The Real You, Hiding in the Shadows

Who you think you are is probably not who you really are…

by Safiya

I’ve been crocheting a lot lately. It’s like a meditation, the repetitive back and forth, seemingly never ending rows growing and forming, something taking shape from nothing. It’s a miracle to turn a ball of string into a piece of fabric, a fabric that is basically holes held together with knots of yarn.

I just made a curtain. I’m in love with it! I fall in love with everything I make. I can’t believe I’m able to do it and I fall in love so often that I’m overrun with stuff I’ve made.   This is the making of a great modern fairy tale:  the girl who fell in love with everything she makes and ends up surrounded by her handiwork and unable to leave her home, only to be rescued by a handsome prince who arrives on a white horse clutching  a pair of scissors to cut her out of her predicament.

I often wonder what part of me is responsible for this mass production and obsession?  I’ve always been interested in crafts, fabric, texture and anything that’s considered traditional women’s work, yet it seems like it’s not quite part of the me I think I know, the me that was encouraged to be.

And usually I am so super critical of everything about myself. It’s unusual, this outpouring of love for my crochet creations.  Then again, when I was dancing and Safiya was in charge and choreographing for my classes, I had the same feeling:  I was obsessed.  And I couldn’t believe I managed to make the dances I made and it all just somehow worked and it was amazing.  Yet I would have many moments of who do you think you are???  And I’d pale and shrink and doubt.

Yet it wouldn’t stop me.


It’s an interesting endeavor to take a look at our obsessions1 – to find out where our passions lie and to discover how they were thwarted.  Why am I surprised at what I’m capable of? When I dive deep into my obsessions, it’s like seeing a hidden aspect of myself hovering beside me as a shadow in a mirror…oh my!  How interesting.

This shadow is a way in to a secret garden at the core of our being and a key we can use to identify parts of the self that were shut down early in life and now need to be cultivated as allies.  This work of discovering who is living underground is critical right now for all of us. Everywhere around us are signs that the old is not working any longer and the moment for transformation is here.

And who do you think you are, imagining that you can do the impossible and play a part in this epic transformation/seismic shift?  Imagining that the mirror shadows can materialize in this place and step up?!  Thinking you could embrace this shadow and bring it into the light?!  This is not the stuff of mere hermit-mortals!  Yet,  as DK recently wrote, we could all be heroes (cue David Bowie). But we have to come out of hiding first.

For some of us the coming out of hiding is big, almost too big to comprehend.  Change!  Upheaval! Some of us have been in hiding for decades, some for a few months.  Some go in and out.  All of us hiders have learned that to be safe the essential part of us must be hidden.  We were taught we must hide our strength and awesomeness because those things were perceived as threats by family/social circle and all we wanted to do is fit in. Who do you think you are being so incredible!! Stop it! Blend in! Shut up and stop being weird!  Just be normal!

Many of us have been stuck in this pattern for so long we’ve become locked in. It gets hard to imagine we could actually emerge. Systems shut down and atrophy from disuse and it’s as if the content of our multifaceted exuberance wilts and shrivels and becomes bland.  This is an aspect of depression.

I don’t know about you, but most of the time I have no idea who I am these days.  Major turning point.  Major leaving behind.  Major not knowing. When I’m in hermit-mode my idea of myself is so not an issue I don’t even think about it. But that doesn’t mean it’s any fun.  In fact it’s the opposite!  Hermit mode is hiding mode; it’s nowhere mode; it’s anonymous and lonely.   It’s time to abandon ship and take the first steps in a new land.

Content provider

In our Book of Spells webinar this past fall we looked at how the stories we tell ourselves – the narratives that end up forming the basis of our reality – aren’t necessarily true. Worse yet, they were never our real stories. The great thing about realizing this is that we don’t have to believe them anymore.

Trolls, parasites, toxic shame handed down through the generations be gone!!  We dug deep into our family stories, and cast these false narratives out.  We created a space that is calling out for new content to fill it.  What will this new content be?

Many of us look for new content on the outside, online, from our peers, from our careers…and while we might be inspired by those around us to grow and evolve, there is also a good chance those darn troll voices will return and take up that space. Because that’s what they are good at.

Accessing and creating new content within ourselves is what must be attempted.  How can this happen when we are so identified with the old content we can’t even differentiate ourselves from it?

I think at first, we must trick ourselves to give ourselves permission to come out and stop being who you think should be.  This is how we provide backup for our hidden selves to emerge. This is how we create a receptive space where our unexpressed selves/energies can be seen and can gain voice.

Allow yourself to not be you you think you are for a while

An effective way to trick ourselves is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable:  learn something new, a language, a dance form, painting/drawing/pottery/sculpture, write poetry, make music…

Practice an Art.  Physical or Fine. Stretch.  Move.  Both physically and emotionally.  Challenge ourselves.  Put ourselves in new situations and drag our butts out of the comfort zone.  See ourselves from a new angle.  Delve into our obsessions.  Assume a new identity for a few hours, or for a day, or at the Starbucks counter (Yay, Jimbo!).  Try on a new name, a new haircut, or a new pair of shoes.  And…

Get with a group of likeminded souls and explore this together with us:


1 Obsess c. 1500, “to besiege,” from Latin obsessus, past participle of obsidere “watch closely; besiege, occupy; stay, remain, abide” literally “sit opposite to,” from ob “against” (see ob-) + sedere “to sit,” from PIE root *sed- (1) “to sit.” Of evil spirits, “to haunt,” from 1530s. Source: Online Etymology Dictionary

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