Woman writing in her journal while sitting on her bed.

Your shadow self is the part of you that you either want to keep out of sight or the side of you that you lost touch with.  Shadow work is taking a look at those parts of yourself and bringing them to light so you can become aware and process them so they don’t affect you in anymore.

Shadow work can help you take a look at the things that may be holding you back in life, or patterns that keep repeating that are counterproductive and don’t add value to your life.

Shadow work can be healing work because it forces you to look at parts of yourself that you might be avoiding because they are too scary or painful.

Healing isn’t always easy and can take a long time.  This is why shadow work needs time, patience, openness, and compassion if you want to move forward in life.

One of the best ways to explore your dark side is through journaling.  You can do this through shadow work prompts, which are questions and exercises that help you uncover those parts of yourself you’re hiding or might not even be aware of.

I personally think that writing longhand is the best way to journal and I will explain the reason why in the shadow work journal section.  However, you can use any technique that I mention in this article that is easiest and most convenient for you.

Here are 30 shadow work prompts to help you heal, grow, and transform your life.

What is shadow work?

The background of shadow work.

Before we begin with the shadow work journal prompts, let’s first cover what shadow work is in a little more detail.

According to Wikipedia, your shadow side is:

“…either an unconscious aspect of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself, or the entirety of the unconscious.”

In other words, your shadow is the side of yourself that is unseen, or the part you’re unaware of, or the side that you have kept hidden from yourself and others.

The concept of the shadow self began with psychologist Psychologist Carl Jung. He developed the notion of the shadow, or the unconscious, in his book, “Psychology of the Unconscious” in 1912.

Sigmund Freud alluded to the idea of a shadow side when he published his work, “The Ego and the Id” in 1923.  His version of the shadow self is the unconscious, or the part of ourselves that we are not aware of.

Shadow work was reintroduced, popularized, and co-authored by Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Debbie Ford in the New York Times bestselling book “The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self” in 2010.

The purpose of shadow work.

The purpose of shadow work is to dive deep into our subconscious to find any hidden emotions or feelings that are blocking us from reaching our highest potential.  We all have shadow parts of ourselves, positive or negative, that we’d rather not share with others.

It can be easy to sweep these parts of ourselves under the rug and pretend they are not there.  The problem is, they stay stuck there, like a drain that is clogged and gets backed up.

When we get backed up with intense, unwanted, or unpleasant emotions, we can develop bigger problems that will be harder to fix.

Shadow work is a self-help tool that helps us uncover what we are feeling by getting in touch with our shadow self and healing it so that it does not control us anymore.

It is a tool that can help you find solutions to issues and problems that might be plaguing you in your life.

30 days of shadow work prompts for your healing journey.

Here are 30 days of worth of shadow work prompts.  You can do these prompts at your own pace, but I recommend doing one journal prompt per day so you don’t get overwhelmed and the answers don’t feel too intense.


