When the sun is shining on you your shadow falls behind you so it generally goes unnoticed. Occasionally if you look to the side you may catch a glimpse of it in your peripheral vision but rarely do you wring your head around and stare at it, yet it follows you wherever you go.
When we are headed in the direction we desire it feels good, like a warm sunshiny day. The path is graced with things that make our heart smile and we are excited to reach our destination. We are energized, our thoughts are clear and we are not distracted by our shadow. It is always with us but it has no power to hold us back or cause us to second guess the direction we’ve chosen.
Most children go through a phase where they are fascinated with their shadow. Some kiddos try to jump into it, others try desperately to grab hold of it and some try to run away from it. So it is in life. Our past is like our shadow – it will always be there following us. We cannot jump back into it for a re-do, we can’t hold onto it trying to keep it alive, nor can we run away from it. It is just there. Our life resembles it’s shape, but it has no power. Like a child who obsesses over their shadow, many of us obsess over our past yet we can’t move forward until we stop looking back. It serves us well to acknowledge it’s existence so that when we catch a glimpse of it in our peripheral vision it doesn’t scare us – we just laugh at ourselves when we realize our shadow scared us for a second!
The difficult thing about the shadow stories of our past is that they create beliefs, many of which are subconscious beliefs. These beliefs are often warped by our unpleasant experiences. It may be easy to let go of our past but it is far more difficult to change the belief it created. We often don’t realize where the belief came from. As a coach, I do not work with people analyzing the past. It can take years of psychotherapy and in some cases people have unknowingly created false memories in an effort to understand themselves. In coaching we let the past be what it is – over.
Thank God we have the choice to change the shape of our shadow! Every day we create a little piece of history that will follow us the rest of our lives. While altering our hairstyle or losing/gaining weight can make our physical shadow drastically different, every choice we make in life has the potential for creating new beliefs.
Pondering who we are and what we believe can be empowering because subconscious beliefs rise to the surface. By noting what they are, we have the power to embrace or denounce them. (This is where coaching can be helpful.)
What are your shadow stories and what beliefs have they created that hinder you? Do you identify with any of these?
Common Shadow Stories and the Beliefs They Can Perpetuate:
* Shadow Story: I thought I had a happy family but my parents divorced as soon as I moved out. Belief: People just pretend to be happily married.
* Shadow Story: “I was brought up in a poor family and saw my rich relatives act condescendingly toward my parents.” Subconscious Belief: “Wealth makes people arrogant snobs so I want nothing to do with rich people and I certainly don’t wan’t to be one.”
* Shadow Story – “My mom had an affair shortly after she lost 40lbs.” Subconscious Belief – “My husband loves me just the way I am. If I lost weight I would be attractive to other men and could be tempted to have an affair.”
* Shadow Story – “My dad owned and operated a thriving business and mom stayed at home.” Belief: “I can’t go back to work because my husband would have to pick up the slack at home and I want his career to thrive. Plus, my kids need me at home. It’s for the best – no one knows I hate every minute of being a housewife.”
* Shadow Story – My grandmother raised me, and had a career while my grandpa and mom did nothing. Mom and grandpa drank too much but they never worried about much either. Grandma was always stressed out and angry. Belief – I don’t want to be stressed out all the time so if I do have to work it’s going to be an easy job – not a full blown career.
*Shadow Story – My parents had great careers but spoke negatively about people who were more successful than they. Belief – I can’t be more successful than my parents or I’ll lose their approval.
You may not identify with any of these Shadow Stories, or, maybe you do, but your belief is different. The point is we all have a past that has shaped us and we have adopted beliefs that do not serve us well.
Realizing that my choices today will tomorrow be the history that shapes me help me put a better perspective on today. As adults our circumstances are largely determined by our choices and/or our response to uncontrollable circumstances. We get to choose what we believe.
Thinking about how we think if overdone makes us crazy! However, it is extremely helpful to recognize the lies we believe so that we can retrain our brains with truth, putting our past behind us like our shadow on a sunshiny day.