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We all have aspects of ourselves that we hide away – shameful thoughts, secret desires, embarrassing habits, and traits. These disowned pieces make up our “shadow self.” But denying and suppressing these shadowy parts of our psyche doesn’t make them go away. Instead, they continue to express themselves in unhealthy, unconscious ways that rob us of freedom and authenticity.

What is the Shadow Self?

The shadow is composed of the parts of your personality that you reject, are uncomfortable with, or have learned to repress – things like jealousy, selfishness, laziness, greed, anger, or insecurity. As children, we quickly learn that expressing certain qualities is unacceptable based on messages from parents, teachers, peers, and society. So, we bury those parts of ourselves out of fear of rejection, judgment, or punishment.

But the shadow lives on in the unconscious, finding unhealthy ways to express itself that limit your freedom to be your true self. It may look like lashing out in anger when hungry, cheating on diets, or feeling jealous while pretending to be happy for others’ success. The shadow controls you from the shadows.

The Path to Unshackling Your Authentic Self

Step 1: Build Self-Awareness

The path to freedom starts by shining a light on your shadow. What qualities in yourself do you judge, criticize, or feel ashamed of? Get curious about your shadow’s materialistic desires, laziness, needy tendencies, or whatever it is without harsh self-judgment. The Enneagram personality system can help you identify your brightest virtues and darkest shadow drives.

Step 2: Self-Compassion

As you become aware of your shadow, embrace it with radical self-compassion rather than constant rejection and denial. Tenderly make space for your anger, greed, and socially “unacceptable” traits. When you allow them with awareness, they no longer control you from the unconscious.

Step 3: Integration

When you make space for your shadow qualities, they can be integrated in a healthy way rather than driving impulsive shadow behaviors. You’ll make choices freely instead of being controlled by shadow compulsions. If disorganization is in your shadow, you can get organized from a place of self-understanding rather than avoidance.

Cara’s Journey to Unshackling Her True Self

Cara was a successful marketing manager who seemed to have it all – an impressive career, an active social life, and an overall positive outlook. But she was also extremely hard on herself, constantly driving towards lofty goals while never feeling good enough. Cara repressed her insecurities, neediness, and self-critical voice, viewing them as weaknesses to be overcome.

She first became aware of her shadowy “inner critic” during a meditation class. As she sat in silence, Cara was bombarded with a stream of harsh judgments about her body, her work performance, and her friends – nothing seemed good enough for this internalized voice. Cara realized this wasn’t her authentic self but rather a cruel shadow she had accepted as truth.

Step 1: Build Awareness

From that point on, Cara made a conscious effort to observe her inner critic without judgment, simply noting, “Ah, there’s that voice again.” She paid attention to when the critical thoughts arose and what messages from her childhood they were connected to. Cara realized her Type 1 perfectionist tendencies created this constantly disapproving shadow.

Step 2: Self-Compassion

The next step was to meet her shadow voice with compassion rather than giving it more energy. Whenever Cara noticed the critical voice pipe up, she enveloped that part of herself with love and kindness. “That’s just my inner critic speaking; she needs some warmth,” Cara said, pictured giving her small shadowy self a tender hug.

Step 3: Integration

Through this gentle awareness and self-compassion process, Cara’s harsh inner voice began to lose much of its sting. She could notice it, embrace it, and allow those insecure, self-critical aspects of herself while unhooking her entire sense of self-worth from them. Cara was cultivating wholeness.

The Freedom of Wholeness

For the first time, Cara began to feel free. Free from the internalized shaming that had been weighing her down for decades. She dropped her harsh perfectionist standards, pursuing goals from a place of peace rather than frantic self-criticism. Cara was more present with loved ones, glowing with authenticity rather than fixating on perceived flaws.

In the past, Cara’s shadow had found unhealthy outlets, like demandingly nitpicking others’ work or bingeing on food and alcohol to dull her inner voice. Now, she could acknowledge her shadow tendencies without acting on them unconsciously. At last, she felt free, integrated, and vibrant.

The Freedom of Wholeness

As you embrace your wholeness, you’ll experience profound inner freedom. Freedom from endless self-criticism and the exhaustion of maintaining an inauthentic mask. You’ll feel the freedom to simply be – all of you – without apology or hiding.

You’ll also free yourself from unconsciously projecting or dumping your shadow qualities onto others. When you own your judgmental or critical tendencies, you’ll have more authentic relationships built on a mutual understanding of human imperfection.

For instance, before embracing her shadow, Cara would harshly judge friends or coworkers for being “lazy” if they didn’t have her workaholic drive. She projected her own repressed desires to relax and have more work-life balance onto them. This created a dynamic where Cara looked down on others for displaying qualities she secretly wished she could express.

In her romantic relationships, Cara’s neediness and insecurity drove her to cling tightly to partners and become jealous or accusatory if they wanted space. She was unconsciously dumping her shadowy abandonment fears onto them rather than owning those parts of herself.

With her family, Cara’s perfectionistic standards led her to criticize loved ones harshly over small mistakes or flaws she couldn’t tolerate in herself. Her own self-criticism was surrounded by frequent snapping at family members over small things like a slightly messy room.

