It’s that time of year again. Time to make resolutions that I will ultimately break. Lose weight. Eat fewer carbs. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Be nicer to people. Don’t gripe. Don’t hate. Don’t honk.
I want to be a better person. I really do. But I’m in my 50s. Can I even change now? Is my personality (and desire to honk at slowpoke drivers) cemented into my core?
I think I might be a grouch. Recently, a co-worker labeled me as that (or something like it). And even as a little kid, my family used to call me Aunt Co. That was my spinster, great-aunt who was known for griping and grumbling. I asked my husband if I was grouchy, and he slowly nodded, “Sometimes.”
In Sunday school (adult education) at church, we’re learning about our shadow selves, a Jungian concept outlined in Richard Rohr’s new book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass).
“Your shadow is what you refuse to see about yourself, and what you do not want others to see,” Rohr writes. “The more you have cultivated and protected a chosen persona, the more shadow work you will need to do.”
He continues: “Be especially careful therefore of any idealized role or self-image, like that of minister, mother, doctor, nice person, professor, moral believer, or president of this or that.”
If you live out of your shadow life, he says, you can’t recognize who you really are.
Maybe I’m really a nice person. Maybe I live out out of my shadow and I’m trying to hide the good person I really am. (Giggle.) But maybe.
It’s something to think about as we begin a new year. Not just “What are my New Year’s resolutions?” but “How do I live in a way that is true to who I really am?”
What shadow are you living under? How can you be more true to yourself?
Terri Lackey is director for communication for Women of the ELCA. She was managing editor of Gather magazine when this blog was published in January 2012.
Photo: Danuv, used with permission by Creative Commons. (This is not a photo of the author.)