Art, Drawing, education, illustration, Influences, Josephine, motivation, wisdom

Jo’s Journey – A Somewhat Irreverent Guide to Doing Anything Better

Fighting the Shadows

My muse Josephine is cheery so much of the time that you’d think she never has a down moment or a blue day.  Not so.  Sometimes it’s everything I can do to get her to come out of hiding and grace my drafting table with her presence.  I could blame her, but I know that my own shadows are what scare her away at times.

Whimsical illustration of long-legged girl with her scary shadow, by Joana MirandaThose shadows are my inner critics; the voices that say…

You’re not good enough.

You’ll never make it.

The apartment needs vacuuming.

I know I’m not alone in having a shadow.  Robert Genn, the author behind The Painter’s Keys, writes about our shadows saying:

These days, some high-priced shrinks are talking about “Your Inferior Shadow.” This creepy critter is a dark presence–always with you–and he wants you to be fearful, incompetent, lousy, victimized, procrastinatory and self-loathing. Some of us have almost untamable Shadows while others have small ineffective ones. It’s possible to train the former to be the latter. No matter what the size of your shadow, here are a few ways to keep him in check: 

A lot of what comes out of your mouth is him speaking. When you speak, you reinforce intentions. You need a small policeman standing alert at the side of your mouth. He puts up his hand and says, “Stop.” Shadow-talk needs to go to the trash. 

You need to cultivate habits that overrule his power. Some of these habits can be mighty small, like washing your brushes, but when they become habitual you can move on to bigger ones. B.J. Fogg of Stanford University in California has pioneered a system of developing “tiny habits.” According to Fogg and many of his satisfied customers, the system can change behaviors and even personalities.   (Read the entire post here.)

I love the idea of policing my own negative talk.  Josephine does, too.

Whimsical pencil and marker illustration of policewoman making stopping gesture, by Joana Miranda

I also love the concept of “tiny habits.”  Funnily, even though I don’t see myself as a procrastinator, sometimes my shadow tricks me into thinking I should vacuum the apartment BEFORE sitting down to create art.  Maybe my first tiny habit should be to recognize the voice in my head before I reach for the vacuum!

How about you?  How will you overcome your shadow today?


  1. Marta Miranda says

    I think you should send your inner shadow over here to vacuum my apartment; it certainly could use it! 🙂

    • Hi Marta,

      Me and my inner shadow will be happy to come over any time and vacuum for you – no charge, either (a sister’s special.)

      Speaking of vacuuming, our apartment really needs it now. But we’re doing laundry and other cleaning first…and it’s 11:39 p.m.

      Love you lots,
      Your Sister

  2. I needed this today. I try to speak only positive things, but that negative shadow sure gets in the way at times. I’ll ignore her today.

    • The hardest thing for me to remember is that speaking even slightly negative things about others backfires. Not only do I feel bad afterwards, but I realize that the same critic that allows me to write a “review” of others makes me that much harder on myself!

      I hope you’ve been shadow free today! Thanks for writing and for reading my blog!

      🙂 Joana

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