I hope you won’t be disappointed, but this post isn’t about Star Wars.
Instead, it’s all about the fact that every one of us has a dark side and how we’d probably feel much better about ourselves if we could find a way to both accept and embrace, rather than hide, our jagged edges.
Warning: this won’t feel comfortable at first. It’s going to get a bit grubby and you’re going to want to create all sorts of meaning out of it.
But, trust me, the liberation you’ll find is worth the icky bit.
What’s on my dark side?
I googled ‘character traits’ and found this list. As I was reading through the negative section I noticed that I was having one of four reactions to each word:
1) indifference (the word doesn’t mean anything to me (or I don’t even know what the word means “high-handed”?));
3) connection and acceptance or;
4) connection and discomfort.
I feel attracted to: Disruptive; Excitable; Quirky; Zany.
None of which I consider to be particularly negative and all of which I’d actually be flattered to be described as!
I feel connection and acceptance for: Anxious; Childish; Confused; Dull; Envious; Gullible; Impatient; Insecure; Irrational; Melancholic; Pedantic; Shy; Submissive; Undisciplined.
These are traits which I either feel or suspect/know that I demonstrate at times (I’m curious to notice feeling and demonstrating are quite different – the former existing inside me, the latter being visible to others) and I can generally/sort of/sometimes be ok with that.
I feel connection and discomfort with: Critical; Dishonest; Fickle; Irresponsible; Lazy; Passive; Selfish; Stupid; Uncaring (Unkind would actually be even more powerful for me but wasn’t on the list).
These are characteristics that I’d both hate to be labelled with but which part of me knows that I’m capable of.
Hello there #discomfortcentral.
That list of words goes some way to describing my dark side. Things that I don’t like about myself and don’t want other people to notice or witness me doing or being.
And now I’ve just shared that list with anyone that can find this post on the internet – drats.
This list also represents my ‘trigger words’. They’re words that I’ll always hear really loudly, particularly if they’re being used in relation to me.
You’ll definitely get my attention if you suggest that I’m lazy. Fortunately my friends and family are far too kind and polite to say that to my face.
But there is one person who most definitely isn’t.
And that’s me.
In the past, when I’ve not been in a great place mentally, these are the words that my inner critic, Winston, has used to convince me that I’m not a good person, that I’m not worthy of success or love and that I’m in some way flawed or broken.
And because I hear these words so loudly and they carry so much meaning and importance to me, if I’m not careful it becomes so easy to believe them as fact, get totally and utterly sucked in by them and feel they represent who I am as a person.
The more you buy into these stories, the more easily and frequently they come up. And then, after you’ve practiced the thinking habit that ‘you’re lazy/stupid/fickle/<insert your trigger word>’ for 30 odd years (because most of these words were firmly planted in our subconscious at some point during childhood #hownottof*ckthemup) you find that you’ve unknowingly carved an enticing thought groove into which you can fall at the drop of a hat.
Where to start
The first step is to spend a few honest moments with the list to find out what your trigger words are likely to be. Identify the stories that you’ve been telling yourself using these words, how they make you feel and how they might be impacting on your behaviour?
The next thing to realise if you agree that you’d probably feel better about yourself by accepting your dark side is that, although you might know that you demonstrate these traits, you’re likely to only be doing so a tiny percentage of the time.
The rest of the time you’re either being and doing lots of lovely positive things or you’re just hanging out in some very innocuous neutral territory.
The problem is that these triggers are so powerful to us that when we suspect (because sometimes it’s not even true) that we’ve done or said one small thing which could be perceived as <insert trigger word> then it becomes huge in our minds and we’ll spend ages replaying and reliving that nanosecond over and over again.
So bring it into perspective. If you are doing that ‘thing’ only 1% of the time, check in and see whether you’re only giving it 1% of your attention and energy.
No, I suspect not. More like 99%, yes? Hello cavernous thought groove.
We’ve all got our own grooves and the bad news is that they’ll always be there to some extent, they can’t be eliminated. But what we can change is our relationship with them and our reaction to them – turning an all consuming mental tidal wave into a momentary ripple.
Everyone has a dark side. And that’s ok.
Yes, even for you.
And, wait for it…….what if you aren’t even responsible for your dark side? What if it isn’t your fault and there isn’t really anything you can do about it? Because the reality is that it was formed during childhood and determined by the behaviour of your parents, other influential people in your life and a whole collection of formative experiences – none of which you had control over.
And what’s the most sensible thing to do with things that we can’t change?
Accept them and let them be.
Of course you probably don’t want to exacerbate these traits – if your dark side includes anger and you know that that gets flared up when alcohol is poured on top then try not to go out getting wasted every night.
But, for most of us, we’re talking about that 1% thing again.
The reality and extent of our dark sides is no where near as significant as we’d have ourselves believe.
The other side of the dark side
Although it’s pretty tough to like you’re own dark side, I often find myself being drawn to and really liking other people who are willing to open the door just a crack to let me have a peek at theirs.
Perhaps that’s just me being nosey or looking for confirmation that everyone does indeed have one. But actually I think it’s because allowing ourselves to show some kind of vulnerability is one of the best ways of creating connection. If you want to hear more about this then watch this amazing TED talk from Brene Brown.
If I’m honest, I’m also naturally suspicious of people who present themselves as being very straight forward. I love complexity and depth and a bit of messiness and a good rocky journey.
To me that feels real and human.
And the more we all feel like humans in it together then the more connected and supported we feel.
It’s all based on perception anyway. What to one person could be described as selfish could to another be having clear and important boundaries in place. Someone might berate themselves for being lazy while another would see slowing down as a great example of taking care of yourself. If you want more evidence then this article gives the positive flip side to the top 10 supposedly bad personality traits.
By ignoring your dark side you’re ignoring, suppressing and denying part of yourself.
And if we can’t allow ourselves and give ourselves permission to have a dark side then that means that we’re expecting ourselves to live on the light side the whole of the time. Entirely unrealistic and likely to lead to a whole world of ‘not good enough’.
So please, embrace your dark side so that the rest of us can enjoy the whole, juicy, fascinating person brimming full of humanness that is you.
Hey there, in case you didn’t know, I’m Hana and I could be your Personal Mindset Coach.
I’m occasionally known to my clients as ‘the lovely stranger’.
I’m here to help you see things from a different perspective, to choose a different lens, to find different ways of thinking, being and doing – so that you can get out of your head and just get on with living a bloody great life.
If you’d like some support exploring this or other fascinating things about you further, then drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can arrange a cuppa some time to find out if we might like each other enough to work together.
If you like what you’ve read and want more then how’s about downloading my free ‘Where’s your head at?’ ebook – get it right here.
Take care and keep enjoying the journey.