That person you despise? I hate to be the one to tell you, but they are showing you the traits you least like about yourself. Here’s how that works:

-All humans have the capacity to behave in ways that all other humans behave–from the most honorable to the most despicable. How could it be otherwise?

-We learn that some of those traits are unacceptable–whether we’re told directly by someone whose opinion we respect or we see society rejecting them. “You’re too loud/too quiet, too sensitive/too tough, too arrogant/too timid, too stupid to survive/too smart for your own good…”

-Those parts of us we deem unacceptable become hidden from view. We vow never to reveal those traits, never to behave in those ways again. We do whatever we can not to display them or see them in ourselves, including projecting them onto others.

-Ironically, we are presented with opportunities to recognize and accept these traits in ourselves every time we encounter someone we cannot abide.

-Also ironically, others see through us and can identify our worst traits because we continue to demonstrate them unconsciously. We think they’re hidden, yet they leak out in ways we can’t allow ourselves to be aware of because if we were aware of them, we’d feel deeply ashamed or devastatingly hurt.

Recognizing that what annoys or angers us in someone else is a revelation of our own shadow side is the first step toward accepting, owning and embracing our whole, authentic, real, messy, gorgeous, flawed selves.

It also makes it easier to find compassion for ourselves and for those “others” who annoy the bejesus out of us.

The good news? Every dark, shadowy, unacceptable trait has a gift in it. There’s a way those traits have benefitted us in the past, which is why they’re there, in the human range of behavior, in the first place.

Mind-blowing, right?

I’m deep in that work myself–allowing the hot shame to bubble up so I can face the shadow and find the gift in it.

That person I despise? It’s me.


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