T his new Beyoncé album is messing with my head. Or more accurately: My head is messing with the new Beyoncé album.
(Bear with me: This is not about Beyoncé per se, or her album. It’s bigger than that, and you don’t need to like or care about Beyoncé to get this.)
Here is a performing artist at the peak of her powers, writing and singing about feminism, sexuality, motherhood, marriage, perfectionism, and the beauty myth. The album is amazing. She is on fire. I am in love with her, with what she’s done, with the fierce brilliance of her stealth-bomb launch.
And still, as I watch and listen, cheering and “yes”-ing along to each track, part of me is thinking:
How many hours a day would I need to work out to get a waistline, legs, body like that?
I ought to feel this passionate about my man, all the time. (This is what real love looks like.)
I wonder if I’ll ever produce anything this good.
Her confidence is otherworldly. “I woke up like this?” Damn.
And so on.
This isn’t just perfectionism. I’m not beating myself up, exactly. What I’m doing, rather, is constructing a bunch of stories and wrapping them around Beyoncé rather than asking myself what they have to tell me.
Eventually, I notice what I’m up to. Golden shadow, whispers a voice in my head. You’re projecting again.
In Jungian psychology, the Golden Shadow comprises the parts of us that we disown by admiring them in others. It could include any quality you feel you don’t embody: Nurturing and empathy; intellect; athletic ability; business savvy; responsibility; playfulness; sexiness; adventurousness; and so on, and so on.
Just look at those thought patterns I mentioned. Seems my Golden Shadow includes physical fitness, romantic passion, raving success, and unapologetic self-assurance.
Are those things easy for me to embody? No. Is it much easier for me to sit comfortably in my status-quo existence and admire them in other people? Hell, yes.
We do this constantly with celebrities – though it’s not exclusively a celebrity thing. Role models, heroes, and idols are available everywhere, not just at the upper echelons of public visibility – and we’re very talented at hanging our hopes and fears on them.
But what happens when I stay stuck in this me-vs-Beyoncé (or rather, self-vs-other) dynamic?
I put all this goodness over there, with her: Beauty. Fitness. A passionate marriage. Crazy-amazing business acumen. Fierce confidence.
And where does that leave me? Well, missing a few things I’d sure love to have, for starters.
So how do I re-integrate these things, call them back into myself? I start with this:
First: Take the time to notice what it is I’m projecting onto someone else.
Next, for each quality I find I’m projecting, I ask myself:
- Is this something I would like to embody?
- How do I embody it right now? (Sometimes I need to invite my kindest self to step forward and answer this question.)
- How would I like my relationship to it to change?
- How might my version look different from this other person’s?
- Where have I made agreements in my life (with family members, friends, colleagues, past selves, etc.) to keep this quality from being fully expressed?
- Am I ready to release those agreements?
That’s the How. But here’s the big, wild, hairy Why: When we get caught in our Golden Shadows, we let other people play out the joys we want to experience.
I’ll put this back in the first person: When I get stuck in excessive admiration of Queen Bey’s performance of the things I’d like to have, I lose my ability to embody them in my own life.
What’s your Golden Shadow up to right now? Where does it linger? What does it have to teach you?
We’ll be exploring more about the Golden Shadow in Worship Wisely, the program I’ve designed with the remarkable Tanya Geisler (she of the killer TEDx talk on Imposter Complex). Join us for a free preview class and get your copy of our Worship Wisely starter kit by hopping over here and subscribing to the Worship Wisely list.