What is Self- Reflection?
The act of pondering our thoughts, our intentions, our speech, and our actions to gain a better understanding of who we are, what we really believe, our purpose and how we can better ourselves.
Why is Self-Reflection important?
Self- Reflection can help us to improve our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
When we truly reflect on our past experiences we can come to know what makes us happy and what makes us feel anxious or sad. By reviewing our past behaviors, we can study and evaluate our responses to our life challenges. Did we cope well? How did we contribute to our own joy or suffering? Reflection on past experience can can make us stronger and more able to cope with challenges we face in the present and future and more prepared to live life happily.
How can my Self-Reflection help others?
When we reflect on our own emotional experiences we can develop our ability to empathize with others who may be facing similar experiences or emotions. By sharing past experiences, we can help others find positive purpose and meaning in times of difficulty.
Through self-reflection, we feel more positive. Our energy seems to radiate to others and help them share in our serenity and happiness. The happiness we feel and the happiness we share is a powerful source of energy to enable us to do more acts of kindness and graciousness.
How can I become more Self-Reflective?
We can be mindful and reflective in everything we do but it takes time and experience to develop the ability to be self- aware even in the chaos of our normal day to day lives. Most of us feel more able to reflect when they are in a peaceful, tranquil, comfortable space without distraction. (There are those few who feel at peace on loud busses and trains!) Self-reflection can initially be an uncomfortable and painful experience. It is not always easy to review unpleasant experiences or to re-experience traumatic events. With a little trust in ourselves and perseverance, we can set aside our fears and face ourselves honestly.
If you are new to the whole self- reflective process it might be worthwhile beginning with some simple questions. Try these out. Pick a few and sit with them a while.
Who am I?
Why am I here in this world?
What do I really want from life?
What truly makes me happy?
What makes me sad?
What situations cause me to become anxious?
What situations make me feel at ease?
What situations make me feel at peace?
What do like about myself and why?
What don’t I like about myself and why?
What do others like about me and why?
What do others not like about me and why?
What do I want to achieve in my life and why? What is the meaning of success to me?
Those are “What” questions. “Why” questions can take us to a deeper level.
“Why” questions take us into the depth of our intentions and wants.
When reflecting on a certain experience, we probably know what happened. We go deeper.
Why did it happen?
Why did I do what I did?
Why did I feel like I felt?
“How” questions help us to understand the impact of our actions and feelings.
How has the experience affected me?
How has the experience affected others?
How did it make me feel?
How did it make others feel?
How can I learn from this experience to help myself?
How can I learn from the experience to help others?
When we reflect on negative past experiences, we take the lessons learnt and share them with others. we have learnt. Facing our past honestly reminds us that we are human and while all humans make mistakes, we can learn to do better. Self- reflection is a great way to be aware of our errors and to avoid them in the future.
Sometimes when we reflect, we understand that a negative event happened due to the actions of another person. This can create feelings of anger, hatred and resentment. These feeling can impact both our inner life and the way we deal with others. By reflecting on our own feelings, our own responses to unjust or unloving treatment, we can empathise with others and offer guidance for handling those emotions.
Reflection can help us empathize with those who have hurt us.
Understanding our own actions and motivations allows to understand others, even those who have hurt us. Accepting our own faults and our own humanity is a door to true forgiveness of others. Forgiving others allows us to 'let go' of the anger, hatred and resentment that we may harbored for that person. Liberating us from those feelings and liberating them from their effects.
Self-reflection can lead us to the conclusion that we don’t always understand why things happen to us or why we do what we do. We may know the feelings that those actions aroused in us, or still arouse in us, but sometimes even that is not clear. We are human. We are imperfect and, in the end, we simply don’t understand everything. This lesson in humility reminds us that we do not have all the answers. Sometimes things happen for reasons beyond our ability to understand. We often feel the need to understand and explain everything that happens in our world. We can get carried away by assuming that we should somehow be self-sufficient and all knowing. This way of looking at the world can be a very self-destructive. It can lead not only to arrogance but to ingratitude. All of us will face challenges which we may never understand; the death of loved ones, the breakdown of a cherished relationship, a life-changing physical or emotional injury. If we are not already aware of our limitations, these events can leave us feeling lost and hopeless inside or lashing out at others outside. There is an inner peace that comes with letting go of the need to understand and control everything in our world.
We have focused a lot on negative experiences but, in truth, reflecting on a positive experience can also be an amazing gift. When we know what truly makes us and others happy, we are much more likely to keep doing those things, bringing joy to ourselves and others. Looking at our positive experiences, can include understanding the impact of those behaviors on others. (I might like to drive really fast, but that puts pedestrians in danger!) We can also address behaviors, like drinking and drugs, which might give us a short-term recreational pleasure but long-term suffering. We will find that many short-term pleasures can create conditions that impede long term inner peace and self-realization.
(Above writing based on reflections of Lale Tuncer and Lee Weissman)