The importance of self-reflection

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In life, we feel that we make mistakes: in our interactions with others, and in our interactions with ourselves.

It is easy to dwell on these ‘mistakes;’ to beat yourself up for something you said or something you should have said.

“I should be more confident.”

“I need to be a better public speaker.”

“I’m too loud.”

“I have to start thinking before I speak.”

“I’m not funny enough.”

Often, noticing our ‘imperfections’ can turn into a thought spiral in our heads. Your mind becomes clouded with a negative image of yourself. You forget the positive aspects of your character that people like and admire you for.

Mostly, people tend to look for the best in others, so what you identify as a negative character trait might be seen as a positive character trait by others. Your shyness may be interpreted as modesty or your outspokenness could be understood as honesty.

But, before you start worrying about what others think of you, you must acknowledge what you think of yourself.

Forget anyone else exists and imagine you are the earth’s sole inhabitant for a day. You can go anywhere you want and do anything you like. No one is judging or watching you:

  • Do you know what makes you happy?
  • Do you think positive thoughts?
  • Do you like your own company?

You may say, “A whole day, alone! I couldn’t do it. I’m a people-person – I’m my best self around others.”

Obviously, that is absolutely fine. We are all people-people with at least one person (even if that person is yourself, or your God (if you are religious)). Certain people can help to bring out the best in you.

However, if you are not comfortable and confident with yourself, it is difficult to build mutually beneficial relationships with others.

If you answered ‘no’ to any of the above questions, it is probable that you don’t entirely know yourself yet – and who does! We spend our whole lives searching and striving for our best selves.

It is tiring to say the least. So let’s take baby steps.

Focus in on improving your internal self, and the jump to improving your external self will be easier. Your relationships with others will become stronger, better and easier for both parties.

Self-reflection is something that would be beneficial for you to start doing – but not over-doing to the extent that you get sucked into a thought spiral.

At the end of each week maybe, ask yourself:

  • Have I done/discovered things that make me happy?
  • Have I thought positive thoughts about myself/others/the world?
  • Have I enjoyed my own company?

You could even start making weekly resolutions (and write them down if that helps). For example:

  • Try something new e.g. karate, reading, meditation etc.
  • Speak to a colleague/peer I’ve never spoken to before
  • Compliment a stranger  

Self-reflection and self-improvement are so important because, they will help you to like the person you are and stop you from struggling to be someone you are not, just to please others.

If people do not embrace and enhance your character, they are not positive people to surround yourself with. Surround yourself with positive people and do not be afraid of constructive criticism.

Yes, we can learn to moderate our behaviour to reach the ‘Golden Mean’ of character as Aristotle preached.

But, at the end of the day, if we were all temperate beings, we would all be the same! – an army of ‘perfect’ robots devoid of emotion, passion and drive.

So, turn your ‘mistakes’ into learning curves or, equally, lean to embrace your ‘imperfections’ as the things that make you, you.

And remember that your first duty is always to yourself.