What is Shadow Work | 11 Tips for Personal Growth | 2024 Reveal


Astrid Tran 30 November, 2023 8 min read

What is Shadow Work - is it good or bad? This term is common both at the workplace and in personal life. In psychological shadow work, your body and your mind are healed from your hidden parts unconsciously. It is a natural phenomenon. However, the shadow work in the workplace is a dark side and is the main reason for increasing burnout nowadays. Thus, starting to learn about shadow work from now on is the best way to stay healthy. What is shadow work in the workplace? Let's explore this term and helpful tips to balance your life and your work.

Who coined shadow work?Ivan Illich
When did the term shadow work originate?1981
Overview of shadow work.

Table of Contents

Tips for Work-Life Balance

What is Shadow Work in Psychology?

What is Shadow Work? Everybody has aspects about which they are proud as well as aspects about which they are less confident. We hide some of these characteristics from public view because they might irritate or embarrass us. These parts that you want to hide are called Shadow Work.

Shadow Work is Carl Jung's philosophical and psychological theories from the 20th century. The shadow succinctly and quote was cited in the book "Shadow" In A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis by Samuels, A., Shorter, B., & Plaut, F. from 1945, defining it as "the thing a person has no wish to be." 

This statement describes a personality, including the persona, which is the personality that people show to the public, and the shadow self, which remains private or hidden. In contrast to the persona, the shadow self frequently possesses characteristics that a person would prefer to hide.

Examples of common shadow behaviors in ourselves and others:

  • The impulse to pass judgment
  • Jealous of other people's success
  • Self-esteem issues
  • The quick temper
  • Playing the victim
  • Unrecognized prejudices and biases
  • Don’t admit your love for something unsocial
  • The aptitude to step on others to achieve our goals.
  • The notion of the messiah
What is shadow work?
What is shadow work?
Discover shadow work to understand yourself deeply by facing dark emotions and hidden motivations.

What is Shadow Work in the Workplace?

Shadow Work in the Workplace means different. It is the act of completing tasks that aren’t compensated or part of the job description but are still required to complete the job. There are many companies nowadays that force individuals to handle tasks once performed by others.

Some examples of shadow work in this sense are:

  • Checking and responding to emails outside of work hours
  • Attending unpaid meetings or training sessions
  • Performing administrative or clerical duties that are not related to one’s core role
  • Providing customer service or technical support without extra pay or recognition

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Using Shadow Work to Address Burnout

To prevent burnout, it is important to address the root causes of work-related stress and find healthy ways to cope with them. Shadow work can help us do that by:

  • Increasing our self-awareness and understanding of our emotions, needs, values, and goals. Because you don't fear being judged by others or feeling guilty about your evil side, you are fully at ease with what you can and cannot achieve because you know them.
  • Identifying and challenging the limiting beliefs, fears, and insecurities that hold us back or cause us to overwork.
  • Exhibiting your creativity to the greatest extent possible if you are completely self-assured and don't feel self-conscious about what you do. You might discover many hidden talents or ideas that you never dare to show up.  It is a road for you to realize your full potential.
  • Developing a more authentic, balanced, and integrated sense of self that can handle stress and change more effectively.
  • Healing the past traumas, wounds, and conflicts that affect our present behavior and relationships
  • Accepting yourself and others. When the dark side of you is fully accepted and loved, then you can fully love and accept the imperfections of others. The secret to growing your friendship network and fostering relationships with others is empathy and tolerance.
  • Be willing to learn from others. You can gain extensive knowledge from other people if you are tolerant and mindful of yourself in all situations. Through observation, evaluation, and reflection on your work, you will make swift advances. It is what shadowing means in work.
What is Shadow Work - How to Shadow Work for Professional Growth and Development

Work Shadowing

What is shadow work for professional growth? Work shadowing is a form of on-the-job learning that allows interested employees to closely follow, observe, and at times perform tasks of another employee performing the role. This can help them gain a better understanding of the position, the skills required, and the challenges faced. It can also help them explore their career options and aspirations.

As previously noted, accepting your dark side is a step toward personal growth. One way to recognize your darkness is through observing others. It is also a good way to quickly adapt to a new job as shadow training.

Shadow work can help you connect with these traits by making you more conscious of them. One way it does this is by addressing the issue of projection or reverse shadowing. 

People commonly deal with traits they don't like about themselves through projection, which plays a key role in how your shadow functions. Projection happens when you call out a specific trait or behavior in someone else while ignoring how it plays out in your own life.

Here are some tips on how to shadow other employees in the workplace. 

  • Attend staff meetings at the company.
  • Finish office work or lend a hand on projects.
  • Interview administrative and professional employees for information.
  • Interactions with shadow clients.
  • Shadow staff in the duties and roles of a specific career.
  • Explore the facilities.
  • Examine the organization's organizational charts and mission/vision statement.
  • Recognize the policies and procedures of the office
  • Examine the most recent trends in the industry.
  • Examine potential jobs in the company and the industry.
  • Meet with the organization's top executives. 

Key Takeaways

‘’Beneath the social mask we wear every day, we have a hidden side: an impulsive, wounded, sad, or isolated part that we generally try to ignore. The Shadow can be a source of emotional richness and vitality, and acknowledging it can be a pathway to healing and authentic life.’’

– C. Zweig & S. Wolf

One of the most significant and admirable tasks you may assign yourself on the path to personal development and in life, in general, is learning to confront, investigate, and welcome your Shadow Work. 

While shadowing behaviors may be uncomfortable to confront, they are a necessary part of the journey toward personal growth and self-awareness. Don't be afraid. Just follow your heart, turn things around, and create a better life and career for yourself.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are job shadowing examples?

Through a form of training known as "job shadowing," a worker follows a more seasoned colleague and watches how they perform their duties. For example, Observing interviews and recruitment (HR shadowing) or Observing workflow and communication.

What does it mean to shadow others?

Shadowing others is the process of projecting yourself onto another person, feeling and evaluating both your own and that other's actions. It's a fantastic approach to grow and learn. For instance, whether you can comprehend why you frequently complain while your coworkers do not in the identical specified task.

Is shadow work good or bad?

Shadow work - like many other self-awareness practices - has both positive and negative aspects. Because of this, you must comprehend the negative consequences of mis-following the directions when using this strategy.

Ref: Cognizant