Keeping a shadow work journal can help you heal, grow and live more authentically. When you uncover and integrate the different parts of yourself, you'll become the truest version of you. If you don't know how to get started, don't stress. I'm sharing everything you need to know... plus 80 shadow work journal prompts!
What is the shadow self?
Before we dive into journaling, let's take a minute to figure out what the shadow self really means. The concept comes from the 20th century psychologist, Carl Jung. According to Carl, the shadow self is:
The unknown dark side of the personality.
Sounds intense, doesn't it?
Well, it kind of is. The shadow self is composed of the parts of our personality that we fear wouldn't be accepted by others. We're so scared of the rejection that we bury these traits in our unconscious and pretend they don't exist.
Yet, just because we're oblivious to them, it doesn't mean they aren't there. Here are some of the common behaviours that our shadow self does on our behalf:
- Harsh judgement of others
- Pointing out our own insecurities in others
- A quick temper
- Playing the victim
- Stepping on others to achieve success
- Unrecognized biases and prejudices
- Always looking to save others
- Having a toxic inner dialogue
How do I find my shadow self?
Let me ask you a few questions:
- Have you ever felt triggered by someone's words or actions and responded in a way you were later embarrassed by?
- Have you ever thought something awful about someone and been relieved it was just in your head?
- Have you ever gossiped about someone you were actually just envious of?
Well... congratulations. You've met your shadow self.
Here's the thing. Even if you felt justified for feeling or doing any of these things, the lack of control you had over your reaction indicates the existence of a shadow self. It's the part of you that lives underneath the carefully constructed version of what you show the world.
But, here's the good news. Your shadow self is someone you want to get to know. When you make the unconscious conscious, you'll have more control over your life.
Spending time reflecting, including working through the shadow work journal prompts, will help you better recognize all the parts of you... the good, the bad and the ugly.
What is shadow work, exactly?
Shadow work is a form of psychoanalysis that has two parts:
- The introspective practice of uncovering the parts of your personality that you've hidden from your conscious mind.
- Integrating the compartmentalized versions of yourself into one whole through love and acceptance.
Shadow work isn’t for the faint of heart, as it is often accompanied by tough feelings. But, stick with it and it can be a life-changing process.
Shadow work can be done with a therapist or on your own. Either way, journaling is a good way to begin reflecting. The act of writing down your honest, unfiltered thoughts helps you discover yourself and become more self aware.
Remember, it's important to dig deep in your answers so you can truly understand the emotions lurking behind them. That way, if you choose to, you can start to challenge those beliefs and make changes in your life.
What are the benefits of shadow work?
Okay so now that you know what shadow work is all about, let's talk about how it can improve your life. Because it can.
By helping us grow into the truest version of ourselves, shadow work almost guarantees greater authenticity in everything we do.
Here's what you can expect if you put the work in:
- To find a sense of harmony within yourself.
- A desire to show up more intentionally in your commitments and relationships.
- A greater sense of power and control over your world.
- The ability to express your shadow traits in healthy ways instead of suppressing them until they manifest in uncontrollable ways.
- A deeper sense of self-love.
- You'll trust yourself more.
- A better understanding of healthy ways to meet your needs.
That sounds good, doesn't it? Then let's get you started.
What is shadow journaling?
While there are many ways to engage in shadow work, an impactful way for beginners to get started is with a journal.
When you begin to write freely about yourself, you’ll notice that you have more clarity about your thoughts and feelings. You'll also begin to see patterns in your emotions, behaviours and experiences. That's where you'll find your shadow self.
Here's how to start a shadow work journal:
- Buy a journal (my favourites are listed at the end of this article)
- Block a time in your daily calendar (my preference is right before bed)
- Pick and answer a shadow work prompt from the list below
That's it! Now onto the the shadow work journal prompts.
80 shadow work journal prompts
Be sure to pin this list of shadow work journal prompts for quick reference. Or, if you prefer a hard copy, click here: FREE printable journal prompts for shadow work.
- What emotion do you try to avoid feeling the most? How do you typically react when I feel this emotion?
- What negative emotion do I feel most comfortable with? Do you cling to this emotion because it feels normal?
- Is your inner voice kind or critical? What are the things it says to you most often?
- Is your inner voice truly yours? Could it be influenced by other people in your life like your parents, friends, or teachers?
- How do you think people see you? How does that make you feel?
- How do you want other people to see you? Is it different than how you think they see you?
- When are you most judgemental?
- What relationship do you think you could have stronger boundaries? What's preventing you from setting those boundaries?
- Do you respect other people's boundaries?
- What are your core values?
- Are you living in alignment with your core values? If no, which values aren't being respected?
- Are your core values similar to your parents or caregivers? Are you happy about that? Where else do you think your values came from?
- When was the last time you felt disappointed? Does it make sense that you felt that way? Could something else have been triggering this feeling?
- Write down a time you felt betrayed. What would you say to that person now?
- What trait do you wish you had that you see in other people?
- Do you frequently overthink what you've said or done? Why do you think that is?
- What triggers jealousy in you? Why do you think that is?
- What are the first signs that your mental health is suffering?
- Are you easily swayed by the opinions of others? Why or why not?
