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75 Shadow Work Journal Prompts to Help You Realise Your True Potential

Shadow work prompts are ideal for getting started with shadow work. Shadow journaling is one of the very best ways to begin and this post offers a list of 75 intense prompts for self-reflection and healing.

Everything You Need to Know About Shadow Work Prompts For Healing

Shadow work prompts. Image shows a woman writing in a diary.

If you’ve not come across the term ‘shadow work’ before then here’s a little more about what you need to know before getting started with shadow work questions and prompts…

These prompts are now available as a free printable shadow work journal in two great designs!

We All Have a Shadow

Firstly, you don’t have to be a spiritual person to gain value from shadow work; the theory is actually one conceptualised within a branch of psychology.

Our shadow, a term coined by psychologist Carl Jung, is the part of ourselves which we hide – or may not even be aware of.

We either reject and/or repress those aspects of our personalities which we find unsavoury, and if we don’t immediately recognise the toxic traits in ourselves for which this applies, then chances are they are indeed being repressed.

But that’s okay – nobody is immune; it’s part of being a human being. And by being here and reading about it you’re taking the first step towards doing something positive and proactive about it.

Our shadow side develops primitively and instinctively as a survival mechanism to protect us from the overwhelming negative emotions associated with ongoing past traumas or a specific traumatic event.

So while they may not comprise attractive qualities, they’re largely beyond our control and have served a vital purpose for the preservation of our mental health at some time in our past.

Our shadows show up in our lives is as negative self-talk and self-sabotage.

But the fact is, they can remain hidden deep within us long beyond when they stopped serving us; the unconscious mind has a long memory. But this is actually a clue to identifying our own particular shadow traits:

One way in which the characteristics of our shadows show up in our lives is as negative self-talk and self-sabotage.

And let’s face it – who wouldn’t want to challenge the part of themselves that’s responsible for ruining the good in their lives? It’s a complex and uncomfortable process, but ultimately so worthwhile, bringing much clarity and positive change.

Woman Saluting Sky - Freedom

Head over to my post to learn more about shadow work and how it can negatively influence your life – as well as the many benefits of actively facing your shadow self.

How Do You Face Your Shadow Self?

Facing our shadow selves is as simple and excruciating as acknowledging and challenging our least attractive qualities.

They hold power over us while we reject or repress them.

Challenging our shadows is a daunting self development task, because it essentially means looking right into the heart of the most shameful and vulnerable parts of ourselves.

But, whether we like it or not, just because we refuse to acknowledge those unattractive traits at the core of who we are, does not mean they don’t exist.

What it does mean is that they hold power over us while we reject or repress them.

The first step towards inner healing is to understand that – just as with undesirable behaviour in children – our least glamorous qualities are or were the result of an unmet need.

The next step is to acknowledge that we’re now in a position to meet that need for ourselves, if it has not already been met as we’ve grown and matured.

Then it’s up to the present, adult, rational version of ourselves to identify, acknowledge, and communicate with the primitive shadow self; to bring it out into the light and show self-compassion to our younger, fallible self.

How Do You Practice Shadow Work?

The gold standard for intense shadow healing is through journaling. Using shadow work prompts can help with this process.

Shadow work is the ultimate and most valuable form of journaling: it’s the hardest to participate in, but also promises the greatest reward.

A wellbeing journal like this one is ideal for answering shadow work questions and prompts, to help you make peace with your shadow.

The below shadow work prompts are designed to get you to really dig deep. They’re not intended to be comfortable, and may well be quite challenging; they’re meant to be. But they’re worth it: they’ll ensure the process provides you the best results.

The more probing and difficult the questions you ask yourself, the more beneficial the process of answering them will prove.

Read: How to journal + beginner tips to create a writing ritual you’ll stick to!

How Shadow Work Prompts & Exercises Can Help Restore Harmony

When it comes to the process of shadow work, journaling is an excellent technique because it can be combined with other shadow exercises, but also brings the benefit of a written record. Writing is powerful in itself, and having something to refer back to means you’re able to track your progress too.

I’m sharing some of my favourite shadow work journal prompts below which I’ve crafted specifically to help you bring your shadow parts into the light.

I’m a huge advocate of journaling, and shadow work is the ultimate and most valuable form: it’s the hardest to participate in, but also promises the greatest reward.

Read: 400+ Journal Prompts to Inspire and Motivate you!

What Are Some Good Shadow Work Prompts to Help You Heal and Grow?

