Casting a Long Shadow

Note: Congratulations to Frauke the QuiltHexle who won the e-book on the October 10 giveaway!

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. There is often a big disconnect between how we see ourselves and how we show up in the world.

A good way to know who we are is to watch our shadow. How to we show up in the world?  Are we like a shadow at noon, barely visible? Are we like a shadow cast when the sun is low behind us–long and fast, leaping over a landscape?

A gate and its shadow. © Quinn Mcdonald All rights reserved

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 above 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 shadow. I feel ___________, but my shadow is __________

–—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She is the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art, published by North Light Books.


16 thoughts on “Casting a Long Shadow

  1. I think it was M. Scott Peck in his book “The Road Less Traveled” that said we all have a map of reality that we need to take out every now and then and show to other people to see if our map of ourselves is correct or not. Having just been told recently by family members that I am a pain, I can attest that this is not a fun or “pain”-less process. I’m not sure I’d want to swap my shadow (although I do like the idea of a shadow-swap), but maybe I can alter it a bit…?

  2. Quinn,
    Your post intrigued me. It is interesting how different others perceive us versus how we perceive ourselves. This is a topic worth delving into in our journals. What are we reflecting as we go through our day? What do others see us doing that we don’t even realize ourselves? Sometimes it’s worth the time to ask another their perception of us. We might be surprised what they share.

    I have chosen your post, Casting a Long Shadow, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 10/14/11 for all things journaling on Twitter. I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in Refresh Journal:

    You’re welcome to join us for #JournalChat Live on Thursdays at 4 CST/2 PST for all things journaling on Twitter.

    Thanks again for such an intriguing prompt and subject to delve into.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter

    • It is very interesting. Robert Burns, the poet, altready knew this when he wrote, “The gift that nature n’er gives us, to see ourselves as others see us.” We often think of ourselves as one way, but we don’t behave that way to others. It’s interesting. One Thursday, I’ll join you. This Thursday, I’ll be on my way to Los Angeles for a book signing.

  3. Nice post. Often when I think about my “shadow” self I see it in Jungian terms, which is not inconsistent with your idea. But it’s helpful to think in terms of shadow as a reflection, as feedback. Interesting…

  4. The photograph captures an awesome shadow. I seldom feel like I know who I am, and when I think I do, it doesn’t match how others see me. I love shadows though, and you’ve given me a new perspective to think over when I think of shadows. Once I sat for hours and watched as a shadow of a metal chair and table crept slowly on the sidewalk, and slid into the street.

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