I have a confession to make. When I first began to connect with my spirituality, I was convinced that to be “spiritual,” I had to only embrace “love and light.” I didn’t know at the time that I was essentially practicing spiritual bypassing, i.e., using spirituality to avoid or dismiss any complicated feelings I was having.
Thanks to some great friends and mentors, I started to understand the important role that “shadow work” plays in personal growth, liberation, and understanding ourselves completely. If you’re ready to dive into your own journey with shadow work, there are some prompts below to get you started.
But first, what is shadow work?
Kristin dives deep into shadow work in this comprehensive post, but in a nutshell, this practice is all about understanding the parts of ourselves that we usually push into the subconscious due to societal expectations and pressures. These can be our insecurities, our shame, or anything else that we suppress.
Sometimes we can easily identify these things, and sometimes we’re left wondering where to begin digging up our shadow self. The process of bringing these aspects of who we are to the surface is an effective way to free ourselves from the self-judgement that holds us back in life. These prompts can help you start:
Identifying the Shadow Self
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of liberating ourselves from our shame, let’s start by identifying the shadow self with these journal prompts:
1. When was the first time you remember feeling like you were wronged? What was your reaction to this feeling, and how has this moment affected you as an adult?
2. Who was the first person to betray you? What happened, and how did they break your trust?
3. Which core values of your parents are different from your own? How are they different, and why do you think this difference exists?
4. What is one thing about your deeper self that nobody knows about you? Why have you kept this hidden?
5. Did anybody in your life as a child let you down? How so? How did that disappointment make you feel?
6. What makes you overthink?
7. How do you know that your mental health is taking a downturn? Identify which emotions signal that you need support.
8. What triggers jealousy or envy for you? Why do you think this trigger exists?
9. Are you always as kind to yourself as you are to others? If not, why?
10. When do you find that you are hardest on yourself? Why?
Once you’ve worked through identifying the parts of yourself that are repressed or avoided, it’s time to dive a little deeper by asking yourself tough questions and working through your answers with patience and kindness:
11. What toxic trait of yours has had a negative effect on your relationships (friendships, family, romantic, or otherwise)?
12. What negative aspects of your parents do you see in yourself? How does it feel to see this part of you?
13. What criticisms from other people are the hardest for you to hear? Why is it hard to hear them?
14. Do you know your attachment style? How has this manifested in your relationships?
15. Which negative emotions do you tend to avoid? Why do you avoid them?
16. Is there anybody that you can’t forgive? What did they do to break your trust, and why haven’t you forgiven them?
17. How did you process negative emotions as a child? Do you process them differently now? If so, how?
18. What is a lie that you tell yourself on a regular basis? Why do you tell this lie to yourself?
19. When have you messed up, hurt someone, and asked for forgiveness? What did you apologize for? Did the other person forgive you?
20. What do you need to forgive yourself for?
Now that you’ve gone deep and uncovered parts of yourself that you may not have known existed, it’s time to find some acceptance. Shadow work is all about seeing what lies within us, accepting all of our parts, and loving ourselves through it. Use these journal prompts to find acceptance:
21. How have you enforced your boundaries? How did it feel to do so?
22. What would happen if the people closest to you could see the deepest parts of you?
23. What would it take to full embrace yourself as you are right now?
24. How have you made things right after hurting someone else? What did it feel like to be forgiven by them? Did you forgive yourself for what happened?
25. What is the deepest secret that anybody has ever told you? Have you ever opened up that way to someone else? What did it feel like to be vulnerable?
26. What are you in denial about? Why?
27. What is the hardest part of yourself to accept? What would happen if you accepted it?
28. What is the worst thing that could happen if you saw the darkest parts of yourself? How does that possibility feel? Is it as difficult as you thought it would be?
29. Who looks up to you? What do you think they see in you?
30. Who are you most afraid of disappointing? Why?
Pin me for later:
Never forget that as human beings, we embody an entire spectrum of emotions. Inside each and every person, there is an immense depth of darkness and total expansion of light. The more we understand our duality, the more we can accept ourselves as we are and practice more self-compassion. The world could definitely use a little more of that, right?
If you’re an avid journaler, what other types of prompts would you like to see here?