Good shadow work journal prompts are any that make you squirm and cringe – they may be difficult to work through, but you can bet they’re also very effective at their purpose.

To get the most value from your shadow work prompts, you’ll have to challenge yourself and existing negative beliefs. Note you may or may not consciously recognise them as being negative, so approach the exercise with an open mind.

Each of those below are designed for exactly this purpose, with the eventual goal of helping you on your personal growth journey and healing process.

Depending on your current circumstances and whether you have any personal wellbeing or health issues, you may choose to enlist professional help. Either way, taking yourself through this uncomfortable process will help you to accomplish your goal of finding a greater sense of calm and peace.

Why not refer to these confidence quotes for women alongside your shadow work, to help you rebuild your self-esteem as you dismantle your pride or other undesirable attributes?

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Shadow work journaling prompts pin

75 Challenging Shadow Work Journal Prompts to Bring You Peace

For all of the reasons outlined above, journaling is my preferred method of shadow work. Here are some powerful shadow work journaling prompts for you to work on:

  1. What do you think are the worst character traits a person can have?
    i) When is a time you have demonstrated these traits?
  1. How do you think people see you?
    i) How would they describe you?
    ii) How do you feel about that?
  1. What things are triggers for you?
    i) Consider where those irrational feelings stem from.
  1. Nobody enjoys feeling hurt, anger, rejection, betrayal, jealousy, etc. What is the very worst emotion to experience for you personally? Why? Where does that come from?
  1. What things make you judgemental?
    i) Think about a hypothetical situation in which you’d agree somebody could behave in a way you’d usually judge, yet be entirely innocent.
  1. When is the last time you felt let down?
    i) Examine how you felt and whether it was truly rational, or if you were triggered.
  1. Do you have healthy boundaries in your relationships?
    i) Is there any particular relationship that you feel could benefit from stronger boundaries?
    ii) Explore what is preventing you from having the courage to hold that space.
    iii) Can you say with complete honesty that you respect the boundaries of others?
A pink journal lays on top of a white notepad. There's a pen on top of it and some pink confetti on the white desk beside it.
  1. What makes you feel empty? How do you tend to fill that void?
    i) What are some healthy strategies you might develop to overcome feelings of emptiness?
  1. Who has the most influence over you?
    i) Is that healthy?
  1. Who do you envy?
    i) Why?
    ii) How might you be able to work towards gaining the things they have that you feel jealousy towards?
  1. Do you consider yourself to be confrontational? Why? Is this something you’re proud of or would you prefer to be different?
    i) Would others be more likely to describe you as confrontational or a pushover? How would you prefer to be viewed?
  1. Think of a relationship you’ve walked away from. Write down the reasons it’s been a positive life choice.
  1. Describe yourself with objectivity.
    i) How easy was this task? Do you know who you truly are?
    ii) Do you like who you are?
  1. What person has hurt you the most in your life?
    i) Write them a letter telling them all the things you’d like to say.
  1. What most frightens you?
    i) How might you be able to expose yourself to that fear in a safe way?
  1. What misconception do people have about you?
    i) How does that make you feel?
A journal open on a white desk with a pen and jar of sweets in the background.
  1. Do you generally feel less than, better than, or equal to others? Explore this.
  1. What memories bring you shame?
    i) Think about who you were then, what led to your behaviour, and how you’ve changed since.
    ii) Now write out the words ‘I did the best I could at the time and I forgive myself’.
  1. Think again about those memories of shame. Close your eyes and take yourself back to when you were at your very worst. Relive the feelings of that time. Now look around you and see how far you’ve come.
    i) Consider your past self as you would perhaps a younger sibling, from a position of honesty and compassion. Write your past self a letter, demonstrating understanding and forgiveness.
  1. Which traits would you least wish to be described as having?
    i) Why would it be so terrible?
  1. In what ways are you similar to your parents or childhood caregivers?
    i) Is this a conscious decision? In what ways would you like to emulate them?
    ii) How do you actively choose (or try) to be different?
  1. What is your definition of failure?
    i) What makes these circumstances so terrible?
    ii) Imagine yourself in this situation. Write down five things you believe people would think about you.
    iii) Now write down five things you would hope people would think of you.
  1. Who regularly (or last) belittles or downplays your emotions?
    i) How does it make you feel?
  1. Think about unhealthy relationships you have currently or have had previously. What’s the common theme?
    i) Why do you think you find yourself in this kind of dynamic?
