shadow values

A shadow is a dark shape that appears on a surface when someone or something moves between the surface and a source of light, or it can be defined as an area of darkness created when a course of light is blocked.

– Webster’s Dictionary

When using the word ‘shadow’ in the area of personal development, we are referring to the opposite side of our highest values (those things of greatest importance to us and according to which we live our lives). When we choose to do an activity that is fulfilling to us, not only are our golden values being fulfilled: our shadow values are as well. Most of us are not aware of this ‘shadow’ side.

It is the fact that most of us are unaware of what our shadow values are, and of how they are influencing our behavior, that makes discovering them so powerful. In this insight we will delve into the world of shadow values and show you how you can harness them to achieve your 2016 resolutions!

The first thing to get is that without our shadow values we are not complete: they only exist alongside our golden values. They are yin and yang: you cannot have one without the other.

One of the best ways I have experienced shadow values being broken down is in my study with a teacher named Ben Harvey (Authentic Education in Sydney, Australia) who states that all of our commitments, activities and behaviors fulfill on seven core shadow values.

In his work he used the following complimentary balancing chart to explain how our golden values fulfill on shadow values and vice versa.

Attention Appreciation
Belonging Meaning
Control Freedom
Sexuality Love/Connection
Superiority Evolution
Validation Inspiration
Money Service

As an analogy, when we walk on the beach and the sunlight hits us in a particular way, a shadow gets projected from one side or another. We can walk on the beach for a long time and that shadow can be next to us, projecting from us, attached the entire time.

This relates to how we live our lives because our shadows are always with us on the walk and in the journey. Jung defined the shadow as an “unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself…. And that everyone carries a shadow and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is”.

That leads to the next point. Another word for our shadow self is our ego. Many spiritual teachings and disciplines say the ego is something that is negative and should be eradicated from our daily living and spiritual pursuits. Relating this back to our beach analogy: our shadow, when we walk along the beach, is just ‘there’ (it is neither good nor bad). It is critical to get that shadow values are the same – they are just ‘there’ and are only bad if we say they are. Here we are saying that our shadow self or ego is simply the flip side of our ‘golden’ self.

So how can knowing what our shadow values are make such a big difference in our lives?

The clarity around and the owning of our shadow values discussion may be a strange one to start 2016 with but trust me when I say how important the distinction is.   The discussion underlies the background of our experiences, as again I repeat that our shadows need to be fulfilled upon. Coming out of the sometimes hectic and also magical holiday season many of us experienced our shadows and the shadows of others around us in full swing. Important because it highlights what goes on with our values and guiding systems.

Many of us have New Year’s Resolutions that we put in place around our health and wellness or finances or personal relationships and most of them are never fulfilled on. WHY? Because maybe our shadow values are running the show – AND we are not aware that they need fulfilling.

Maybe we get attention from being too overweight, maybe we get to keep ourselves occupied with our debt levels, maybe we really don’t want to hang out more with our family members!

We need to clarify our shadow values and look at our lives from the perspective of fulfilling on them as well. Because when you fulfill or neutralize your shadow values it allows your golden values to become who you are!

So, are you ready to learn how you can harness your shadow values to achieve your 2016 resolutions? (or anything else, for that matter!)

Here’s Ben Harvey’s foolproof method to doing just that!

Step One: Identify your shadow values.

If you have the afternoon to spend doing whatever you want, you will naturally choose the activity that has the greatest level of importance to your personal identity.

For example, if you choose to visit the family, this may fulfill the shadow value ‘belonging’. If you choose to study, this may fulfill the shadow value ‘superiority’. Just as our golden values are arranged in a hierarchy of importance to us, so are our shadow values.

A great way to clarify shadow values for you can actually be in a relationship with another. Think about the times you have experienced discomfort around someone you know or maybe you have been in a course or workshop and the teacher/presenter seems “off” somehow and/or potentially untrustworthy to you on some level. Usually this occurs because that individual has not or does not own their shadow but as soon as they say something like “forgive my controlling tendencies” or the workshop leader says, “I just love getting attention which is partly why I present workshops”, it’s like something in us relaxes. They gain our trust because they have been authentic about the shadow side of their personalities.

When doing these exercises, start to notice which shadow values come up more often for you. This will help you identify your hierarchy.

A side note: it is very important that we stare our shadow values in the face and learn to love them! It can be very uncomfortable identifying your shadow values – these are the parts of us that we don’t want revealed to the world! But remember that revealing them will give you power.

Here are the Shadow Values in no particular order that we all possess on some level:

  1. Attention – being unique, different or special
  2. Belonging – being accepted by, connected to or feeling part of a community
  3. Control – being able to influence your circumstances, your territory, yourself and/or others
  4. Sexuality – being able to express your sexual desires and/or preferences shamelessly
  5. Superiority – being right, being better than yourself and/or others
  6. Validation – being important, worthy and/or “good enough”
  7. Money – being wealthy and/or having the power to do or have whatever you want

Step Two: Link your shadow values with something you want to achieve.

Remember – It’s not the shadow values themselves that make a difference – it is how you use them!

Ask yourself – “how can doing what I want to do fulfill my shadow values?”.

For example, you want to make money and you highest shadow value is control. Ask “How can making more money give me more control”?

Then, continuing with this example, follow these three steps:

  1. Handwrite a list of 300 reasons why making more money will give you even more control.
  2. Read this list out aloud before you go to sleep at night and then again first thing in the morning for the next seven days while visualizing yourself doing whatever it is you do to make money.
  3. Lastly, begin walking around feeling the feelings of being a highly paid [insert whatever you do to earn money]. Not ‘wanting’ to be that – actually being

Once you have performed this linkage you will need no effort or motivation to take action. You will be inspired to take action – because you can see how much control money can give you. Your shadow value ‘control’ is being fulfilled.

Just adapt the three steps above based on what you want to achieve.

Shadow values are very powerful. Discover yours (remembering to own any shame and without making yourself wrong), and then link them to what you want. Harness the power of shadow values and achieve your 2016 resolutions!


For more information on Ben Harvey and Authentic Education in Sydney, Australia go to