“Time spent in self-reflection is never wasted-it is an intimate date with yourself.”
~Paul TP Wong
Who has time for self-reflection? The demands on our time have not eased up during the pandemic. In fact I’m convinced the demands have increased. We’ve all needed to learn how to transition into the “new normal.” This has compounded the demands on teachers around the world. Teaching this year has left our educators exhausted and simply trying to survive.
I met a fellow dog mom at the park recently. A vibrant and energetic new teacher. The positivity emanated from her. So you can imagine my surprise when she shared having to be convinced not to quit all year by her fellow teachers. So, who has time for self-reflection? It is my hope that by the end of this read you are convinced that it is in your best interest.
What is Self-Reflection?
Self-reflection is the capacity to be introspective. It is driven by the desire to learn more about ourselves, our nature, our core, the essence of who we are and how we engage the world and those around us. Self-reflection delivers the gift of self-awareness. Awareness is powerful and often can be the catalyst for change.
The key is that we have to be willing and ready to take action. Action means getting out of our comfort zone and facing ourselves head on. It also means ridding ourselves of the crutches we have picked up along the way. The things that feed, nurture, and protect our dysfunction (I have a set or two myself).
What’s In It for Me?
My decision to truly explore who I am began 20+ years ago. It’s hard to be self-reflective at any age. Our family influences so much of how we form our identity. Teachers impact what we learn, how we think, and often what we think. Peers have the same effect. Then society comes in and convinces us we miss the mark because we don’t look a certain way, sound a certain way, our gender is wrong, our last name is wrong, etc.
These variables swirling in my head for so long I was afraid of who I’d find. Would I like this person? Can I handle creating the real version of me? Where do I start? My starting point was to spend a lot of uninterrupted time with myself. Going out on dates. Eliminating noise. Clearing the calendar. Journaling my emotions and thoughts. My first dinner date alone I took a book. It was so awkward, like a blind date with a stranger. Then I graduated to movies. How do you feel about….? Was my go to question. I began to experience some amazing returns on this investment (ROI).
- Better Relationships-This was huge because my choice in who I shared space with shifted. Self-love became so important I needed people that would add value. Having true friendships meant a smaller circle with volume no longer a factor, but quality. My mom would often tell me if I could count my true friends on one hand in a lifetime I was lucky. She was right.
- Improved Sense of Self-This translated into confidence and truly being comfortable in my own skin. Self-reflection allowed me to build my identity not what had been imposed by others. The ambiguity of who I truly was made clearer. The years of shame, fear, lack of vulnerability, and confusion became a distant memory. This doesn’t mean that they don’t try to sneak in every once in a while. But, because who I am is unmovable they have no room to stay.
- Solid Decision Making-This is such a critical benefit. We are making decisions at all times whether we realize it or not. Self-reflection helps form values, life patterns, non-negotiable, and deep thinking practices. So, when decisions needed to be made it was more proactive and values aligned as opposed to reactive. Self-reflection also breeds patience and the desire for wisdom. This was so evident when deciding on going to graduate school. Making the decision to become a therapist was clear because of my deep passion for helping people. At the time I was an educator and my peers tended to go the education route for graduate school. My improved sense of self and purpose helped make the decision clear.
How Can I Practice Self-Reflection?
There is no one way or one right way to explore your essence. However, starting with a journal and answering some deep reflective questions is a good first step. Minimalism Made Simple has some great prompts.
- What am I avoiding?
- What habits did I achieve this week?
- How did I feel overall today?
- What thoughts are important and which are fleeting?
- Why do I feel the way I do about that event?
- What am I grateful for?
- What mood trend am I noticing?
- What on my to-do list was unnecessary or caused me stress?
Creating a beautiful healthy productive impactful life is the greatest reward. It’s also hard work. But, developing the practice of self-reflection and seeing it as a series of unending dates with yourself somehow takes the edge off. Happy dating!