  1. Name 3 things about yourself you don’t like.  Name 3 things that you like about yourself.
  2. Do you have any skills, hobbies, or interests that you secretly keep from people?
  3. When you think of your inner critic, what comes to mind? What qualities do you love about yourself?
  4. Are there similarities between your self-judgment and your criticism of others?
  5. Do you have any regrets in your life? What would you do differently?
  6. When you make mistakes, how do you react? What have you learned from your past mistakes?
  7. What qualities would you like in your ideal partner?  If you have a partner, what attracted you to this person?  Does this person share the same traits, quirks, characteristics, etc?  Is your partner the complete opposite of you?  Are there things that you don’t like about your partner?
  8. Name and describe 3 people you admire and why.
  9. When you think of your social circle, who is inside of it?  Is there anyone you admire?  What traits do you find admirable?  If you don’t have a group of people you consider your social circle, what would your ideal circle look like?  Is it big or intimate?
  10. Name your top 3 favorite movies and top 3 favorite books.  Think of a character from each one that you dislike and one that you love.  What qualities do you like about them?  What about them do you dislike?
  11. Think about a time you quit something in your life that you wish you could have finished.  What stopped you from going after what you wanted?  If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you be doing right now?
  12. Where do you work right now?  Do you love it?  What would you change about your job if you could?  In a perfect world, describe your dream job.  What would stop you from going after your dream job?
  13. Are you happy with the people you work with?  What type of colleagues would you want to spend time with at work?  What type of people would you like to meet at work or network with?
  14. Do you have any habits or vices that bother you?  What feelings come up when you think about them?  What habits would you like to develop instead?  How would they change your life?
  15.  Is there anything in your life that you feel is wasting your time or draining your energy?  What would you like to do instead?  What uplifts your energy?
  16. What limiting beliefs do you have about yourself?  Write down your top 3.  Have they stopped you from going after what you want in life?  Where did these limiting beliefs come from?  What beliefs about yourself feel empowering?  Write down 3.
  17. What scared you as a child?  Write down 3 things.  Why did they scare you?  What are the 3 things in your childhood that you wish you could change or could have happened differently?
  18. What are you scared of now?  Why?  What would make you feel powerful right now?  Write 3 things you would change about your inner self that would empower you.
  19. What would you do right now if everything in your life was stable and secure and why?
  20. Are there traits, qualities, or behaviors about yourself that you want to change?
  21. Is there something about your environment you don’t like? If you could change it right now what would you do?
  22. What in your life makes you feel like you’re stuck? What would make you feel more free?
  23. What activities in your life are you doing that you would rather stop?  What about these activities that make them hard to change or quit?
  24. What is it about your inner self that stops you from changing your life?  What activities make you feel more alive?
  25.  What would you tell your 8-year-old self?  Write down at least 3 things.  If you can have one perfect day what would it look like?
  26. Can you recall someone saying something negative about you? What positive statements would rather have people tell you instead?
  27. Do you ever stop yourself from achieving a goal because you knew you would succeed?  What would make you feel like a success?
  28. Is there something about you that people closest to you don’t know?  Imagine if you told them about this piece of information, how does it make you feel?
  29. What gives your life meaning and purpose?  What little things in life give you great joy and pleasure?  Write down 3 things you wanted to be when you were a kid.
  30. Is there anything you want to learn in life but were always too scared to try?  Are you interested in doing something but you’re afraid of what others might think?  Write down 3 little things you can do in the next 3 weeks, 3 simple things you can learn in the next 3 months, and 3 things to plan and look forward to in the next 3 years.

Discovering your shadow self.

Getting to know your shadow self can be difficult because oftentimes it is a deep dive into our unconscious and subconscious.  You might think that shadow work is about exploring your weaknesses and all that is negative about you.

It’s true, it can be a tedious process of identifying, investigating, acknowledging, and feeling.  Shadow work can involve facing intense emotions that can feel painful or overwhelming.

However, we don’t want to ignore them and hope that they will just go away because they can come up unexpectedly at any point in your life and interfere with your normal activities.

If you want to heal your shadow self for good, you need to be completely honest with yourself.

What to expect.

When I first began my shadow work with a therapist, I thought I was being open and honest with myself.  Then I noticed that the same problems kept coming up in my life that I thought I had solved.

After switching to a different method, I was able to finally face what I had been avoiding.  It took a very long time before I was able to reintegrate the shadow parts of myself that were lost, hurt, angry, jealous, resentful, etc.

I haven’t completely healed all of my shadow parts, and I don’t know when the work will be done, but I do know that I am in a much better place than when I first started.

Shadow work is a lifelong journey and it is something you might continuously work on throughout your life.  It is important to be kind and compassionate with yourself as you do this work because it can sometimes feel unbearable.

By exploring these parts of yourself, you can learn to love them too.

When you discover your shadow self, you will probably feel intense emotions.  If this scares you, you can seek help or wait until you feel safe enough to face your darker parts.

Once you become aware of what thoughts are running through your mind, you can change them to create a new reality for yourself.

Carl Jung’s archetypes of the unconscious, or the shadow selves.

Though there are many archetypes in existence, I’ll touch on the 4 main archetypes that Carl Jung mentioned, which are parts of our conscious and unconscious self.  According to him, each person has each of the following 4 main archetypes within them.

  1. The persona: how you represent yourself to the world.
  2. The shadow:  the unconscious such as repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts, and shortcomings.
  3. The anima:  your true self.
  4. The self:  the unified unconscious and conscious self.

