Tarot for Overachievers, The Roots

This is the concluding post on the series I’ve written regarding a challenge I’m using tarot to work through, a spread that I designed like a tree, with crown, trunk, and roots. To get caught up on the other posts before you read this one, read Part 1, and then follow the links at the bottom of each post to move to the next post in the series.

When I started writing on this topic, I really had no idea it would spread across four posts. But as it progressed, I wanted to develop it out at length, to show how tarot can be creatively applied to questions of a nature that we can’t seem to get any perspective on, or any objective handle on. That’s why when I started to feel ridiculously overwhelmed in my day-to-day life and at the same time compelled to keep piling on more and more tasks with impossible expectations and standards for myself, I wanted to take a step back with the cards to see what I might need to know about the situation.

The final 3-card reading in this series is designed as the “roots” of the tree. Intuitively, once we scratch the surface, so to speak, of the issue, we’ve hopefully integrated enough information that is a mix of conscious and subconscious in order to delve deeper into the hidden material. The reason I save the “shadow side” work for the third reading in the series is to allow time for the other readings to sink in (or to provide their information and guidance if all three readings are performed consecutively in one sitting), as well as to open our minds and hearts to material that might be harder to own up to, since by definition as a hidden or shadow issue, it is at the “root” of the situation and challenge and somehow we haven’t been able to consciously incorporate it or access it. I’d also venture to say that this 3-card reading, if you’re reading for yourself, might be the more difficult to interpret of the three, because it explores issues that you may not readily admit or own up to.

So, let’s get on with it!

Reading 3: The Roots of the Tree
1 – The side of myself, the “shadow” of me, that I don’t want to face
2 – How my current behavior relates to my shadow side and its lack of expression
3 – How I can constructively give expression to my shadow side


Ha! I bet you weren’t expecting practical and diligent Mr. 8 of Pentacles to show up as my shadow side, now were you? Oooh, you were hoping for The Devil or something else really juicy. Yeah, I’m just not all that exciting, folks! *wink*

The shadow side that I don’t want to face is what happens when the focused, “always do your best work” and “no distractions from the task at hand” 8 of Pentacles gets flipped on his head and either takes his values to a pathological extreme (unrealistic perfectionism) or lets go and cuts himself a bit of a break in terms of working with non-stop focus and demanding standards. I see in this reversal that I’m both overly perfectionistic as well as repressing a need of my inner self to loosen up my high standards a bit. Since it’s the “shadow” that’s not getting expression, I’m ignoring or actively denying myself the human right to make mistakes and simply do things “good enough.” (The 8 of Pentacles represents high standards of craftsmanship and dedication to a task, so “good enough” for him is not enough.) Here, we’re staring down the opposite polarity of the reliable, dependable, hard working 8 of Pentacles; the reversal shows us both what happens when his attention to detail and quality work is out of whack (unrealistic expectations of perfection at all costs), as well as how to balance it back out (kick off your shoes and chill out—not every project or undertaking in your life has to absolutely be dominated by a 110% devotion.) I need give myself more breathing room for error and for not keeping everything perfectly under control. (Story of my life, people!)

In the second card we see how my current do, do, do/go, go, go mentality relates to my shadow side and its lack of expression. If you turn your back on the joy you have in your life, especially that which you derive from your little family tribe of three preschoolers and their unbridled innocence and carefree spirit, in favor of being heavy and serious and striving for the impossible (ie, doing everything “right” all the time, aka perfectionism), you miss out on true happiness. You can’t be joyful if you set unrealistic standards for yourself. Again, this card, especially with its rainbow and happily dancing kiddos, reminds me to enjoy life and be at peace with WHAT IS. (I feel my inner Buddhist calling for attention!)

