The shadow that thwarts your dreams

Does fear often prevent you from starting something? Fear of embarrassment, fear of judgement, fear of failure?

Allow me to introduce your shadow

Your shadow is always with you. It has an important job – to protect you from discomfort. It’s been with you since day one, learning about all things that may cause you to become uncomfortable. Always watching, taking notes, observing.

Your shadow remembers everything, and is there to guide you

When doing its job well, your shadow gives you a wee heads up about potential sources of discomfort. This contributes to your decision making.

As useful as your shadow is, it does have a weakness

It feeds on fear, doubt, and insecurities. If it’s fed too much, it grows, and the bigger it becomes, the more power over you it has. But if it becomes big enough, it starts making the decisions for you.

If it gets bigger than you, it starts making the decisions

Let’s imagine you have an opportunity to about to get up and speak about your passion to a large crowd of people. Your shadow senses a potentially uncomfortable situation and gives you a little guidance:

Shadow: Here’s a little adrenalin so that you can focus. Remember to breathe out, sometimes you forget to breathe out when you’re public speaking, and you come across all nervy. That might be embarrassing…

You: Thanks for the adrenalin, and the reminder Shadow! I’ll remember to breathe this time. Wohoo let’s go!

But here’s what happens if your shadow has grown and become bigger than you:


You: Oh my God oh my God oh my God I feel sick oh God no I can’t do this!

Do you see the difference? From a useful heads up from your shadow, to a totally overbearing, bossy, fear-mongering beast that tells you what (not) to do. How much harder did that make things?

Does Your shadow have too much power?

Your shadow should never be allowed that much power, but when it gets fed too much it becomes bigger than you and gets way out of control.

Do you have this problem? Is your shadow in charge?

Is it time to get your shadow under control?

Luckily, there are ways to get your shadow under control, but firstly you need to understand how it’s fed.

When you make decisions solely based on what your shadow has to say, you are feeding it.

Shadow: You’re going to totally embarrass yourself if you speak up in this meeting. Just keep quiet. Say nothing.

You: Ok Shadow. You’re right it will be too embarrassing if I speak. I’ll keep my views to myself.

Shadow fed. You feel bad. Shadow grows.

Shadow: No one is going to pay you that much, you’re not worth it honey.

You: Ok Shadow. You’re right, there’s heaps of people better at this than me.  I’ll base my prices on what others are doing.

Shadow fed.

You also feed your shadow when you don’t question it – when you just believe what it has to say without pulling it up on things.

And when you worry and fret and fester over something, you feed your shadow.

You’re thinking “so I just stop listening to it then?”

Actually no! You can’t just ignore your shadow – as I mentioned earlier, it does have an important job to do, and ignoring it completely might be a little perilous. Also, if you ignore it, it knows! It will just get louder and louder until you listen.

So you still need to hear what it has to say, but your shadow needs to be retrained just to give you helpful guidance, not that overpowering bossy-britches stuff.

It’ll take a bit of work at first, but if you’re consistent, over time your shadow will shrink and get back to being it’s polite, helpful self.

You have to be mindful of what you feed it

Let’s try those conversations again, but we won’t feed it this time:

Shadow: You’re going to totally embarrass yourself if you speak up in this meeting. Just keep quiet. Say nothing.

You: Oh hey Shadow. Yeah I remember feeling embarrassed a few times when I’ve spoken up in important meetings – thanks for reminding me. But it’s ok, it’s important that I share my views so I’m going to go ahead and speak up anyway. 

Shadow: No one is going to pay you that much, you’re not worth it honey.

You: Hey there Shadow! Thanks for the heads up, but I’ve done some great research here and this is the fee I deserve.  

So you didn’t dismiss your shadow, you’ve taken note of what it has (rather dramatically) pointed out, but you haven’t taken its word as gospel. This way, shadow feels happy that you’ve listened, and accepts you’re making a sound decision anyway.

If you’d like to try this – I guarantee an opportunity will arise SOON for you to practice. The very next time you shy away from doing something because of fear, insecurities, doubt etc. – that’s your shadow talking. Accept guidance, not direction.

Image with quote - listen to your shadow but accept guidance not direction.

IS it time to put your shadow on a diet?

Is your shadow really that powerful that it can prevent you from achieving big goals and living your dreams? YES.

Can you tame your shadow so that you can be brave enough to do the things you’ve always dreamed of? YES.

The first step to solving that is to become aware that you have a shadow (done!).

Now it’s time to shine a light on it. Once you’re ready, Get started on your big goal today!


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  1. […] Acknowledging the reasons you have for not moving forward, and clearing them with a little self-pep-talking is a very effective way to get things moving. Often we don’t work through these worries* and they just stand there, in our way, unquestioned. But once you start questioning them they instantly begin to diminish. You shine a big ol’ light on their dark souls and they shrivel and squeal like a balloon being let down. *a.k.a. Your shadow.  […]

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