The Winter Solstice Could Mean Big Things For Your "Shadow Self" & Your Mental Health

by Julia Guerra

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s natural to reflect on the person you’ve become over the past 12 months, and how to progress in the new year. It all starts with the winter solstice on Thursday, Dec. 21, when the shortest day and longest night of the year kicks off the cold weather months, and inches us closer to the Christmas holiday. The greatest time of year can also be the most expressive for some of us, and the transition from fall to winter plays a key role in the unmasking of what a "shadow self" is. The idea of the shadow self explores the personality fragments each and every one of us represses from others. But when day turns to night during the winter solstice, our innermost thoughts and feelings come into the spotlight for review. Sounds daunting, doesn't it?

In an interview with Refinery29, seeress and shaman Deborah Hanekamp of Mama Medicine explained that the winter solstice falls in tandem with the anticipation of the new year, new you ideal. We’ve grown accustomed to making adjustments as a sort of "cleanse" from one year to the next, but according to Hanekamp, aside from the popular trends encouraging new fitness, health, and aesthetic goals, the winter solstice challenges us to dig deeper. Nature, she said, asks us “to really accept ourselves,” in order to “prepare for personal growth.”

Everyone chooses to hide parts of themselves from the rest of the world, for one reason or another.

Most, if not all of us, have our secrets, and it’s not uncommon to mold into different versions of ourselves based on our surroundings. Whether this is something we do as a result of insecurities or for privacy reasons, there’s always more to a person than what they’re putting on display.

Think of it this way: Are you the same person around your parents as you are around your best friends? Now consider how you act and think when you’re by yourself. Can you honestly say that who you are when you leave your apartment or dorm room in the morning shines through in every aspect or interaction of your day? Choosing which parts of your personality to reveal in any given circumstance is natural. Behavior scientist and relationship coach Clarissa Silva says social media is also partly to blame.

"The shadow self is a result of social comparison," Silva tells Elite Daily. "For many, this is creating a paradox effect: the illusion of having more social engagement, social capital, and popularity, but masking one’s true persona."

In other words, social media has caused us to portray ourselves one way on the internet, and another in real life. I know myself, and I've gone through a few different phases on Instagram, trying to "brand" myself as a beauty guru and fitness influencer to feel a sense of validation. Silva says that this behavior "creates a constant state of competing with who you want to be perceived as, and [who] you really are."

Though the social media connection here isn't exactly natural or beneficial to our mental health in any way, Dr. Sherry Benton, chief science officer, founder, and creator of TAO Connect, agrees that hiding different parts of ourselves from others is not only healthy, but it's also self-protective.

Dr. Benton tells Elite Daily that the people we consider members of our "inner circle" are the ones we "feel very close [to] and with whom we share the most." People outside our close-knit circle are, to varying degrees, distanced from us. These are the people — like our bosses or acquaintances — who, when interacting with them, "we edit how much and what we share."

It's great to let your shadow self out during the winter solstice, but there's a healthy way to do so.

Personally, I'm hyper-aware of the fact that I trust people too quickly. I also have a tendency to overshare when I feel comfortable with someone or in a certain environment. During the winter solstice, and throughout the remainder of the holiday season, it's not uncommon for people to open up and, Dr. Benton says, feel a kind of "cultural pull toward closeness and interpersonal connections."

“We all need some close connections," Dr. Benton tells Elite Daily, "But individual preferences vary widely. It’s important to acknowledge and respect your own comfort level and go with it.”

Tapping into your shadow self, whether it's during the winter solstice or any other time of year, isn't a bad thing. Sharing your dreams, fears, even just random thoughts about what's going on in the world can be beneficial for your mental health, and strengthen the bond of your relationships. Being aware of this tendency to open up, though, is something to keep in the back of your mind when you're celebrating with a certain group of people, or chatting with family members over Christmas dinner. Remember to honor your emotions, and to assess the situation before you express yourself to someone you wouldn't be comfortable with outside the circumstances.