If you’re new to shadow work, journaling is an excellent way to get started. The following shadow work prompts are designed to help you engage with some of the cringe-worthy questions you’ll wrestle with as you get to know your shadow self.
How to Meet Your Shadow
We all have a shadow (no, not that kind although we all have those too). I’m talking about the part of ourselves we like to pretend isn’t there. It’s the darker side we suppress. Sometimes we consciously bury our shadow selves and other times, there are things buried so deep we aren’t aware of them.
Shadow work is the process of uncovering your shadow self and coming to peace with it. Why put yourself through that? According to Jung, this is how we can stop living as fractured beings and become psychologically whole.
It helps get a more complete picture of who we are so that we can be more present and content in our daily lives. The process of unveiling and accepting our shadow parts is meant to be liberating. It helps us heal and stop projecting these things we don’t like about ourselves onto others.
If you’re brand new to shadow work, our shadow work beginners’ guide can help you learn more. I highly recommend checking it out before starting your prompts so that you are clear about the terms and definitions within the prompts.
How Do Shadow Work Prompts Help?
Journaling is one of the primary tools of shadow work. You’d be amazed by how much you can discover about yourself when you pour yourself onto the page.
When you engage in shadow work, you have to wrestle with some pretty big questions. The bulk of it involves putting a magnifying glass up to the uglier parts of yourself. That’s really hard to do!
Shadow work prompts can help guide you through this process. They provide you with insightful questions that are designed to pull things out of you that can help you get at some core issues in your life. And while the process itself might not be the most fun, the rewards are transformative.
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How To Use Shadow Work Prompts
In order to give this process the time and thought it deserves, I wouldn’t recommend doing more than one prompt per day. You can even scale it back to a couple of prompts per week.
Consider your current needs, availability, and vulnerability. Then start where you’re at. Shadow work is a complicated process that takes time to work.
You also don’t need to go in any particular order. Start with the prompts that speak to you in the beginning. But be mindful of the prompts you select. Are you avoiding the more difficult options? If so, why?
The best way to use shadow work prompts is to honestly identify which prompts get at your core growth areas and then be willing to dedicate time to dive into them. It’s an intense process that reveals a lot but also serves as a form of catharsis.
Shadow Work Prompts
Okay, so without further ado, here are 57 shadow work prompts to help you with your journey of self-discovery and healing. I’ve grouped them topically for ease of navigation.
Learning Your Traits
- If you met yourself for the first time, what would be your first impressions?
2. What traits would your loved ones use to describe you? Do you think they are accurate?
3. What are your toxic traits? How do these traits affect people?
4. Make a list of your positive traits and negative traits. What are some things you can do to strengthen your positive traits? How can you start healing your negative traits?
5. Create an avatar for your shadow self. What are their traits and qualities? What do you want to say to your shadow self?
6. Think of one or two traits that you dislike about yourself. What are the roots of these traits? Did you learn this behavior? Is it a defense mechanism? Are you trying to cover something or hide your vulnerability? Explore as many ideas as you can.
7. What makes you jealous? Why do you think these people or circumstances make you feel that way? What does it tell you about your own needs? Are these things you can work towards or something you should let go of?
8. What’s a trait you see in other people that you wish you had? What are some ways you can cultivate this trait in yourself?
9. What personality traits in other people do you consider pet peeves? Why do these bother you? Do these traits manifest in your own personality?
10. How do you handle stress? What are some things you can do to care for yourself during stressful times?
11. What is your relationship to drama? Do you like it? Involve yourself in it? Cause it? Avoid it? Explore this.
Getting to Know Yourself
12. What do you wish people understood about you? What misconceptions do people have about you?
13. What triggers you? Can you determine where it comes from?
14. What are the primary aspects of yourself you’d like to approve? Explain your choice. Has anyone told you to work on these things before?
15. Do you find it easy to forgive yourself? Why or why not?
16. Do you forgive other people easily? Why or why not?
17. What are your core values? Why have you chosen them? How do you live your values on a daily basis?
18. What version of yourself do you try to project to the world? Are you being authentic?
19. Where do you derive your sense of self-worth from? Is this a healthy or unhealthy source?
20. What are some ways you could be more patient with yourself?
21. What lies have you or do you tell yourself? Talk about why.
22. Do you have recurring dreams or nightmares? What happens in them? What do you think your subconscious mind is trying to communicate to you?
23. What’s something you’re afraid of doing? What scares you about it? How can you overcome that fear?
24. Which negative emotions do you try to avoid? Why is that?
25. What’s your perspective on asking for help? Do you do it? Why or why not?
26. What keeps you up at night? Where does this worry come from?
27. Describe a time you self-sabotaged. What happened? Why do you think you did it?
28. Do you accept compliments well? Why or why not? Are there any compliments you receive that you struggle to believe about yourself?
29. Write an apology letter to yourself.
30. Do you hold grudges? What’s hard for you to let go?
31. Describe a time you felt self-conscious or unsafe. What triggered these feelings for you?
32. In what areas of your life do you feel ignored or disregarded?
33. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
Examining the Past
34. Think about a relationship you had to leave. Why did you do it? Why was it the right choice for you?
35. Describe a time you felt wronged as a child. What happened? How did you react? What did you learn from this experience? Has it affected your life as an adult?
36. What did your caregivers value growing up? Do you share the same values? Why or why not?
37. Write a letter to your past self.
38. What’s an early childhood memory that has stuck with you into adulthood? Why do you think that is?
39. What were you like as a child? How have you changed?
40. What’s your worst childhood memory? How did your parents or guardians respond? Were you cared for? Were your needs met?
41. Write about a time you experienced something that seemed negative but turned out to be a positive thing in the long run.
42. What do you wish you could change about your childhood? Talk about why.
43. Which memories bring you the most shame? What feelings do they provoke? What do you do when you start feeling these things?
44. What kind of relationships do you have with your parents/caregivers, siblings, or other close family members? Is it better, worse, or the same as when you were growing up? Why?
45. Have you ever developed an obsessive or unhealthy relationship? Why do you think this happened?
46. Do you struggle with commitment? What challenges have you faced in your dating life that you want to work on?
47. Is there a person in your life you can’t seem to forgive? Write them a letter. What do you want to say to them?
48. Was there a time you opened yourself up to someone and felt rejected? What happened? How has that affected you?
49. In what ways are you similar to your parents/guardians? How are you different?
50. Is there anyone in your life who belittles you or downplays your emotions? How does that affect you?
51. Who has the most influence over you? Do they know? Is it healthy?
52. Have you ever been in a codependent relationship? What about your family members? Talk about your experience with codependency as well as thoughts or feelings that come up about it.
53. Write a letter to someone who has really hurt you. Let it all out. (Feel free to creatively destroy the letter when you’re done.)
54. Which relationships in your life no longer serve you. List them out. How would it feel to be free of these relationships? Why aren’t you?
55. Think about a conflict you had with someone. How did it play out? Is there anything you wish you had done differently? What was your role in the conflict? Did you take responsibility?
56. Who have you let down in the past? Why did you do it? Where do you stand with this person currently?
57. What is your love language? How did you learn it?
Access should not be a barrier to help.
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Final Thoughts on Shadow Work Prompts
Shadow work is a wonderful tool for personal growth and healing. These prompts are intended to help you ask the right questions in order to discover your shadow self and learn how to find peace with them. It truly is a transformative process that I hope you get many benefits from doing.