Do you ever hear what your voice really sounds like (from a video recording, or the phone echoing back, etc) and cringe?
Our internal picture of ourselves is not always accurate- and anything that contradicts how we view ourselves can be… a little painful. No one is ever like, yay, give me some constructive criticism please!
Stick with me here, because I have some weird analogies coming up.
In this video game I’ve been playing lately called Persona, the protagonist saves people from their shadow selves, which are dangerous monsters that reveal your true feelings. You can’t hide from your shadow self!
For example, one person you save is a girl whose family owns an inn. She is quiet, smart, admired, and will eventually take over her parent’s business. Seems like her life is set, right?
Since I’m writing about it, you can probably guess that no, Yukiko does not feel that way.
She feels stuck. She doesn’t want to take over the inn because it was decided for her, and she feels she has no control over the future. She desperately wants a ‘knight in shining armor’ to rescue her from her city. She resents anyone who has a boyfriend, because she feels she deserves one more.
Popular. Capable. Angry. Jealous. All of these things are true.
In this game, the character must face their shadows in order to defeat them. The more the characters deny and ignore their shadow self, the angrier and more dangerous their shadow self becomes. They need to accept the ugly part of themselves in order to calm it down and defeat it. Once defeated, the shadow grants the character special powers, making them even stronger.
Your real strength comes from being able to face your shadows, because then they don’t have power over you. The more you acknowledge your weaknesses, the stronger you become. You have to admit there’s a problem before you can address it and improve.
With that being said, just because you have ‘shadows’ does not make the good parts of yourself any less valid.
My shadow: I am obsessed with perfection, and I get laser focused on issues until they consume me. I have a hard time letting go until I believe it has been fixed.
My strength: I am great at improving things, and I am often aware of issues before they even come up, meaning I am able to fix them before they become bigger problems.
The flaw I just described and my strength are one in the same. Your weakness is often your greatest strength with the volume turned up too loud.
Since I am aware of this about myself, it allows me to step in do a little course-correcting before things get out of hand. When my more negative thoughts crop up (as they often do) I can look at it from a distance and say, hello shadows! Thanks for those thoughts but also no thanks. It also allows me to know myself better and be more grounded in who I am. If someone were to offer me some constructive criticism, it would not come as a surprise, therefore I would not be as defensive. I can respond more calmly, and from a place of self acceptance and confidence.
In the video game, after defeating her shadow self, Yukiko learns she can forge her own path. In the end, she decides to keep working at her parent’s inn. It’s the same outcome, but this time it was the path she chose and accepted instead of the path prescribed to her.
If you face yourself, you can accept yourself.