- Do you value yourself and what you bring to the world?
- Have you ever done something to make someone else proud? If so, who was that person and why did you care what they thought?
- Imagine you are lying on your death bed. What regret do you fear having the most?
- What do you wish people understood about you? Is there a way you can better share that part of yourself with the world?
- What makes you feel empty inside? When you feel this way, how do you try to fill the void? Are there healthier ways you could do this?
- Who has the most influence over you? Are you okay with this influence?
- What does freedom mean for you?
- When are you hardest on yourself? Why do you think that is?
- What does failure mean to you? Are you afraid of it? Why or why not?
- What is your relationship with you parents like? Is it different now than when you were a child?
- What is your relationship with your siblings like? Is it different now than when you were a child?
- What does achievement mean to you? Do you celebrate your achievements?
- Do you think you're only as good as your last achievement?
- If you could be anything in the world, what would it be? Are you making steps toward being that person? Why or why not?
- Have you ever sacrificed a part of who you are to fit in with others better? Why?
- In what areas of your life do you feel superior to your peers? Are you really?
- In what areas of your life do you feel inferior to your peers? Are you really?
- What gives you the most purpose in life? Is there a way you can do more of that?
- What would you change about the people closest to you? Is there something you could change in yourself to make these relationships stronger?
- Do you feel valued?
- What makes you feel valued?
- Do you think you're a confrontational person? Is this something you're proud of or would you like to be more agreeable?
- Describe yourself. Do you like what you wrote down?
- What traits do you see in yourself that remind you of your parents?
- How did it make you feel when you realized your parents weren't perfect? Does it make it more accepting for you to not be perfect too?
- Is there a person you've never forgiven? How has this affected your life? Is there a way you can forgive them now?
- How did you process emotions as a young person? How do you process emotions now? Has this changed?
- How do you feel when people overstep your boundaries? What is your reaction?
- What about yourself would you like to change? Why? Has anyone ever suggested that you should?
- What is your definition of perfect? Is it something you can attain?
- Do you hold yourself to a higher standard than others?
- In what ways do you show up for others that you don't show up for yourself?
- When you think about your life so far, what do you feel most guilty about? Why? Can you make peace with it?
- When you think about your life so far, what do you feel most ashamed of? Why? Can you forgive yourself?
- When you think about your life so far, when did you feel most alone? Why?
- When you think about your life so far, what is your biggest regret? Why?
- Have you ever stayed in a relationship you knew wasn't good for you? Why do you think that was?
- Have you ever felt scared of commitment? Why did you feel that way?
- Have you ever felt an unhealthy attachment to someone? Why did you feel that way?
- If you were to live the remaining years of your life exactly how you have so far, how would that make you feel? What would you want to do differently?
- Do you feel less than, more than or equal to others?
- Which personality trait would you hate to be described with? Why?
- When was the last time you felt like your emotions were belittled? How did you react? How could you respond in a more healthy way?
- What emotions bring out the worst in you?
- When do you find yourself putting on a mask and using a different persona? Is it with certain people or in certain situations? What would happen if you showed your true self?
- List the traits you don't like in yourself. What vulnerabilities do you think are behind these negative traits? Are there more positive or productive traits you could replace them with?
- How do you respond to compliments? Why do you think you reply this way?
- What is the biggest lie you tell yourself?
- What's the biggest promise you've broken to yourself? How did that make you feel?
- What's the biggest promise you've broken with someone else? How did that make you feel?
- Do you ever knowingly manipulate people? Were you trying to get a need met?
- Have you ever felt taken advantage of? How did you respond to feeling that way?
- What is your deepest source of anger?
- What do you want to stop running away from? How could you tackle it head on?
- Which relationships in your life no longer serve you? Is there a way you can salvage them?
- What was your last unkind thought? Did you voice it?
- When you think of your life so far, what situation do you wish had a different outcome?
- Are you a dramatic person? Why or why not?
- Are you comfortable asking for help? Why or why not?
- What makes you feel unsafe?
- When you think about your life so far, who do you feel you've let down the most? Why?
My favourite shadow work journals
What kind of shadow work journal you buy depends on how you want to journal.
- If you want a guided journal where you simply fill in the blanks, go with the guided shadow work journal.
- If you want a blank notebook where can pick and choose from the visualization prompts above, go with a bullet journal or blank notebook.
Variations on shadow work journaling
I love journaling. Writing down our thoughts, emotions and experiences helps us process, reframe negative thoughts, and change our behaviour.
With that in mind, I say, why stop at shadow work? If you want to go further in improving your wellbeing, I suggest adding one of the below to your journaling routine.
- Gratitude journaling (150 gratitude prompts can be found here)
- Self-love journaling (75 self love prompts can be found here)
- Manifestation journaling (55 manifestation prompts can be found here)
- Nighttime journalling (25 evening journal prompts can be found here)
If you want to learn more about improving your well-being, check out some of my other articles below. Happy, healthy, reading.
Building shadow work journaling into your life takes work, but it's so worth it. Don't forget to download the shadow work journal prompts to help you get started. Be sure to let me know if there are any other shadow work prompts I should add in the comments below.