One of the most important relationships we fail to develop is with our shadow self (AKA EGO or to me, The Inner Demon.)
You know the parts of us that we don’t like people to know about.... yet they have a knack of unconsciously rearing their ugly heads in moments of stress, threat and pressure. Usually showing up in an internal dialogue of fiest and fury... & then occasionally via our out-loud voice in front of the world ... Oh crap! Did I really just say that out loud and carry on like that? Yep!
We are great at developing the awareness of how the inner demon can lead to impactful negative behaviours and experiences, but we often don’t associate the Inner Demon being a secret weapon in creating and driving massive motivation and action to achieve excellence.
We are taught at such a young age to not embrace and avoid certain natural human behaviours because they can be seen as unattractive or unpleasant. Things like control, Or wanting to belong, craving attention or validation are some of the ways in which your inner demon can be triggered into showing up creating some type of response or behaviour. You’ve likely heard things like- Stop being a control freak, or why do you have to be so needy? Well, the truth is because we were born with these superpowers.
Since we inherit these life-altering superpowers, we must develop healthy relationships with them and learn to use them for the greater good of the world. In fact, if you are a high performer looking for sustained joy, performance & success all the while thriving in other important areas of your life, then it is non-negotiable.
1. If you don’t feed it internally, it will find any way possible to feed itself.
People will do crazy things to feed their ego, be it authentically or inauthentically.
I have learnt that one of my main driving forces is validation. The need for validation actually drove me to become one of the best squash players in the world. Top 4 in fact. How?
Well as I have learnt, once my unconscious figured out that people validated me when I won or climbed the rankings as a squash player my reward system was activated and dopamine was released into my brain. And so the process of this extremely addictive neuromodulator linked itself to outcomes in performance. The impact was only strengthened because of my extreme opposing experience at school. The stress of alienation and bullying did not release any dopamine, instead, it flooded me with cortisol and Norepinephrine Causing me to want to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.
Now that my natural internal cocaine hit was attached to my strongest humanistic need, my brain went on a constant search for this pleasurable experience. To gain more validation acceptance and feel like a belonged meant winning more, winning bigger, therefore requiring me to set bigger and grander goals. To achieve the required a crazy amount of training effort commitment and dedication, often pushing myself to extreme limits, even to some fitness sessions only being valuable if you throw up at the end! Nothing validates an athlete quite like having the ability to tell people you trained so hard you threw up your breakfast!
This is great right?
Well yes, but there is a major caveat. Because I had no idea that all of this existed in me, and I had no idea how to channel this myself internally & feed my reward system, anytime I felt like I was not winning or succeeding, looking like I was a failure my ego was threatened and it would cause me to lash out with behaviours that I was not so proud about. The more I achieved the more my validation was attached to the outcomes. When the outcomes weren’t what I wanted, my coping mechanisms were severely underdeveloped and I often reacted the only way I unconsciously knew how. Badly.
I had become mentally strong to a point, but I had not developed strategies and embedded them into my tool kit to deploy when I needed them most.
2. Your Inner Demon holds an immense amount of motivating power
Once you know what your Inner demon thrives on you can implement strategies that allow you to feed it effectively and turning it into your Inner Hero. This allows you to channel its power, feed the need authentically and internally, and tap into its epic driving force to motivate you into massive action.
When you know what your missing and need in any given situation you can come up with ways to ensure that you can still feed its need. Today I am mindful of the things that trigger my Inner Demon and I have predetermined the Inner Hero behaviours that are in alignment with my core values to replace them. Learning to validate myself and reframe the meaning of an event or outcome has been a massive gamechanger for me. For example. I still get triggered when I lose. One way I reframe it now is by saying, what a huge opportunity to learn something new and drive my stress chemicals, which are also a powerful focusing chemical into focusing on a solution rather than the problem. By doing this, it often leads to some dopamine hits also because it gives me another purpose, or opportunity to get better. And that is worth getting excited about.
3. Once you learn to attach the behaviours and goals to your true shadow self, there really is not much to stop you from achieving it!
Once you know what the Inner Demon thrives on you can use it to create impactful moments for yourself and others. It is ok to need validation. What is not ok is to not know how to give it to myself and channel it to benefit the world and the people around me.
This blog is a perfect example. If I attach how many likes or reads or comments I get for this to being validated, there is a chance I am going to be heavily disappointed, leading me to be dejected, frustrated or feeling not good enough. However, if I choose to attach validation to the fact that I just spent time in flow doing something I love, writing about something I am truly passionate about then I win. Being this vulnerable is a huge win for me and if someone reads this and gets something out of it great! But I won't allow that to feed the Inner Demon, that’s my job. So the fact that today I acted and created something that is in alignment with my passion, purpose and values is the real validation I seek today. And if you choose to like this because you got something valuable out of it, then I accept your validation in alignment with my values because it was a win/win for both of us.
So thank you Inner Demon for showing me just how powerful you are and allowing me to embrace the unattractive and unpleasant humanistic needs you arrive with and turn them into an epic experience that will go out into the world in a positive and impactful way.