Carl Jung and the Bombshell

What does the father of analytical psychology have to do with the search for my inner bombshell?

A bit too “enhanced” for me.

Feeling the need for a makeover a few years ago, I bought a book called The Bombshell Bible, by Jacqueline Bradley. Subtitled “the only makeover book for style and soul,” it promised to help me regain (or gain? had I ever had it?) the pizzazz, that je ne sais quoi that she calls simply “it”—the quality that makes someone fill a room without being obnoxious. Likeable, attractive, fun to be around but not phony.

Although the book was pretty cheesy and poorly written, I found enough in it to begin what I hoped would be my own transformation—not just about looks but about relating to people in a way that’s attractive and likeable. I come from a long line of blunt, outspoken women—I think it’s my mother’s Yorkshire heritage—and although that can be useful and even necessary, I was beginning to feel like an aging curmudgeon.

I sought out people who could be role models and kept notes in a bound blank book a friend had given me: a list of women who inspire me; color swatches; photographs; clippings; doodles; musings; plans—my own “bombshell bible.” Over time the book got swallowed up among other notebooks and my life was overtaken by various crises.

My bombshell bible.

Meg Barnhouse, minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, recently gave a sermon, “Gold in the Shadows,” in which she talked about Jung and the shadow side of ourselves.

Rev. Meg Barnhouse

After discussing the shadow side, Meg told us that Jung also believed that we have a “golden shadow” side, the opposite of our dark shadow. This got me to thinking about my bombshell list, so I dug out my old book and revived my list.

Turns out there are close to 50 women in my life who are my golden shadow people—women I admire and want emulate. The sermon suggests seeking out these people and figuring out what traits they have that one can use. (Meg would remind us that when we compare ourselves to others we compare our insides to their outsides.)

I listed traits I wished I shared. Even though each is utterly unique, these women have many traits in common:

    1. A glow, a spark; an inner beauty, whether or not they are physically beautiful. I have known several women whom I considered unattractive when I first met them. But once I got to know them they became beautiful to me because of their personalities.
    2. Generosity: spiritually, materially and with their time and energy.
    3. Creative, talented and smart.
    4. Terrific sense of humor.
    5. Kind, patient.
    6. Positive and optimistic.
    7. Self-possessed and comfortable with themselves; secure with who they are.
    8. High energy.
    9. Seem to be able to do it all and do it well.
    10. Big personality that fills a room yet doesn’t dominate.
    11. Involved and engaged, curious.
    12. Strong in adversity.
    13. Nurturing; good mothers if they have children.
    14. Fierce and passionate.

I want to be around these people, and they energize rather than drain me. They are real, flawed, imperfect and unapologetic.

When I consider how I chose these women, and not others who are also important—even loved—in my life, I had to think about what traits would exclude someone. (I do not put myself on the golden list, but I hope I have some of their qualities.) Almost all are over 40, and I think that’s because we really do improve with age.

Here is what the bombshells are not:

    1. negative
    2. whining
    3. insecure
    4. complaining
    5. lazy
    6. critical
    7. gossipy
    8. mean
    9. obnoxious
    10. fragile or mentally unstable
    11. timid
    12. brassy
    13. self-serving
    14. narcissistic

Interesting there are the same number of items on each list. Of course nobody on either list has all of these qualities.

I choose not to identify, even as a composite, anyone I know, for two reasons: I don’t want to embarrass anyone; and I especially don’t want to hurt the feelings of anyone who might not see herself.

Why only women? I consider all of them role models, and it’s always women who came to mind. There are many men I admire and might consider honorary bombshells.

Now, what do I do with this soul-searching analysis?

I recently heard a psychologist lecture about the psychology of happiness. Among her insights were that happy and optimistic people are healthier and live longer and that extraverts tend to be happier and more optimistic.

As a natural, but not extreme, introvert, I aspire to be among those happy, optimistic people.

Meg’s sermon closed with a well-known quote from Marianne Williamson, which might also be called the Bombshell’s Manifesto:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

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