’s address the word “shadow” in shadow work. When I first heard about shadow work, I thought it sounded ominous (like dark magic or something sinister) because of the word ‘shadow’. I unintentionally referenced my old conditioning and assumed this work involved evil spirits, demonic rituals, or tapping into something I did NOT want to mess with.

Y'all should know… I do not mess with Oija boards, haunted houses, I'm not trying to talk to the dead... none of that! I stay in my lane, so when I first heard the term “shadow work” it took me a bit until I was ready to learn more. Hopefully, you won’t have to after reading this blog!

Shadow work is beautifully healing light work and it’s easily one of my favorite things.

Shadow work is soooo wonderfully therapeutic; however, if you're not ready for it, it can be really intimidating because it is so powerful. But when you are ready for it, this work is so beautiful and immensely healing. I hope this post will encourage you to try it out, but chances are that you’re already doing some of this as an individual that is interested in self growth!

If you keep hearing about shadow work, its piqued your interest, you read the title of this post and were intrigued, or your best friend sent you this post, consider that this may be your sign from the Universe that you're ready to embark upon a healing journey with shadow work.

If this feels good to hear, you’re ready to become the best and most whole version of you; the Universe is ready for you. <3

What is the Shadow Self?

The idea of the shadow self was originally coined by Carl Jung in the early 1900s. He believed that everyone has a dark version of their personalities. He once said:

“To the degree that you condemn others, and find evil in others, you are to that degree unconscious of the same thing within yourself.”

In other words, the shadow self is made up of the traits we actively suppress, or repress, within ourselves until they’re forced into our subconscious.

We feed into and expand our shadow self every time we betray ourselves (neglecting our needs) in favor of external appearances. Oof.

Here is the other important note: we ALL have a shadow self. Your priest, spiritual teacher, boss, kid, brother, Tony Robbins, the Pope…. Everyone has a shadow self.

Our shadow self shows up when we put too much energy into rejecting emotions and experiences like anger, rage, selfishness, jealousy, hate, promiscuity, shame, guilt, or any aspect of ourselves that we deem “inappropriate”.

Where there is shame, there is a shadow.

When we are triggered by experiences or self-sabotage, this is our shadow self showing up, asking to be recognized.

Since we all have one there isn’t any use in feeling shame for this side of ourselves. We all have things self to work out, so this post isn't about getting rid of the shadow self or figuring out what to do with it. There is no such thing.

Our shadow selves serve an important role—to help us evolve emotionally and spiritually. Without them, our lives would be 2 dimensional and simple; our growth would be stunted. Yay for shadow selves!

What is Shadow Work?

Shadow work is the idea of bringing to light the shadow self, or any of our traits that we have suppressed or repressed. It encourages radical honesty about our thoughts and feelings.

The longer we try to resist the shadow self, the stronger it becomes. We give this side a lot of power when we bury aspects about ourselves that we do not like; this creates in-congruency, or resistance, within us. If you've read any of my past posts then you know that resistance is not great for manifestation.

When we carry our shadow selves into the light we can transmute the darkness, and it’s magical.

To bring to light our shadow selves, we need to lead with compassion and recognize that this side of us exists to serve a purpose: to protect us.

If we don't face our demons, we push them deeper, give them more power, and create energetically draining density. You can think of ignoring your shadow self like using a trash compactor and hoping you will never have to take out the trash. It only works temporarily…

To move forward in a healthy way, I encourage us to get curious about where this shows up for us and observe our own concerning behavior. When we do this we can begin to heal. Radical. Honesty.

Recognize, not repress.

How Society has Encouraged Your Shadow Self

All of this suppression and repression isn’t our faults…

Society loves to condemn things considered "inappropriate" or "immodest" using whatever tools are available—religion, politics, corporate values, cultural beliefs, dress codes, etc. This black and white thinking has kept many in the dark.

Clinging to what society perceives as "good" and "pure" does not make us good or pure. Where there is hate and judgement, there is a shadow self asking to be seen.

The message from the western world has been, "we expect perfection!". Just scroll social media or turn on the TV to find the evidence. This has created a society with a lot of people that are repressed or hiding in some way—sexually, spiritually, emotionally, vocally, mentally, creatively, etc.

Imposter syndrome stems from the disconnect between who we are and who we pretend to be.

Our subconscious doesn’t know that perfection doesn't really exist, so neither does our shadow self.

We have to marry personal development WITH self acceptance. To embrace the parts of our identities that we don't love (yet).

A Lesson from our Shadow Self

The best part about embarking on a jounrey with shadow work? You start to see through everyone else's bullshit.

We all know at least one person in our lives that pretends to be "holier than thou". As we learn more about about shadow selves, we know that no one is all loving, goodness, and light. Anyone attempting to appear this way, is only attempting... and appearing.

Isn't that such a f******* relief?!

When I realized that majority of people are walking around faking it, I felt the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. This gave me unconditional permission to be my weird, immoral, impure, curses-like0a-sailor self without caring about anyone's opinions (sorry, grandma....!).

We now know that suppression and repression can cause us to obsess over the things we've buried within us (aka, our shadow self). When we recognize things we dislike (or even hate) about others, this is a direct reflection of whatever we're hiding from and within ourselves. We dislike people that remind us of the things we dislike about ourselves.

