“The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination… until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life.” – Iyanla Vanzant
When I was a child, I assumed that my parents knew everything that there was to know, and therefore assumed that when I reached adulthood, I would be the same way. Then I reached 18 and thought, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll have it sorted at 21’. Then I reached 21 and thought, ‘Huh? Maybe it’s 25 then.’ Then I reached 25… and so on! The fact is that we will never know everything, and there will be many situations in which you have absolutely no clue what you are doing.
Every single one of us is a work-in-progress. Although it is impossible to be perfect, perfection is what we tend to strive for (check out optimalism for a more compassionate alternative). This applies to both our abilities and our behaviours. Self-reflection is an absolutely vital part of personal growth. For us to progress personally and professionally we must learn to be honest about our own tendencies and work out how to be with other people in the most considerate, useful, positive and, indeed, inspiring manner. Honesty with yourself is the key to moving forward. Let’s look at a few ways to get started…
1. Take Conscious Reflection Time
The world is noisy. It’s busy. There are people, events, devices, conversations, machines… countless distractions everywhere you go. I was working by a swimming pool recently, the bright light, the noise, the children, the mugginess… it all had me craving for silence. Silence is a commodity that is rarer than it used to be. And I don’t just mean an absence of sound, I mean an absence of external stimulus. Take time to be silent and to ponder the self. What did you do today? How did you react to situations’ What emotions did you feel? Why? A weekly, or even daily reflection is a great way to begin to observe and understand yourself.
2. Observe the Good and the Bad
There are multiple sides to us all, and it is important to consider them all. Oddly, many people find that it is easier to identify what they are doing that they don’t like, than to identify their positive features. How easy do you find these two things comparatively? Not sure? Take time for self-reflection, and perhaps you will find the answer!
It is important to think about behaviours as a whole, so that our perception is balanced. It also familiarises us with every element of ourselves whilst encouraging us to be pragmatic and structured about the solutions to those problem areas, as opposed to being reactive and haphazard.
3. Be Wrong
It is so important to be wrong. Yes, when you are wrong you may react to it in the moment in a way that is dismissive or defensive, but eventually you must learn to accept mistakes and mis-steps. There is real strength in admitting fault, as it is not always easy, but it is totally necessary for personal growth, and for the trust that you invite from others.
4. Feel Your Feelings
Do not ignore your feelings. In fact, do the opposite. If you feel an extreme emotion well up inside you, notice it. You need not let it manifest in your behaviour, but log it by naming it and reflect on it later. If we suppress extreme feelings it leads to repressed emotions, which can lead to an unhealthy outburst, and a lack of clarity about why you feel that way.
5. Understand Your Feelings
When you reflect on your feelings and reactions, take time to try and understand them. Why did you feel that way? What was it that made you react like that? You may not have the answers right away. However, if you reflect often enough, you will see patterns and you will begin to learn deep lessons about your emotional life. That said, not all emotions come with meanings so do not dwell unnecessarily. It can be just as useful to observe emotion arise and dissipate like clouds in the sky.
Honesty about the self is not something that society teaches us, therefore it is generally not habitual. It will take practice; daily practice but this habit will eventually equip you with more knowledge that you can use to succeed. You will know what you like, what makes you uncomfortable, what your limits are, and what you need to push beyond them. These can all be used to your advantage and to aid you in leading a healthy emotional life.
This article was written for us by International Mindfulness Advocate and Conscious Visionary, Neil Seligman. Neil is dedicated to sharing the power of mindfulness globally, transforming lives, and inspiring excellence in all aspects of human endeavour. He is the Founder of The Conscious Professional, the Author of 100 Mindfulness Meditations, and the Originator of Soul Portrait Photography. For more information about Neil, visit his page here