A while ago, I posted the photo featured here on Instagram with the caption: “We all have a shadowy side.”
It’s only after my experiences last autumn that I’ve come to understand how important it is to meet my shadowy side.
It was then that I spent a lot of time in the company of women discussing, learning, and sharing experiences as women, friends, and as yogis. The focus of the conversations were around pregnancy, motherhood, and parenting. We talked about what it meant to move from maiden to mother and our feelings and thoughts that come to life during these times.
When a woman has a baby, she leaves behind the life she had and starts a new one. She becomes a mum. And no matter how much joy arrives, there can also be a grieving process for the life lost. No matter how you welcome this new life, it’s going to turn everything upside down and inside out—including us. And some of that turning and moving can take us into our shadows.
Even if we want to be pregnant, want to be a mum, even if we feel ready in all parts of our lives, something shifts in us when we get pregnant and have children. In the months before and after birth, we think and feel lots of things. Some of them we talk about and some of them we don’t.
I don’t often hear women vocalise their worries about how their body will change because of birth or how having a child might affect them financially. But I know for sure some women think about these things and more. It appears that for many women the experiences is the same: They don’t vocalise certain thoughts because they don’t fit in with the idea of what a pregnant woman or mum should feel or think.
Over and over again our talk led back to the “should haves” and the expectations we put on ourselves and feel from others about what it is to be a “good, successful, loving mother.” It appears these should haves, these expectations had gone some way to silence us.
Not being or feeling able to speak our truth about the pain, upset, rage, sadness, and loneliness that was felt during times when we were told we should feel grateful, happy, joyful, even selfless had meant we’d not been heard. We had not allowed ourselves to talk about the feelings that crept into the spaces outside of our light, our positivity, and our joy.
It felt good to know that I wasn’t alone in the harbouring of my shadowy side. I came to the conclusion that it was okay that the person and mother I’d hope to be, and the one I was now, weren’t always the same. So I got interested in the questions: What were my should haves? What are they now? Who do I talk to about the reality of my feelings? And how does it feel to really own them, allow them, expect them, and even welcome them?
I have come to my own conclusion: We are not perfect, and we shouldn’t try to be. We should only try to improve ourselves as best we can for ourselves and for the others we share our lives with. All of us are valuable, even the bits that we don’t like—even our shadows.
We need to stand proud of ourselves and all our imperfections. To embrace our whole self like an old friend. When we stop striving for perfection and stop working to achieve all our “should haves,” we can meet ourselves with deep kindness and love. And you know what, we deserve it. We do. You deserve it.
So I invite you to say hello to your shadowy side. Start today. Listen out for your “should haves” and then ask yourself if that is your real truth. Be brave; get to know all of you; talk about it with people. You’re not alone.
And remember to welcome your whole self with a smile.
Author: Helen Moss
Image: Author’s Own, “Girls”
Editor: Travis May