The shadow aspect is the disowned part of us, that which we repress and hide as we are too ashamed of it to show the outer world. Due to our fear of abandonment and rejection from the external environment (parents, family, society), we shove them into the darkness, bury them deep beneath where nobody sees. Together with the unaccepted bits, we also hide the potential, gifts, and talents that come hand-in-hand with those qualities.
What was I ashamed of? I had always struggled with having a multitude of interests. Sounds perfect for today’s world? Versatility, agility – they are positive attributes much desired. Yet, they have also been heavily weighed under that stronger label of “master-of-none”. This precisely explains the shadow concept and the repressed gifts. Isn’t it utterly irrational that I have been repressing this aspect of myself for so long?
I have an innate curiosity and a thirst for so many things in the world. Although I had the good fortune to explore them, there was always the nagging judgments and advice against “3-minute passions” (a common Chinese saying, referring to interests that do not last long). “Lightfootedness” was the nice way my utmost-respected mentor described it. I was worried, or even ashamed, about how I “chased after every shiny object that came my way”. But no, it was not the Shiny Object Syndrome, I was really honest-to-goodness following my heart.
It was too bewildering a problem to reconcile, I took a timeout to find which trade this Jack wants so I can be a master of it. I found myself in Spain, trying to figure out whether I want to be an artist, an architect, a planner, a farmer, a humanitarian aid worker, a writer, or a healer. What exactly did I want out of life?
This short one-month pilgrimage brought me to visit many masters’ lives and works. One of them was Gaudi – I went around exploring all his buildings, trying to comprehend his thought processes, examining his approach, passion, and philosophy. Guess what I found? He was many-things-rolled-into-one, and that made him so uniquely who he is.
Antoni Gaudi was an architect who loved nature so much, he capitalised on that passion to extricate their characteristics into his designs. It was painstaking work, but he had lots of passion to burn, and was visionary to see beyond his time (Sagrada Familia is still under construction!) He was a master craftsman, an artist who saw beyond the box, literally beyond the box-structure of buildings. Craftsmanship really does make a huge difference to spaces. One can feel the love and effort put into the sculpting of every inch of that space. He was also a brilliant architect-engineer. Do you know that the design of this building structure was conceptualised from an inverted form of this building, and then calculated based on that? Do you know that the top floor of this building was conceptualised and calculated based on the bone structure of animals? And of course the common organic example is that the basilica was designed to mimic the forest canopy.
Through his eyes, and his life, I realised that maybe it is not wrong to be a jack-of-all-trades, or to have so-many-things-I-want-to-do-and-to-be!
That was the physical world showing my conscious mind that it can work, and is not something to be ashamed of. The shadow self worried for my survival, continuing to nag about how Gaudi died in poverty and in anonymity. how he is probably one-in-a-million artists who made a name for himself. Those were indeed scary and worrisome. I had many years after that to introspect the layers of worries and fears, how they came about, and slowly but surely, let them all go.
I am now able to unashamedly juggle a few different roles at the same time, fulfilling all that feeds my heart and passion. I can now see they are parts of an integral whole – how each role feeds into another, how one supports and benefits another. Without the shame sucking the life out of me, I can put my focus on developing and building them into a whole entity unlike any other.
Find out what talents and gifts you have been hiding in the shadows. Hug your darkness. Embrace the full essence of you.
Background image: polar bear in Salvador Dali's home, Cadaques.