  • People who are sexually repressed will be the first to call someone a slut

  • People who are emotionally repressed will be the first to call someone sensitive, dramatic, or a snowflake

  • People who are spiritually repressed will shut down other religions

Look out for the key indicator of a shadow self: judgement. This only casts a stone back at ourselves.

I believe the worst aspects of society (sex-trafficking, pedophiles, serial killers, racism, sexism, etc.) are a result of a dysfunctional world that encourages a hidden shadow self, so let's cut the bullshit and allow ourselves to have radically honest conversations with one another. We need to become aware of our personal triggers, lookk in the mirror with curiosity, and ask for help when we need it.

Our triggers reveal our shadows.

We're putting away the self-shaming and the self-judgment because it no longer serves a purpose.

What is the Purpose of a Shadow Self?

Our shadow self usually feels neglected, banished, hidden, ashamed... because many of us (myself included) have spent a lot of time and energy keeping it out of the spot light.

But.... our shadow self exists to protect us. Our shadow self has guarded us from any emotional pain that we didn't have the tools to deal with. It cleaned up and made up for our lack of emotional regulation in the best way it knew how, to absorb it and hide it.

When we're afraid to experience our shame, hate, discomfort, jealousy, the shadow self steps in front of us and swallows these uncomfortable emotions so we don't have to deal with them in the moment.

Your shadow self might be the reason you can show up to work and get your job done without falling apart after experiencing trauma.

If you’re missing memories from your childhood, this is your shadow self (and your brain) at work trying to protect you from those memories, for survival.

In other words, your shadow self has played the role of your knight of shining armor, so screw the Disney prince's ;) we have shadow selves ready to and dedicated to saving us. <3

Our shadow self has served us, helped us, protected us in some way.


  • Your parents got divorced when you were really young, so your shadow self created abandonment issues to save you from experiencing that acute pain again. Instead, you push people away before they get too close.

  • Your parents fought about money, so now you're extremely frugal. Your shadow self carries the scarcity mindset, so you're always prepared for the worst because it assumes that makes it easier to handle.... (it doesn't)

  • You struggle with self-worth, so you shadow self convinces you to stay safe. This may cause you to forgo applications for promotions, new jobs, or to start your own business.

The actions of our shadow self are misguided, but their intent is genuine. Every shadow side has positive reason for existing; it carries our baggage! Love them for the work they've done.

Your shadow self has had your best interests at heart and we can coexist. Allow it to ride shot gun with you... maybe even let it pick the music every now and again!

Now that you're an expert on shadow work, there are a few other words we could use such as: limiting beliefs, inner child, subconscious beliefs, core beliefs, etc. So if you've done some of this work before, then you've already dipped into shadow work!

Now that we understand what the shadow self and shadow work is, let’s jump into steps you can take if you want to try out shadow work.

Steps of Shadow Work:

1. Recognize

Learn to recognize where and when your shadow self steps in to take over. As I said previously, our triggers reveal our shadows. Begin to take note of what you're feeling just before and after you were triggered and how the shadow self protected you.

If you're struggling to recognize the shadow self, look to moments when you acted in a way that "wasn't like you" or was more reactive than normal.

Negative thoughts are another common indicator. Any time you’re judgmental about yourself or others, there is something there that relates to your shadow self. Keep an open mind and remain curious. Notice when you’re reacting in a way that isn’t in alignment with your higher self. As Sheryl Sandberg said:

"We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change"

2. Embrace

Embrace your shadow self as a friend and loved one. To become whole beings, we have to integrate the different parts of ourselves.

We are light and dark, good and evil, giving and selfish, loving and spiteful. We are human, and we are only our whole selves when we allow all aspects of our human condition to coexist without shame.

We experience all because we are all.

Your shadow self has always had your best intentions in mind. It may not go about things in the right way, but it was created as your protector. Embrace them and love them for it. They’re your misguided best friend.

3. Heal

Our shadow self will always be there, and it’s easier to recognize and tone down when we listen to its concerns.

Have a conversation with your shadow side. Name your biggest fear, your biggest shame, or maybe an issue that you face.

The best technique I can recommend for this is to journal. Start off with "Dear shadow self...." and go from there. Do this every day and you would be amazed what you learn. Do this every day for a year and I guarantee your life will be recognizable in 365 days.

If you've struggled to maintain a relationship, ask your shadow self how it's kept you safe by keeping you single. If you've always wanted to start a business, but you've held back, ask your shadow self how it's protected you by keeping you in your current job.

You can ask your shadow self how it's held you back.... and once you're aware of the "why", you get to choose whether or not you continue to allow it to protect you, or not.

Ask your shadow self:

  • How have you served me?

  • What is your purpose?

  • How have you shown up to protect me?

Knowing When to Ask for Help

If at any point, you experience strong feelings of fear or your sense of safety feels threatened while trying shadow work, please stop and consult a mental health professional. You do not have to do this alone. Everyone's trauma is different. It's okay to ask for help when you need it. Some trauma requires support, so don't try to tough it out if you don't have to.

Thank y'all so much for hanging out with me today! If you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend or family member who might benefit from this message.

Have a great rest of your week, and I will catch y'all next time. Until then, go out there and manifest some miracles!

Follow Bre on: Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest


Check out this discussion in podcast form:

For more like this, check out our podcast on iTunes or Spotify! Now live on all major podcasting platforms.

Related Blogs & Podcasts


  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
bottom of page