The Cambridge Dictionary defines self-reflection as “the activity of thinking about your own feelings and behavior, and the reasons that may lie behind them.”
Self-reflection can happen anywhere. Every person is different, and a simple assessment of your daily activities can help spark ideas of where you can regularly practice this skill. You’ll want to search for something that happens consistently on your schedule and doesn’t take up too much mental energy. For example, if you commute to work, your drive time could double as an opportunity to survey your day and look back on how your decisions and circumstances (both good and bad) have molded your current perspective. Are you in a sour mood? Do you feel rushed? Are you more productive than usual? We are a product of our choices. You are the driver of your life. An honest look back at the turns you’ve taken and the roads you’ve chosen will give you a better understanding of where you currently are and how to move forward with better direction.
If you’re having a hard time finding any free time in your day, schedule a few minutes in the beginning or at the end of your day to reflect. The busier you feel, the more you may want to consider writing down your thoughts. Having a running record of your reflections will help you identify both constructive and harmful thought patterns and make your time more effective.
Perhaps the first part of this commitment is easy for you; self-reflection may come naturally. But loving who you see… that can be a different story altogether. For many of us, self-reflection is our inner critic’s prime time to shine. In this case, the practice is often maladaptive and works against you. If you avoid self-reflection because you end up more upset than when you started, you may be ruminating more than reflecting.
Another term for ruminate is “to chew the cud.” Animals (like cows) chew their food, partly digest it, and regurgitate it to be chewed on again. Many of us do this when reflecting on our negative experiences. We chew on it, swallow it, and bring it back up later to be chewed on again. This type of rumination isn’t constructive. By doing this, have you changed anything about your perspective? It’s not likely.
So how do you avoid ruminating on your bad experiences or choices? No doubt, it’s no easy task. The challenge is to become an expert at investigating your emotions and asking yourself the tough questions—
“Are you operating from opportunity or obligation?”
“Does that mistake actually make you a failure, or does it make you imperfect, just like everybody else?” ”
“Did your boss really give you a dirty look because he hates your guts, or could he be having a bad day?”
There’s always an alternate perspective. We get to choose for ourselves which perspective is aligned with who we want to be.
Once you’ve thoroughly and honestly investigated, reframe your mindset around how you’re going to use these answers to improve yourself or better serve others. This is key to effective and constructive self-reflection. It can turn some of the darkest experiences into powerful testimonies of resilience and victory for others to cling to.
Before you start slaying any onions, you have to first be comfortable and familiar with your own layers. Can you commit to looking in the mirror daily and loving who you see?
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