    ii) How can you recognise and avoid allowing this type of relationship to develop?
Journal beside a cup of tea and some purple flowers.
  1. What emotions tend to bring out the worst in you?
    i) Why do you think that is?
  1. When have you been self-sabotaging or destructive in your life?
    i) Examine how you were feeling at the time, and what triggered your behaviour.
  1. With whom or in which situations do you find yourself slipping on a mask or embodying a different persona?
    i) What do you think would happen if you exposed your true self?
    ii) How does that make you feel?
  1. Negative traits tend to develop in childhood as a defence mechanism. They’re useful at the time, but not as adults. List your least desirable traits. 
    i) Where do they come from?
    i) Think about their purpose, and write about more positive and productive behaviours you could use instead.
    iii) Think about others you know who display these traits too, and how they make you feel. Make a promise to yourself to remember to look past the trait to the vulnerability behind it in future – we do not know other people’s stories.
  1. Think about your friendships. Which ones make you feel safe, secure, and loved?
    i) Do you have any in which you feel isolated, pressured, or otherwise uncomfortable?
    ii) Examine why this may be and if you have any negative history.
  1. How do you tend to respond to compliments? Make a concerted effort to learn to simply say ‘thank you’, if you don’t already do this.
  1. Which relationships in your life no longer serve you? Be ruthless – nobody else will see this.
    i) Which relationships feel obligatory or dutiful. Consider how you’d feel if you allowed those relationships to dissolve, then think about whether they’re worth trying to salvage, and how you may be able to do that.
    ii) Perhaps write a letter to that person/those people.
Woman journaling with a vase of baby breath flowers in the foreground.
  1. What do you most dislike about yourself?
    i) Really examine why that is, and whether you’d feel the same level of distaste for somebody else in your position.
  1. List out your core values.
    i) Are you living in alignment with them? What could you change to be more in harmony with them?
    ii) Do they match those of your childhood caregivers?
    iii) If not, explore why this might be.
  1. What do you wish people understood about you?
    i) How might you be better able to demonstrate the quality that people tend to overlook?
  1. Do you have or have you had recurring nightmares? What’s the theme? What might it relate to?
    i) How might you face the fear causing your nightmare?
  1. What’s the worst way you’ve been taken advantage of in your lifetime?
    i) Think about the person who treated you that way, and consider their circumstances. What do you think drove them to it?
    ii) If you don’t know enough about them to answer this question, imagine what their story is. Write it down, keeping in mind that nobody is born evil. Terrible life experiences do not excuse terrible behaviours unto others, but they can help you to forgive and make peace.
  1. Now imagine somebody else is working through the previous exercise and they are picturing you.
    i) Who is the person, and what did you do to them?
    ii) What were your circumstances at the time? Write a letter to the person explaining yourself and apologising.
    iii) Have you forgiven yourself? Imagine the person writing their letter to you, and then forgiving you. Take a deep breath, and as you exhale breathe out any feelings of guilt you’ve been holding onto.
An open bullet journal with dot grid paper on a white wooden desk, surrounded by pink and yellow tulips and a candle.
  1. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?
    i) What drove you to it?
    ii) Have you confessed to your misdemeanour? Are you afraid of being honest?
    iii) Examine why this is and whether it’s truly valid.
    iv) Are you protecting yourself or others?
    v) Could being open about it help to bring you peace?
    vi) How might you atone for it?
  1. What authority figures (individuals as opposed to institutions) did you respect growing up?
    i) What qualities did/do they possess?
    ii) Do you share those traits? How might you develop/enhance them?
  1. Without thinking too deeply, what’s your gut reaction to the question ‘Do people respect you’?
    i) Why do you think this is?
    ii) How do you feel about this?
  1. How are you letting yourself down at this time in your life?
    i) How could you be better to yourself? Consider your health, finances, relationships, work, etc.
  1. What lies have you previously told yourself?
    i) Are you being entirely truthful with yourself at this time in your life?
  1. When you are alone, what does you inner voice sound like? Is it positive or negative?
    i) Consider whose voice that truly is. 
    ii) Write a letter to the person who became your inner voice, thanking them if they champion you, or challenging them if they are critical.
A woman is writing in a journal and looking pensive. She has a cup of coffee beside her and large windows behind her.
  1. What was your last uncharitable thought? Did you voice it?
    i) Was it deserved?
    ii) Were you being unfairly judgemental?
  1. Who do you owe an apology to? Make a list of everyone you can think of, even if it’s from a different time in your life.