As Cara recognized and allowed space for her shadow’s nitpicky criticisms, neediness, and harsh self-judgments, she stopped compulsively projecting them onto others. She could embrace her own humanness – and that of her friends, partner, and family. Cara could be present with loved ones’ imperfections without feeling triggered or demanding unrealistic standards.

Her relationships became more authentic without the transference of her shadow qualities, which created tension, judgment, and a lack of empathy. When jealousy arose, Cara could say, “I’m feeling that insecure voice pipe up, but I know it’s not about you,” rather than blaming her partner. With greater self-awareness, she could witness her controlling self-criticism without subjecting others to it. This created more mutual understanding, vulnerability, and connection in all of Cara’s closest relationships.

Utilizing the Enneagram to Uncover Your Shadow

The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system that can provide profound wisdom and guidance for integrating one’s shadow self. At its essence, the enneagram maps out nine fundamental personality types and their intrinsic light and shadow qualities.

Each of the nine enneagram types has a core desire, fear, and coping mechanism that drives behavior in both healthy and unhealthy ways. The enneagram reveals the virtues and “highs” of each type, as well as their chief blindspots, compulsions, and the aspects of self that get rejected into the shadow.

For example, the Type 4 personality known as “The Individualist” has the great gift of emotional sensitivity and authenticity but also struggles with shame, envy, and holding onto loss. The Type 4’s shadow may look like wallowing, self-indulgence, and creating their own emotional turmoil as a way to feel unique.

The Type 8 “Challenger” carries immense personal power and willingness to fight for justice, but their shadow holds repressed vulnerability, the fear of being controlled, and lashing out in anger when challenged.

Understanding your core enneagram type allows you to illuminate the specific shadow aspects and core fears/desires/motivations driving your unconscious behaviors. You can also raise awareness of your type’s defensive mechanisms for avoiding difficult emotions and the parts of yourself that tend to get disowned.

Working with the enneagram provides a roadmap for all the qualities – both light and dark – that are asking for integration. With this awareness, you can make conscious choices rather than staying stuck in your shadow’s compulsions and blind spots. You’ll cultivate more compassion for your own human imperfections and those of others.

Knowing your dominant enneagram type is just the start. The true power lies in using that wisdom to uncover, re-own, and ultimately transmute the rejected aspects of yourself into sources of freedom and personal power.

The enneagram offers a profound framework for doing this ever-deepening shadowwork of radical self-acceptance. It is an invaluable tool for the journey of wholeness and breaking free from the chains of your unconscious shadows.

Here are examples of the shadow aspects and paths to integration for each of the 9 enneagram types:


Type 1 – The Reformer

Shadow: Harsh self-criticism, nitpicking others, secretive anger/resentment

Path to Freedom: Allow imperfection in yourself and others, express anger constructively


Type 2 – The Helper

Shadow: Codependency, martyr complex, manipulation to get needs met

Path to Freedom: Set boundaries, prioritize your own needs directly


Type 3 – The Achiever

Shadow: Workaholism, attention-seeking, vanity

Path to Freedom: Connect to your intrinsic self-worth beyond achievements


Type 4 – The Individualist

Shadow: Self-indulgence, envy, melancholy

Path to Freedom: Let go of ego’s need to be unique/special, find joy


Type 5 – The Investigator

Shadow: Emotional detachment, avarice, secret areas of overindulgence

Path to Freedom: Open yourself to feelings, find balance


Type 6 – The Loyalist

Shadow: Excessive doubt, worst-case scenario thinking, control issues, anxiety

Path to Freedom: Build earned confidence, embrace uncertainty


Type 7 – The Enthusiast

Shadow: Impulsivity, scattered efforts, avoiding pain, gluttony

Path to Freedom: Be present, go deeper, confront difficult emotions


Type 8 – The Challenger

Shadow: Rage/Anger issues, lashing out when vulnerable, need to control

Path to Freedom: Allow softness, disarm superiority/need to dominate


Type 9 – The Peacemaker

Shadow: Stubborn neglect of self, zoning out, misguided acceptance, slothfulness

Path to Freedom: Get in touch with your voice/boundaries, wake up


For every type, the path to wholeness involves building awareness of your specific shadows without judgment. Make space for your disowned qualities with compassion and curiosity about their origins. Consciously choose to unhook from your type’s core fears/motivations and limiting patterns.

As you integrate your shadows, you’ll unlock your enneagram type’s highest virtues and be liberated from its unconscious compulsions. The enneagram provides a tangible map for exploring your psyche’s depths and embracing all you’ve rejected, paving the way for unshackled freedom.

Questions to Consider

  1. What qualities in yourself do you judge, criticize, or feel ashamed of?
  2. Why?
  3. What would it take to accept these parts of yourself?
  4. How might you show yourself self-compassion as you bring your shadow into the light?

The Courage to Face the Shadow

Facing the darkness within means feeling the shame, fear, anger, and pain you’ve repressed. But denying your shadow ensures those feelings maintain control over you forever. Have the courage to bring your shadow into the light with compassion and curiosity.

Only by understanding and allowing all aspects of yourself can you break free from your shadow’s chains. Live in unshackled authenticity and alignment with your integrated, whole self. The path isn’t easy, but the freedom is immense.

Live Free. Love Life.

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