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How To Embrace Your Worst Qualities

that is how I feel: almost black and white
Creative Commons License photo credit: *madalena-pestana*

“To confront a person with their own shadow is to show them their own light.”  – Carl Jung

As you learn about yourself, the discoveries you make about your personality, your passions, and how you want to live are exciting and energize you for the journey ahead.  But, inevitably, you will also learn things that are unpleasant or downright ugly.  What you do with these “ugly” discoveries is more important than what you do with your pleasant discoveries.  Knowing and embracing your worst qualities is the key to being your whole self.  Here is how to embrace your own worst qualities.

Recognize that we are all a combination of “light” and “dark”

We are socialized to only accept our best qualities and to push away or ignore our worst qualities.  But, a whole self consists of “light” and “dark” qualities.  Your worst qualities won’t go away simply because you want them to.  And, the more you want them to go away, the more power they have over you.  Acknowledging that you are a combination of your best and worst qualities is the first step in being a whole person.  This doesn’t mean that you have to be a jerk, it just means that you know yourself.

Know what your worst qualities are

Do you know what your worst qualities are?  Your worst qualities are things you don’t show to the world (or to yourself) and it makes you angry when you are confronted with them.  Our true worst qualities are painful to acknowledge, so we don’t show them to others.

However, not accepting your worst qualities allows them to control you.  When you know what they are, you can use them, and avoid having them use you.  Ask yourself these questions to get to know your worst qualities.

  • What do you hesitate to admit about yourself (to yourself)?
  • Has anyone ever told you something about you that made you really angry?

Integrate your worst qualities into your life

When you integrate your worst qualities into your life you put them in service to your self – your self is not in service to them.  It means you have to acknowledge them for what they are and know how they play a role in the contribution you make to the world.

A speaker may find that it’s not just confidence, but arrogance that helps her speak engagingly and convincingly before an audience, because she believes that she has something essential to tell people.  A great relationship builder may find his desire to socialize bordering on self indulgence, but it aids him in the quantity and quality of relationships he builds.  And an entrepreneur may find that it’s not just assertiveness, but aggressiveness, that enables her to build her business.

What’s important to remember is that your best and worst qualities are all a part of you, and you don’t have to be afraid of (any part of) yourself.  Light and dark can’t exist without each other.


{ 6 comments… add one }
  • jrandom42 December 23, 2008, 7:16 pm

    How do you manage to embrace your dark side, when it’s truly dark?

    I discovered during my time in Vietnam, that I reaped almost unholy joy wreaking death, havoc and destruction, whether by my own hand or by what I could call in. It was one of the major reasons why I decided to leave the armed forces. How do you integrate something that dark, without destroying yourself and others?

    I suspect that a large number of Afghanistan and Iraq vets will be asking the same or similar questions.

  • Amanda Linehan December 23, 2008, 8:38 pm

    jrandom42 – You’re right. You don’t want to integrate “wreaking death, havoc and destruction” into your life, which is why examining the qualities or characteristics that are behind that urge is so important. It’s not the results (which can be constructive or destructive) of our dark qualities that we want to integrate into our lives, it’s the quality itself. Finding acceptable outlets for our dark qualities alleviates the need for them to come out in destructive ways.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Roger December 26, 2008, 3:05 pm

    Very insightful post! Far too much of popular psychology tells us that we need to move away from our “bad” traits defined in some obscure textbook.

    It is intriguing how so many “pillars of society” have toppled when the truth of their duality emerges from the dark!

    Roger’s last blog post..Multi-Tasking

  • Amanda Linehan December 26, 2008, 6:25 pm

    Roger – Thanks for your comment. I agree, unconscious duality does seem to “topple” us. It’s amazing how just being aware gives us that much more power to act as our whole self.

  • Lee Ann/Living Introverted December 27, 2008, 7:48 am

    Thanks for this post. It’s true that pop psychology tells us to rid ourselves of everything that could be perceived as negative, when in fact, some of those negative qualities have helped us grow, and can be harnessed.
    I like that you and jrandom42 discussed what to do with the really heinous stuff. The negative acts that each of us manage to take part in over a lifetime can’t be perpetuated again in our own lives, but that unconscious “quality” behind the act may be a catalyst for good as well as bad.

    Lee Ann/Living Introverted’s last blog post..What Gifts do Introverts Contribute to Society?

  • Amanda Linehan December 27, 2008, 10:00 am

    Lee Ann – Thanks for your comment. Our negative qualities do help us to grow, just as all our qualities do, but harnessing them (and being aware of that) is certainly essential.

    What to do with the heinous stuff really is a difficult question, but that “harnessing” of negative qualities can lead us past the stuff we never want to see happen.

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