How might we see the Ace of Swords as giving positive expression to my shadow side, ie, helping me to lighten up and let go of my rigidity? Intuitively I hear the phrase “Live your own truth.” What am I trying to prove, by this need to constantly perform to unreachable standards? Is that fear of failure or loss of authority shown in the last spread compelling me to not be true to who I really am? This Ace represents the clear picture I now have of the issue at hand, and how I need to “cut away” what’s extraneous in my life in order to dedicate my mental reserves and energy only to what’s truly important. It also encourages me to be honest about what I can and cannot realistically do, and state that upfront, without promising things I can’t deliver, in a quest to be everything to everyone. Therefore, rather than always trying to be the Queen of Swords in the situation (as shown by the previous reading), I can go back to “beginner’s mind” and approach my tasks, responsibilities and challenges with the unburdened, fresh and bright-eyed approach that this Ace brings. This card, like the other Aces, heralds a new beginning. As it relates to constructive expression of my “shadow side” (having to loosen up and admit that my standards are unreachable in all reality, and furthermore that that’s OK), it’s asking me to be brutally honest about what I can and cannot realistically expect from myself, and to be just and fair to myself above all, not living for others’ expectations of me but living according to my own truth.



  1. I do recognize myself in this! Great blog as ever. I have read so many Tarot books, but none of them compares to your blog. Your writing is better, more informative and more honest than all the Tarot books I have read! Thank you for that!!

    • Thank you Irene from the heart! I appreciate that you find my posts valuable. Sometimes I wonder if my style (which is more wordy and a bit deeper than bite-sized posts) is worthwhile or readable, so I’m very honored to hear that you enjoy it. Please keep reading and keep sending your feedback, that’s what I’m here for!!! Blessings.

  2. I really enjoyed this series and can relate to many elements of your readings. My perfectionist tendencies have developed it full-fledged avoidance and procrastination of anything that I don’t feel I can succeed at or do perfectly. I guess I should try a bit of card introspection. Love the personal and deeper than a textbook approach you have. 🙂

    • Ciao Thauna! Thank you so much for your comments. Isn’t it interesting (although not pleasant!) to discover that when we go to extremes, we end up flipping over to the opposite polarity? Ie, putting these unrealistic expectations on ourselves can sometimes, like you mention, push us to give up before we even start! It’s totally insane!
      Something I was once advised to do, that has stuck with me forever but is SO hard for me to put into practice, was the advice: “Have compassion for yourself.”
      Why is it that so many of us are generous, giving, loving, and compassionate with others, but when it comes to loving and showing compassion for ourselves, we treat ourselves worse than we would an enemy? It’s an area I question myself about all the time. I have to remind myself the truth that if I don’t first develop and cultivate that caring spirit towards me, with all my perceived defects, flaws, faults, and inconsistencies, how can I expect myself to honestly and authentically extend gratitude and compassion to others? We know rationally that it has to start from within. But putting that into practice becomes another “when I have time” sort of thing.
      We’re always learning! Thanks for sharing!!!!

  3. I’m really enjoying your blog, Shelley! I too appreciate your “wordy” style and the way your personality shines through in your writing. I was thinking about the Ten of Cups in this reading and how it relates back to your shadow side. Perhaps it means that your perfectionist shadow side is working compulsively to create a “happily ever after” in your future. You think that if you work hard enough, learn everything, do everything, etc. that eventually you will reach a perfect future where you know it all, do everything just right, and live at ease in your ability to conquer it all. I think a lot of people live their lives this way, working toward a wonderful future someday and forgetting to enjoy the here and now. Life is an endless cycle of ups and downs, I think the Ten of Cups is just an up moment in time when you feel truly joyful and blessed and you are right that it is so important to recognize those moments and appreciate them as they occur. Ultimately, there is no greater perfection in life than those precious moments when all is right with the world and you feel and acknowledge how you are blessed. So it’s important for you to take a break from working, doing and perfecting, because there really is no end to how you can enhance and enjoy your life for what is is now, even if it can never be all perfect all the time.

  4. So very true!! Thank you! Of course, no, there is no “happily ever after” and boy do we ever tend to live for the future. “I’ll do that when X happens” or “When I have X, then I can finally relax” etc. But yes, today is all there is! Thanks for the kind words, too. I appreciate you reading! Keep in touch!

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