A Shadow of Who We Are

We see ourselves in certain ways–“the patient one,” “the black sheep of the family,” “dependable.”  Maybe other people don’t see us that way, they know us in ways they experience us, instead of the ways we experienced our roles in families.

A cut-out gate an its shadow.

A cut-out gate and its shadow. © Photograph by Quinn McDonald, 2009

A good way to know who we are is to watch our shadow. How to we show up in the world? How do we represent ourselves? Even then it’s hard. That shadow we cast in real life on a sunny day doesn’t look exactly like us, after all. It’s hard to guess when the angle of the sun distorts our height, what we look like in a mirror.

You can catch a glimpse of what people think when you tell a story or give an example. “I’m not that extroverted,” you say, as prelude to a story of you dancing  on the sidewalk, and you notice people exchanging glasses. Uh-oh, they knew what you didn’t suspect–you are an extrovert.

An interesting exercise it to watch how people react to you–smile, cringe, lean forward, hug. The person we are when we are rushed or in a place where we don’t care about our behavior–in the grocery line, among strangers–is often the real us.

The gate below caught my eye. In the angle of the sun, it casts almost a duplicate as a shadow. Had I been there earlier or later, it would have looked different.

Journal prompt: Walking down the street, I turn and look at my footprint. I’m wearing ______, but my footprints are _______.

–—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also teaches people who can’t draw how to keep an art journal.