What lurks in the shadows?
Monsters. Creepy-crawlies. Spooky-scaries. As kids, those were the things that lived in dark corners paralyzing us until someone could shine a light on them so the fearful spell they cast would dissipate in truth and understanding.
Now that we are older and wiser, guess what lurks in the dark corners of our adults lives?
Our SHADOW TRAITS; those negative, automatic and unproductive responses to people, situations and events.
Shadow traits, the stumbling blocks and blind spots in our personal and professional lives, are underdeveloped and emotionally memorized strategies that we default to when uncomfortable or stressed. They are how we immaturely and ineffectively deal with thematically repetitious circumstances.
Left unidentified and unchecked, these sometimes subtle, sometimes overt negative behaviors:
- Erode communication and connection, create animosity and damage relationships
- Rationalize poor personal behavior, justify self-grandiosity and condone criticism
- Cloud judgement, grow frustration and block performance and productivity
Ex: You’re in a conversation where someone challenges you with a point of view, a request or an expectation that triggers you. You find you automatically act either defensively, say yes when you want to say no, become territorial, manipulative, distracted or overbearing. Or perhaps you may become impatient, offended, aggressive, moody, defiant or unresponsive. These types of negative responses and low-level emotional strategies are shadow traits.
Shadow traits are not who we are. Shadow traits are what we consistently unconsciously do to maintain our emotional equilibrium or status quo when triggered by someone or something.
How do you identify your shadow traits? By observing your recurring reactions, behaviors and choices that keep bringing you the same unwanted results. Once you identify your patterns, you tune into the historical narrative that’s driving your decision or justifying your behavior. Ask yourself how and why you respond in particular ways and what you are trying to emotionally achieve.
Ex: Ever date (or marry!) the same type of partner over and over or work for the same type of boss again and again? Look closely at the personality attributes of that person and the familiar way you are being in relationship with them, reacting to them, and the needy or negative aspect of you that’s ignited. You’ll get a glimpse of one – or more – of your shadow traits.
What on the other side of your shadow traits? Simply put, your best self. When you are influencing outcomes by making decisions based on your talents, strengths and mature strategies, you are your best self. It’s that coveted state when you know you are ‘in the zone’ of positivity and potential, bringing out the best in yourself and others.
How do you pivot from shadow to best self? First, resolve around the truth that shadow traits are predictable and preventable. Next, think about a trigger situation where you always respond with a familiar shadow trait and now apply a best self talent, strength or strategy response to it instead. Mentally rehearse that new strategy – repetitively – so that when the moment comes, you can now count on yourself to be and do different.
Armed with the right information and tools, your shadow traits can become your brilliant teachers and the catalysts to a more conscious and dynamic life. You always have a choice. Choose to know – and grow – yourself better.