Within our struggles, we can find room for improvement.

Photo by Martino Pietropoli on Unsplash

I don’t think I’ve ever met a person that doesn’t have a shadow. Some shadows are much smaller than others but they still exist. We all have at least one thing we regret doing or wish we had done differently.

These shadows are often viewed as inherently bad. They are remains of failures, mistakes, and losses. These are all things we consider bad and therefore our shadow is also often considered a bad thing. As a result, we may try to avoid our shadow or pretend it doesn’t exist. There are, however, good things to be learned from our shadow. We just have to learn to embrace our shadow for what it is and the positives it holds will emerge.

What Went Wrong?

When we allow ourselves to acknowledge our shadow, we can begin to analyze what went wrong. Were we too involved in the situation? Did we have insecurities we were unaware of? Did we trust another person when there was evidence that trusting them wasn’t a good idea? All of these things require us to look into and contemplate our shadow.

By analyzing these situations we can get a better sense of who we were in that circumstance. We can start to see some of the faults we didn’t recognize at the time. This is a huge part of our personal growth. Without knowing some of the traps you have fallen into in the past, it can be hard to know what our current weaknesses might be. There is a good chance we will find ourselves unprepared if the situation were to occur again. Analyzing what went wrong is the first step in preparing ourselves for future problems.

What Would I Do Differently?

Once you understand how things went off the rails, you can begin to search for other possibilities that may have been available. The truth is: most of us struggle to see opportunities when we’re caught up in a big life event. We overlook or rationalize the warning signs. We miss opportunities to peaceful cut off a relationship that isn’t working. Ignorance isn’t the cause of these missteps, we just don’t know what we’re looking for. Looking for possibilities ahead of time gives us a better idea of what solutions we should be looking for.

Looking back on past mistakes allows you to better understand the things you truly have a problem with. Were you mad that the other person didn’t seem to care or that they constantly insisted they did care but didn’t do anything to show it? Was it even something they did that made you angry? Or, were you angry at yourself for things not working out? These are things that can be difficult to acknowledge or understand when your emotions are high. After a few months, however, the pieces can start to become a little more clear. Things become less emotional and more logical. You can start to see how your actions may have hurt them as well. The past can’t be changed but you can prevent it from repeating itself in the future.

Have I Forgiven?

One of the most important things we must do in life is to forgive. We make mistakes and other people do too. While we must accept responsibility for these mistakes, it is equally important that we look at these mistakes and their causes with a sense of compassion. Our goals aren’t to fail spectacularly in front of a crowd or hurt someone we care about, but sometimes they happen anyway. This can be a large source of regret for days and months. We must be willing to forgive ourselves. The better we are at forgiving ourselves, the quicker we can move on to living happy and healthy lives.

The same thing goes for others that have hurt us. We must give some form of forgiveness. This doesn’t mean we have to let them back into our life. We don’t even have to let them know we forgive them, but we do have to forgive them. We can’t go through life focusing on how someone hurt us a few years ago. That is a recipe for being angry and unhappy. To move on and live a life you enjoy, you must forgive those that have wronged you in the past.

Without forgiveness, our shadow can quickly become the source of repeated pain instead of being a helpful teacher.

In Conclusion

Within our shadow, we have the opportunity to strengthen our weaknesses and grow as people. It does, however, require us to have the courage to face our past failures, mistakes, and losses. We have to be willing to acknowledge our faults, both past and present. By doing this, we allow ourselves to correct some of the negative patterns we might otherwise fall into.

Your shadow holds ingredients for a better life, but you have to be willing to look at it first.

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