Shadow archetype.

According to Jung, each archetype has a shadow archetype that is supposed to exist across most if not all cultures, beliefs, and human behavior.

You can take a look at the table below at the shadow archetypes and corresponding ego archetypes.

Here is a table, from Wikipedia, that you can use as a guide to help you find your shadow self.  You can read about the shadow archetypes in more detail here: Wikipedia Collective Unconscious.

Figuring out your shadow self.

Here is another method to help you discover your shadow self that is a combination of everything I learned about shadow work.

It is a simple exercise that you can do, by meditating on the following prompts.  I would recommend finding a quiet place so that the answers can come to you easier.

  1. Think of a situation when you felt discomfort.
  2. Write down all of the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations that come up that are unpleasant.
  3. Take a look at all the answers you’ve written down and see if you can come up with one word that unifies all of the answers.
  4. This is your shadow self.
  5. Repeat this over and over for any situation, be it negative or positive.
  6. Give yourself plenty of time whenever you do this exercise.
  7. Approach each situation with an open heart and mind.

“Unless you learn to face your own shadows, you will continue to see them in others, because the world outside you is only a reflection of the world inside us.” – Carl Jung

Different ways to do shadow work.

There is no single, right way of doing shadow work because each person is unique and responds to treatment in their own way.

With that being said, I’ve tried all of the following ways to do shadow work and I hope that at least one method resonates with you.

Here are 4 different ways to do your shadow work:

  1. Journaling.
  2. Getting help.
  3. Mindfulness.
  4. Awareness of your dark side.


There are different ways to do shadow work.  My favorite is through journaling, and I will talk about it in more detail after the shadow work prompts.

You can skip to the structuring your shadow work journal section by clicking here.

Getting help.

If you think you’re going to do some deep shadow work, then you might want to consider getting help with this from someone with experience or a licensed professional.

The reason for this is you might need some guidance if you anticipate any intense emotions that might arise during your shadow work.

If you respond intensely without any help, it might cause you to run in the other direction or other unexpected emotions might emanate from it.


Mindfulness takes time, but it’s worth the effort once you get the hang of it.  Contrary to what some might think, mindfulness is not about clearing your mind or trying to get to a state of calm.

It’s about awareness of what’s going on around you no matter where you are or what you are feeling.

When you are conscious of the present moment, you are better able to separate your emotions from your experience, thus showing more compassion toward yourself and easing your suffering.

Awareness of your dark side.

Everything begins with awareness.  Awareness allows you to fully feel and experience the present moment.

It’s only when you’re aware of what’s going on inside of you and around you that you can start to change your life.

Like mindfulness, awareness takes time and effort.  Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be better able to process your feelings and thoughts and start your shadow work.

You’ll have more compassion toward your shadow self and will learn to embrace your dark side.

The concept is easy but very effective.  You need to notice what you are feeling and saying in the moment to be fully aware and present.  That’s when you can get a glimpse of your shadow self and then make the choice to do something about it or not.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung

How shadow work can help you.

Shadow work can help you become more aware of what it is you’re trying to avoid.  Don’t force yourself to do it if you’re not ready.

You will know when you are ready to face your shadow parts in your own time, so give yourself compassion.

Shadow work is the necessary work you do to bring to light, the parts of yourself that need to reconnect.  These are parts of you that are hidden just below the surface.

Shadow work is a powerful way to help you uncover hidden aspects of yourself, so you can live a life that feels more accepting and authentic.

What to expect when you do shadow work.

It takes time to do shadow work because you’re uncovering parts of yourself that you’ve avoided in the past or have pushed down so far that you forgot about them.

It takes time to do shadow work and becoming more aware of your shadow self is not a linear experience.  However, as I mentioned earlier, I was more accepting of myself after doing shadow work.