    i) If anybody springs to mind, write them a letter. You don’t have to send it if it’s not appropriate to do so, but write it anyway.
  1. Who owes you an apology?
    i) Why? What did they do? Is it possible you misinterpreted the situation?
    ii) Write yourself a letter from their perspective, explaining the reasons for their transgression, and apologising.
    iii) Now take a deep breath, and as you exhale breathe out any resentment or hurt you’ve been holding onto.
  1. What’s your biggest regret in life?
    i) How might you be able to make peace with that? Think about your circumstances at the time and give yourself permission to be okay with the fact that you did your best at the time.
  1. What’s your worst childhood memory?
    i) Who was there?
    ii) How did they comfort you or make it worse?
    iii) What would you like to say to them? Perhaps write them an unsent letter.
Image shows a woman writing in a notebook. She wears pale blue nail varnish and a creamy jumper.
  1. Do you have any other traumatic childhood memories?
  1. What situation in your life do you most wish had had a different outcome?
    i) How would it have improved your life?
    ii) In what ways is your life better for it not having worked out?
  1. Who do you feel inferior to?
    i) Objectively explore whether they have intentionally made you feel this way, or if it’s your own feelings of inadequacy creating that illusion.
    ii) How do you think they view you or feel about you? Why?
  1. Who has let you down the most in your life?
    i) Are they still around? How do you feel about that?
  1. What’s the worst character trait you have as a result of your childhood?
    i) What or who do you think caused it?
    ii) How do you feel about that?
  1. What are your parents’ best/worst attributes?
    i) How are you alike/unlike them? 
  1. What is the worst emotion somebody could provoke in you? For example, anger, betrayal, jealousy.
    i) Why do you feel so strongly about this?
    ii) Does your answer differ according to the person in question?
  1. Think about a time you were manipulative. Explore the feeling behind the behaviour – what need made you behave that way? Have you overcome that feeling?
A journal with pink Post-It notes on top of it. There are some pale pink roses beside the journal and a cup of herbal tea half in shot.
  1. How do you feel about your childhood?
    i) Was it generally positive or negative?
    ii) Who made you feel safe and who let you down?
    iii) Who were you close to?
  1. How does drama make you feel?
    i) Are you dramatic yourself?
    ii) Do people call you dramatic? How do you feel about this?
  1. Which of your traits do you find it difficult to accept? Explore why this is.
    i) Do you accept these traits in others? Do others readily accept these traits?
    ii) Think of somebody who shares this characteristic with you. Write down three things you admire about them.
    iii) This trait does not define you; write down three ways that you are more than this characteristic.
  1. Who do you hold a grudge against?
    i) What is stopping you from letting it go?
  1. Think about a time you felt betrayed. Have you made peace with the person involved? Write them a letter explaining how it made you feel, and forgiving them.
  1. Thinking about the previous exercise; now consider when you may have behaved similarly. Has the person involved treated you as though you betrayed them? Either way, write them a letter apologising.
  1. Who have you previously had conflict with and allegedly resolved it, but you remain wary of since?
    i) How did they make you feel?
    ii) What worries you about the relationship now?
  1. How do you view asking for help?
    i) Is it a sign of strength or weakness? Why is this?
  1. What makes you self-conscious around others?
  1. Who dislikes you or treats you poorly or with disrespect?
    i) How does it make you feel?
    ii) Where does this attitude or behaviour come from?
    iii) Being very honest, is it deserved? Do you owe this person an apology?
    iv) If you do, write them a letter apologising sincerely, or reach out in some other way.
    v) Write this sentence down ten times: Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.
  1. What makes you feel unsafe? Explore this.
  1. What could have made your childhood better? How do you feel about that?
A woman is writing in a journal on a slatted wooden table top. She wears a dark purple jumper and holds a poised pen. She has a white mug beside her.
  1. What one thing could somebody say to you to bring you to your knees?
    i) Why do those words hold so much power?
    ii) How can you begin to take the power out of those words?
  1. Who have you most let down in your lifetime, and how/why did it happen?
    i) Have you made peace with the situation?
    ii) Write a letter to the person you disappointed telling them how you feel, even if you don’t send it.
  1. What does freedom mean to you?
  1. What in your life gives you the most purpose? 
  1. Think about the people closest to you. What would you change about them, if you could, to improve your relationship (perhaps something to do with the way you resolve conflicts)?
    i) How does that reflect on you?
    ii) Based on this exercise, is there anything you could consider improving in yourself to help?
  1. What makes you feel most valued? 
  1. What would you most like to be recognised for?
Now available as a free printable in two great designs!

