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What you’re missing when you’re only looking to the shadows

Wherever there is sadness, there is also so much more…

It can be easy to zoom in on what feels painful or uncomfortable for us and to colour our world as if that’s all there is. But what else would we notice if we took a step back, open to seeing the bigger picture?

This wisdom has stuck with me, emerging from a coaching session I had a couple of weeks back with my awesome coach, Lizzi (yes, us coaches have coaches who have coaches too –we can always become wiser versions of ourselves).

Following an unexpected bereavement that night, I became heavily involved in arranging my Step-Mum’s funeral, and I saw how deeply true this statement is on a big scale.

What more is there?

There are tears and sadness, confusion, anger, overwhelm, heartbreak and loneliness to name a few painful emotions. But these emotions come in waves, breaking and revealing moments of connection, compassion, courage, generosity, gratitude, peace, empathy, trust, joy, laughter, inspiration, admiration, reflection, celebration, reassurance, learning and creativity.

There’s celebration and admiration of an adventurous spirit, with stories inspiring exploration in others and a resetting of priorities. The wonderful Celebrant paints a life of colour, while a quieter, unassuming Husband courageously speaks beautiful poetry from his heart that brings us to tears.

Precious moments of shared tears; the strength in unapologetically feeling, and feeling with. Long, healing hugs and space held to be human. Permission to cry and express sadness, knowing that packing it down is helping no one; mindfully modelling healthy self-expression for those around us. Time spent in silent togetherness listening to the bird song, and watching the waves.

The courage it takes to reach out to someone who’s hurting, and deep gratitude for those who are turning towards grief; making the phone call, checking in, connecting and sending kind messages and offers of support. Observing with humour and sharing a sense of compassion for those scurrying in the other direction; sneaking around to avoid the discomfort of not knowing what to say, as if there’s some secret sentence they think they should know, that could make another’s pain subside.

Amazing generosity from workmates sending their best wishes and a thoughtful collection. Compassionate leadership from employers; and my friend & Co-Director, Stacie, who’s encouraging me to take the space that I need; offering reassurance and checking in, making sure I’m looking after me. Plus kind words and understanding from the clients I’m supporting too.

Friends with wonderful skills and knowledge, kind enough to share. Talented organist, Daniel, guides us through the process of making arrangements, sharing his wisdom, recommendations and going out of his way to support our family. Then, taking on the challenge of epically performing Sandstorm by Darude on the Chapel organ (and flipping that, there’s a whole lot of trust in him from family too!). Sarah, an awesome designer, kindly finalises my design of the Order of Service, one-handed whilst feeding the baby to get it to the printers on time.

Love and joy as a brother flies home, and aunts and uncles travel hours to pay their respects to a lady they didn’t know so well, and to be there for their nephew. It’s been years since we all connected, yet somehow I’m surprised to find that they’re not as sprightly as I remember, which only magnifies the sense of appreciation that they’ve made the effort to come together. Opportunities to reminisce and reconnect with our history, and in the now, mean we’re learning more about each other and loved ones already passed.

Important exploration around how best to talk with little ones, recognising that children can’t be hidden from the realities of life, and granting them the opportunity to learn and understand by being honest at their level (and then finding humour in the cringeworthy storytelling-processing of a 4-year old at what feels like just the most awkward moments!). Children bringing light-hearted playfulness, showing us how to live in the present.

What can you take from this?

In 2 weeks of deep sadness, there have been so many positive emotions too. Wherever there are shadows, there is light. And yet, I didn’t see this truth when I was younger. Only looking to the shadows; I didn’t see the whole picture:

  • Focusing on all the things I thought I hated about myself, I neglected all the strength and good in me.
  • Identifying solely as ‘shy’, I dismissed the moments when I did feel comfortable in my skin and connected with others.
  • Obsessing over perceived ‘failure’, I forgot about so many of my successes.
  • Zooming in on others’ behaviours that I felt hurt me; I missed the story they were working with and the positive intent behind their actions.
  • Adhering to other people’s ‘should do’s; I didn’t see all that I *could do* and found myself living a life out of alignment with who I truly am.

So take a deep breath and step back in your own life for a moment, and ask yourself this…

What are all the things that you’re not seeing right now?

If you need some more lightness in your life, join the Quiet Community and connect with like-minded people today.


  • Hayley Stanton

    Hi, I’m Hayley - the original quieteer. I, too, identify as a quiet person. I’m naturally a highly sensitive introvert and I love and appreciate my quiet strengths now, but I spent much of my life not feeling good enough and experiencing social anxiety. I missed so many opportunities because I was afraid of being judged harshly, criticised and rejected – and because I doubted that I had the ‘right’ personality to succeed. Quiet Connections exists in part because I had a fantastic coach who helped me to work through old patterns of keeping myself small and hidden so that I could show up and be seen to play my part in creating the more connected, curious and compassionate world that I dream of. Now, I’m passionate about helping quiet people discover their unique qualities, gifts, passions and experiences and explore how best to use these to express themselves more authentically and contribute to the world in a way that works with their quieter or more sensitive nature. Get to know me here.

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