Here’s what I felt after I did shadow work:

  • I felt more confident in myself.
    • I gained more confidence in myself after I was able to see how my shadow parts were holding me back and keeping me from doing what I wanted to in life.
  • My anxiety lessened.
    • I used to have anxiety every day and I didn’t know where it was coming from.  Uncovering the parts of myself that I was trying to avoid helped to lessen the anxiety and it continues to improve over time.
  • I felt safer, in general.
    • I was afraid to face the shadow sides of myself, especially the ones that made me feel scared and helpless.  I got help for this type of intense shadow work and it helped me transform those feelings into that of safety and security.
  • I was able to enjoy the little things in my life.
    • Bringing those shadow sides of myself into the light was like cleaning up a room and putting things away where they should be.  I was able to enjoy the little things in life that I was overlooking.
  • I had more gratitude.
    • Shadow work helped me to become more appreciative of the people and the things in my life that I had taken for granted.  I even started a gratitude challenge for 30 days, which forever changed my perspective in life.
  • I have more compassion toward myself.
    • By becoming aware of my shadow selves, I eventually learned how to embrace them and became more compassionate toward myself.  I still practice acts of kindness toward myself because the shadow parts of myself show up from time to time.
  • I have equanimity.
    • I am able to be at peace with things in my life that are upsetting or out of my control.  It doesn’t mean that I am zen all the time, but at least when I’m aware of what is going in my body and mind, I can bring myself back to harmony.

The benefits of shadow work.

There are not many studies about the benefits of shadow work, other than this article that I found in Healthline.  Here is the list of 4 main benefits of shadow work as defined in the Healthline article:

  • Feeling whole or integrated as a person.
  • Improved interactions with others.
  • Healing from generational trauma.
  • Learn healthy ways to meet your needs.

Feeling more whole or integrated as a person.

I’m not an expert on the unconscious or the subconscious, but I do know the feeling of reconnecting to parts of yourself that have remained hidden in the shadows.

You are better able to embrace, rather than turn away from, the shadow parts that oftentimes are attached to unpleasant, uncomfortable, or even painful feelings.

You can let go of these feelings, emotions, sensations, and thoughts much easier and gain more connection to yourself as a whole.

Improving interactions with others.

I became more aware of how my actions affected others, whether negatively or positively, by bringing those parts of myself out of the shadows and into the light.

Improving relationships with others might not result in reconciliation right away and may be upsetting at first.  But you’ll recognize the ways you have been overstretching yourself or holding yourself back.

This, in turn, can help you to improve your interactions and relationships with others and subsequently help you heal your life.

Healing generational trauma.

According to the American Psychological Association, or APA, trauma is:

an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident or natural disaster.

Shadow work can help you unearth wounds that go back to your childhood and help break the cycle of generational trauma.

Learn healthier ways to meet your needs.

You may not be aware of the ways you think and behave that are causing you harm.  For example, you grew up learning how to care for your younger siblings and sacrifice for your family.

This self-sacrificing mindset stuck with you into your adulthood and the way you interact with others and to you it feels normal.  However, you feel a disconnect from deep within and you’re not sure why.

This is where shadow work can be helpful.  Exploring these feelings that make you feel unsettled or uncomfortable can help you get to the root of the cause.

You will learn where and why the self-destructive behaviors are coming from and learn better ways to take care of yourself.

Then you can start to create a life that is more meaningful and happier.

“The shadow is needed now more than ever.  We heal the world when we heal ourselves, and hope shines brightest when it illuminates the dark.” – Sasha Graham

Why shadow work journaling helps you heal.

I mentioned earlier about journaling as a way to help you do shadow work.  This is one of my favorite methods of finding your shadow self because you don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to and can be very effective.

The reason I picked journaling is that I love to write longhand and there are even studies that show the benefits of writing this way versus typing up on your computer or smartphone.

Handwriting with an ink pen on paper was was shown to help people learn better than typing or even writing with a digital pen.  The whole brain works when you’re writing versus typing.

You’re not just doing the shadow work when you journal, you’re also exercising your brain and helping yourself to heal.

“Your shadow is all of the things, ‘positive’ and ‘negative’, that you’ve denied about yourself and hidden beneath the surface of the mask you forgot that you’re wearing.” – Oli Anderson

The spiritual meaning of shadow work.

Doing shadow work is not only a physical and mental exercise but also a spiritual one.  It’s a little tricky to see the spiritual significance of shadow work because you can’t really see, smell, taste, or touch your spirit.

Your spirit is also the part of you that you might not be conscious of, making it a part of your shadow self.

