[Photo courtesy of the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary]
A few days ago, I tried to make the big leap. I tried to quit my job. I actually tried twice. The first time, she really didn’t hear me and made a plan to try to accommodate me, so I thought I’d give it a try. Then she did some things that made me sick to my stomach and I decided that I had no other choice than to quit. Firmly. For good.
I sent an email to get it out there clearly and succinctly. I knew I’d have to talk to her, but with my intention made clear, I thought I’d be able to stand firm in my conviction. However, there was crying (not me), guilt, and begging and I caved. She thought she had won. She started planning my future, but I told her I wasn’t interested in the long term. I want to pursue my passions. Then she put me on the schedule doing the things I told her I couldn’t do. Foiled again!
As I tried to figure out how she had once again gotten her way and I hadn’t, I became reacquainted with the idea of the shadow self and luckily I hadn’t given away my book called The Shadow Effect by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, and Marianne Williamson. (Yay for being a book hoarder!)
The concept of the shadow is that we have parts of ourselves, that for one reason or another, we don’t like or approve of. These are usually traits that our parents and teachers deemed unacceptable, so we decided to shove them down deep. So deep, in fact, that we often don’t even know they’re there.
For me, the shadow has resulted in me creating the same situation over and over again and not being able to figure out why I keep ending up miserable and depressed. It mostly happens in my jobs, which affects my life so greatly that I can’t move forward.
In the book, Debbie Ford said that everyone we meet is a mirror. They mirror back to us who we are and those people who drive us crazy, who make us angry and frustrated, are the mirror of our shadow self. My first thought was “Well, shit.” I don’t want to be like the person causing me the most frustration and grief, but I decided to take a look at it and see if that’s true.
My job isn’t super bad. It’s my boss who is the source of my pain and agony these days, so I wrote down all the things that irritated me most about her.
- She’s mean and judgmental when talking about her clients.
- She can’t focus long enough to complete a thought.
- She is inappropriate. (She changed pants in front of me. Stripped down to her underwear. Made me very uncomfortable.)
- She can be intimidating.
- She doesn’t hear you when you tell her what your needs are or ignores them and does what works for her.
- She creates chaos and seems to thrive on it.
I try so hard to do what I’m supposed to do, to please people, to be helpful, to rein in other people’s chaos so that there’s some sort of order to things. Surely I’m not anything like that, right?
I don’t think it’s that I’m like her, but that there are parts of me that can be that way, those part I learned early on that were unacceptable or unpleasing – the shadow. Those shadow parts make us choose to go the complete opposite way most times, to leave it at far behind as we can.
So, I unpacked each one of these points and here’s what I came up with:
- I remember my dad always saying that the women in my family were mean: my grandmother (she kinda was), both my great-grandmothers, my mother. I’ve tried my best not to be mean to the point of being mute. Instead, I became a people pleaser, so that I don’t appear demanding or mean.
- I don’t focus on anything very long either. I call myself a Jill-of-all-trades. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but I’ve never found my “thing”. I start learning about something, but soon get bored with it or I get distracted by something else that catches my fancy. I’ve never become a master of anything, which in my mind makes me flaky and it’s kept me from having a “real” career. I feel like a loser because I can’t stick with anything. I keep trying though, which only leads to more frustration.
- I don’t think I’m inappropriate, at least I try hard not to be. I think this one comes from the fact that both of my parents always walked around in their underwear and it always made me feel icky. Especially when my dad walked around in his tighty whiteys.
- While I admire people who say what they mean, I don’t handle intimidating people very well. Intimidating people are scary to me. They demand things from you. They demand that you act as they want you to. They make me feel small and scared. My mom could be that way and my grandmother was definitely that way. I know I can be intimidating with my own intensity about things. I like to talk about deep, esoteric subjects. Small talk and chitchat bore me to tears. I’m sure that’s intimidating to people, which is why I tend to be quiet and isolate myself. I don’t like to intimidate people.
- My parents were very wrapped up in their own drama and trauma. They couldn’t hear what we kids needed. Even when I was living at home at twenty-five, drinking every day, and basically messing up at life, they didn’t try to get me any help. They went to an Al-Anon meeting one time and decided that I was nothing like that. That was the extent of their “help”. I cried out for help and they didn’t hear me. They never heard me.
- The biggest thing that bothers me about my boss is that she is a tornado of chaos. She likes it, I think, and seems to thrive on it. I grew up with a mentally ill mother and to me chaos meant mental illness. An inability to control your thoughts. Chaos, to me, was scary. We never knew what each day would bring and we were often left to fend for ourselves without any help from our dad. I compensated by trying to control everything, being the responsible one, so that I would feel safe.
Now what? What do I do with all this insight into my shadow? The problems arise when you try to hide them. They tend to come out with a roar (remember what happened to Tiger Woods and Bill Cosby and Mel Gibson and and and?) or in very damaging ways, like addictions and depression. The key is accepting your shadow side as an integral part of who you are. We need both sides of ourselves – the parts we like and the parts we don’t like – to be whole.
So, to become more whole, I’m going to work on accepting the parts of me that I’ve deemed unacceptable.
- I’ve recently met a lot of Texas women and the thing I love most about them is that they are straightforward and say what they mean. They are strong women and the women in my family were all strong women. I’m going to embrace that “mean” Texas woman inside of me, because she’s not mean. She’s just strong and asks for what she wants and needs.
- I’m going to embrace the fact that I’m a dabbler, not a focuser. I like to learn and I love knowledge. Just because there’s not a job that calls for love of learning and knowledge as a requisite doesn’t mean I can’t make money off of what I know. It just won’t come from one source.
- I’ll speak up next time my boss drops trou and tell her it makes me uncomfortable.
- I’ll keep on being my deep thinking self, but I’ll allow myself to not be so intense all the time. Maybe I’ll even start having a little fun.
- My body tells me what I feel most of the time. I’ll start listening to it and changing those situations that make me feel icky.
- As far as chaos goes, I read this article by Leo Babauta where he talks about all the ways in which chaos is actually a good thing. I’ll work on embracing uncertainty and trusting that the Universe will lead me where I want to go. I live with chaos in my brain every day. I look all calm on the outside, but inside, I’m a ball of chaos. However, it’s what leads me to explore new thoughts and ideas. It’s what led me to this point in my life where I’m finally unraveling the tangle of lies I’ve made up to keep myself safe.
So, I guess it’s okay that I couldn’t take the leap. It wasn’t time for me to quit my job. The Universe wasn’t done using my boss to teach me what I need to know. But hey! I love learning, right? Soon, I’ll be on to something new.