My birthday is coming up in two weeks, so it is a good time for introspection. It is also, like any time of transition, a good chance to look at ‘where am I?’, ‘how did I get here?’, and ‘where do I want to go from here?’. An honest approach to these questions is a good basis for beginning shadow work.

I’m an introvert, so naturally, hanging out in your own head is not all there is to shadow work. Shadow work is about facing those pieces and sides of yourself that you may not want to look at, or even admit exist. It’s about bringing those things into the light, and acknowledging that they exist. It’s about facing your issues, your problems, your biases, and actually doing something about them. Yeah, that doesn’t really sound like fun. It’s not. However, it’s one of those things that you’ll be thankful for later – kind of like lancing and draining a really painful boil.

It is however, something that, hopefully, you will have someone to talk and work through with you. An experienced elder that you trust and/or a licensed therapist are great (and some would say necessary) companions on this journey, especially if you have trauma in your past, as many of us do. As someone who has faced repressed trauma and the psychological aftermath more than once, I entreat you to please have a support system in place before you begin shadow work. If you are a solitary practitioner with no spiritual or mundane support, shadow work is not a necessary component to your practice.

Affirmations are often encouraged as a part of self-care/self-love, as they increase positive feelings, can improve one’s outlook and can encourage one to make positive changes in their life. An affirmation is a statement of emotional support or encouragement, and the act of stating or declaring it to be a truth. An affirmation can be any simple positive statement that enourages positive feelings: “I am beautiful.” “I am kind.” “I will let go of the pain of my past and let myself heal.” The focus of the affirmative statement is whatever change you are trying to encourage in your life.

Affirmations often work well, accompanied by meditation, if that is part of your spiritual wellness work. This allows you to examine the statement with a quiet mind, and observe what it means to you. It also allows you to observe, address and dismiss those negative thoughts that may be detractors. Perhaps you are trying to work on your self-confidence and self image. Your affirmation may be, “I am beautiful.” In meditation, you may decide to think on seeing yourself as beautiful, as glowing, as happy. Know that when you have negative thoughts… “I’m fat” “I have crow’s feet” “My hair is frizzy” … whatever your particular worry is, know that you can let it go, that it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is your affirmation.

Today was a pretty good day, even if I have to go to work now. I took advantage of a lazy Sunday to take a long, vanilla creme scented bubble bath, have a spa day, and pamper myself a bit. Self-Care is a necessity that is often overlooked, and that was brought back into sharp focus for me recently. It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stresses of our lives, especially in harder times, and forget why any of it matters. If you let that happen, after a while – it doesn’t. We need to remember to take care of ourselves.

Maybe I’m talking about depression, but I really mean on a more basic level. If you’ve ever played The Sims, you can see how in the beginning, you are so busy trying to build the house, make enough money so that your sim can have a decent bed and bathroom, food in the house, and maybe a bit of entertainment. At the same time, you are trying to increase their skill level so that they can get a better job, don’t burn down the house while trying to cook dinner, and maybe afford a maid (because who has the time!). The next thing you know, they are throwing a sim fit and ranting about how they have no fun, or no social life, or are sleeping on the sidewalk, or wetting themselves in public. Maybe I just have terrible time management skills, or secretly enjoying watching them suffer their way to greatness, but really, don’t we all feel like that sometimes?