You know when your spirit is being lifted because you feel joyful, happy, blissful, and lighter.

You also know when your spirit is weighed down because you feel angry, fearful, sad, or depressed.

Like your spirit, you need to tap into your shadow self in order to grow and change as a person.  It is the way to live a life that feels more genuine, authentic, complete, and whole.

“You are in charge of how much space a thought takes up in your life.  Take the time to carefully consider what you let be a part of your being and your spirit.” – Cleo Wade

Structuring your shadow work journal.

Journaling might seem tedious, which is why I’ll discuss some ways that will help make the process smooth and enjoyable for you.  Here are my tips on how to structure your shadow work journal so it can work for you.

  1. Buy a beautiful and sturdy journal.
    • This is not a criterion for journaling, but a beautiful journal it gives your journaling time that extra special something.  Having something aesthetically pleasing to look at will not only bring a smile to your face but reinforce it in a positive way.
    • You also want to buy something sturdy enough so your journal will last.  The last thing you want is for all that hard work that you put on paper to fall apart.
  2. Two general categories for journaling.
    • I like to make things as simple as possible for myself, which is why I divided journaling into two general categories.  One is free-form journaling and the other is a bit more structured, which is journaling with prompts.
    • I will discuss them in more detail below, but you can choose the one that most resonates and feels most comfortable to you.  You don’t want to add more weight to the work that is already heavy in nature.
  3. Free-form journaling.
    • Free-form journaling is unstructured journaling.  The only structured thing about it is writing down the date before you begin.  The great thing about this style of journaling is you can write anything down that comes to mind.
    • The only downside is if you’re the type of person that needs prompting, then this method might not be a good fit for you.
  4. Journaling with prompts.
    • This is the second type of journaling that is popular with many people, especially if you need a little help with journaling.  You can use your empty journal alongside the shadow work journal prompts that I provided above and try it out for 30 days.
  5. More tips for success with your journal.
    • Find a quiet space.
      • Find somewhere to journal that’s quiet or a time of day where there’s as little interruption as possible so your can hear yourself think and the answers with come to mind easier.
    • Take your time.
      • Remember to give yourself some space with shadow work because it can get uneasy at times.  If you need to pause or take a break, go ahead and give yourself that time out.
    • Be honest with yourself.
      • If you want to be successful with your shadow work journaling, you need to be open and honest with yourself.  Honesty will allow you to get to the truth of who you really are so you can start to heal your life.
      • If you’re not truthful with yourself then shadow work won’t be as effective for your healing.
    • Be consistent.
      • Be consistent with your journaling so it becomes a habit that you want to stick with.  This doesn’t mean that you have to do it every day.  But it does help to have specific days and times to journal.
      • For example, if you can only journal on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays at 6 am in the morning for 5 minutes, then go ahead and put it in your schedule.
    • Keep track.
      • Make a note of your emotions, feelings, behavior, and any changes that you observe while journaling.  You might not be able to see any progress right away, especially if you’re changing just a little each time you journal.
      • Keeping track of your progress is a great way to see how far you’ve come with your shadow work.
    • 5-minute journaling.
      • If you’re short on time but want to be consistent with journaling, try timing yourself for just 5 minutes each day that you do your shadow work journal.
      • You can use either the free-form style of journaling or the shadow work journal prompts.
    • Morning pages.
      • Morning pages is an idea that was created by Julia Cameron, the author of “THE ARTIST’S WAY“.  She suggests writing free-from each morning until you fill up 3 pages in your journal.
      • The point of this is to drag the inner artist out of you that you’ve been hiding inside of yourself.  This type of journaling is great for shadow work and will be effective at bringing your shadow selves to awareness.

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – Carl Jung

Bottom line on shadow work.

Shadow work can be immensely helpful as a tool to help you heal holistically in mind, body, and spirit.  It helps you become more awareness and accepting of yourself.

The first step is a willingness to be authentic, honest, and open with yourself.  The more aware you are of your shadow side, the easier it’s to accept it and move on to bigger and better things.

I hope that you found these 30-day shadow work prompts helpful!  If you have any other prompts to share, please mention it in the comments below!

“The person you call an enemy is an exaggerated aspect of your own shadow self.” – Deepak Chopra

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