Shadow Work Journal Printable in Geometric Design

Please note this design has recently been updated to reflect the additional prompts added above. The illustrated design will be updated in due course.

75 shadow work prompts in geometric design.
Shadow work journal front cover in geometric design.

Want it? Head over to the resources library and sign up to get exclusive access to all of our printables for free!

This shadow work journal features the 75 popular challenging prompts above.

In a contemporary geometric design, this is ideal for those who appreciate a smart, and stylish aesthetic.

Note the inside page shows a single prompt, and the entire printable includes a massive 51 pages, including a page for additional notes which can be reprinted from your download as many times as required.

In the wider context of our day to day lives, our shadows do not serve us well.

Shadow Work Journal Pages

This geometric-designed shadow work journal comprises:

  • 75 popular prompts
  • Most prompts have several additional questions
  • Notes page for extra space
Shadow work journal inside page.
Shadow work journal inside page in geometric design.

Some Background on Shadow Work…

Shadow work is a powerful practice and an intense form of inner work, based on Jung’s theory of the shadow. Read more about shadow work and inner child healing.

Shadows tend to develop as a reaction to painful past experiences. The character traits we develop are primitive – and not attractive qualities and for this reason we repress or deny them.

This allows them to live as shadows in our unconscious, where they tend to negatively influence our behaviours without our conscious knowledge or understanding.

While the existence of our shadow parts makes sense in terms their capacity to offer self-preservation, in the wider context of our day to day lives, they do not serve us well.

Spending time actively seeking out and illuminating our shadow can effectively remove its power.

Shadows are often expressed via projection, and you may recognise elements of yours by observing specific people or situations which trigger strong or unpleasant feelings in you.

Left unchecked our shadows can lead to self-sabotaging behaviours such as:

  • Jealousy
  • Resentment
  • Bitterness
  • Anger and aggression
  • Addiction
  • Guilt and shame

However, spending time actively seeking out and illuminating our shadow can effectively remove its power.

You can achieve this through shadow work exercises, with shadow work journaling being one of the best options.

Image shows a woman holding a pen to a pad of paper. There's a plant in the background and some unopened pink carnations.

Benefits of a Shadow Work Journal

Journaling is an excellent method to practice any kind of inner work, for several reasons:

  • Writing is cathartic,
  • Journaling provides a record for you to reflect back on,
  • Journaling can be used alongside most other forms of shadow work,
  • Writing also reinforces the thing you are writing about.

The ultimate goal is to live a more balanced and peaceful life.

If you’re keen to practice shadow work, using a shadow work journal with prompts is a powerful option, for both beginners and the more experienced.

What’s Inside Our Shadow Work Journal?

This shadow work journal printable contains prompts designed to encourage intense analysis of the self. Each prompt is intended to either draw out painful memories, or force you to confront unpleasant truths about yourself.

The process may feel uncomfortable, but that simply means it’s working.

Letting go of the pain we’re holding onto in order to live a more peaceful life is the foundation of shadow work. 

The theory is that by practicing shadow work and acknowledging your shadow qualities, you’re able to unify your conscious and unconscious, and reconcile with the elements of yourself you’ve either repressed or denied.

The ultimate goal is to live a more balanced and peaceful life.

Prefer a fancier shadow work journal with charming doodles? You’ll love our illustrated design instead!

Shadow Work Journal Printable in Illustrated Design

Front Cover

Inside Page

Complete with fancy illustrations, this journal design is ideal for those who love charming doodles they can colour and add to.

Want it? Head over to the resources library and sign up to get exclusive access to all of our printables for free!

Want even more prompts? Try these shadow work affirmations.

The Benefit of Shadow Work Questions

Shadow work journal prompts. Image shows a woman writing in a diary.

Working your way through these prompts – and perhaps revisiting some of them regularly – is a wonderful way to identify your weaknesses, and work on them in a healthy way, with compassion and self love.

Practicing shadow work in as incredibly powerful tool to facilitate this process.

They may also help you to recognise painful truths about relationships which you’ve repressed or denied. And, crucially, to consider what you learn from a non-judgemental perspective. We can’t control others, we can only control ourselves, and this is the foundation of shadow work:

Awareness and acceptance of our faults and limitations, forgiving ourselves and others, and letting go of the pain we’re holding onto in order to live a more peaceful life. 

Practicing shadow work is an incredibly powerful tool to facilitate this journey of self-discovery and personal development.