What is Self- Reflection?
The act of pondering on our thoughts, our intentions, our speech, and our actions to gain a better understanding of who we are, what we believe, our soul purpose and how we can better our Self.
Why is Self-Reflection important?
Self- Reflection can help us to improve our emotional, spiritual, mental and physical well-being.
How can Self-Reflection help me?
When one reflects on their past experiences- he or she can learn from it. We can learn what makes us happy, what makes us feel anxious or down, and through analysing our behaviours, attitudes, coping strategies and reasons for our reactions to certain past experiences - it can help us to gain better control of our selves and use of our speech and actions in order to help prevent similar emotional negative experiences in the future. Negative experiences of the past can make us stronger and more able to cope with challenges we face in the present and future.
How can my Self-Reflection help others?
When we reflect on our own emotional experiences that have been associated with events that have occured in our lives- we can develop our ability to empathize with others who are facing or who have been through similiar experiences. So, for example if you have been through a traumatic event e.g. losing a child in a tragic road accident- by reflecting on this made you feel, what helped you and what didnt help you to continue with facing the day to day challenges of life; and when we share our thoughts and reflections and experiences with others- the person who self reflects can enable another individual to cope better with their negative experiences. By helping someone else through sharing and talking about our past experiences, it can help to bring out a positive purpose give meaning to the person who suffered the negative experience- and help us to bring light to others during dark times, and hope to others who might be feeling hopeless.
Through self-reflection, individuals often feel more positive, and their energies seem to radiate unto others and make them feel happy too. When we feel happy ourselevs, we are more likely to take part in acts of kindness which can then make others feel happier too.
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. Often people feel more able to reflect when they are in a peaceful, tranquil, comfortable space without distraction. Self-reflection can initially be an uncomfortable and painful experience- because as we think about unpleasant experiences, it can bring about emotions that were present at the time of the event which if we haven't faced at the time can cause us anxiety and be a negative emotional experience. However, by believing in the importance of self-reflection, if we continue to put our fears to one side and face these emotions, it is often the best way to learn about ourselves and our environments.
If you are new to the whole self- reflective process it might be worthwhile beginning with some simple questions. Some examples are:
Who am I? Why am I here? What do I want from life? What 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 do others like about me and why? What do I not like about myself 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?
'what' and 'why' questions can be a good start to self-reflection.... They can help us to decide and define our purpose for our lives- help us to understand what gives us meaning in life. Once we understand this- we can use it to enable us to think of ways that we can shape our behaviour in the present and future and change our environments in order for us to be more likely to fulfil our purpose. Once we start the process of understanding ourselves, and knowing who we are, we can focus on how we can be true to ourself- and once we start to be true to ourselves, we naturally become happier and more positive, and it can help us to let go of our past...
When reflecting on a certain experience, one may ask: what happened? why did it happen? was there anything that I did that could have influenced why this happened to me? What can I learn from this experience that I can use to help myself and others? Why is it important that I reflect on this experience?
'how' questions are the next step:
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 can learn- take from that experience what we have learnt, and pass it on to others. Some negative experiences may have occurred due to a mistake that we have made in out past- it can be helpful to remember that we are all human, and can make mistakes- what is important is that we learn from them and try not to make the same mistake again. We are less likely to keep making the same mistakes once we can 'define' them as mistakes' because we have established that our actions have led to negativity in our lives or in others in one way or another. Self- reflection is a great way of helping us to 'define our mistakes.'
Sometimes when we reflect, we decide that a negative event happened due to the actions of another person. This can create feelings of anger and hatred and resentment which can then have a negative effect on our own lives and therefore on others around us. Even from the negativity of others, through self-reflection one can learn from the experience and mistakes of others. For example if somebody has been unjust to you, we can reflect on how the actions of the other person made us feel, so that we may better emphasize with others that are going through similar situations. We can adjust our behaviours so that we don't make the same mistakes and cause negativity in the lives of others like what was done to us. Through reflection we can try to understand and make excuses for the person that we feel may have been unjust towards us- and through reflecting on our own mistakes in the past we can try to empathise with them and why they may have acted in a certain way. Once we are able to do this, we are more likely to be able to 'forgive' others for their mistakes and negative behaviour- and through forgiving others, we are able to 'let go' of the anger, hatred and resentment that we may have initially felt for that person, removing that negative energy from ourselves too.
At other times we may find that through self-reflection we are not able to 'understand' why a specific event has occurred- all we know is that it happened, and that it left us feeling a certain way. This experience itself can be very helpful. Through reflecting on the ability to not understand an experience-it can teach us to learn humility about our lack of knowledge of the universe, and it can be helpful to remind ourselves that we do not have all the answers- and sometimes things happen for reasons beyond our ability to understand. Humans can sometimes by nature tend to feel the need to be able to understand and explain everything that occurs in their lives and those around them. We sometimes get carried away by assuming that we are self-sufficient and all knowledgeable- which can be a very self-destructive way of looking at life- it can lead to ingratitude and arrogance and make our souls feel less prepared to be able to cope and adapt to a major event that might occur in our lives like bereavement of a loved one, breakdown of a relationship, major physical injury etc. When events then happen which we do not expect or understand it can leave us feeling lost, hopeless, and make us more likely to blame others and not take responsibility for our lives. We are much more likely to suffer with post-traumatic stress type symptoms if our souls are not prepared for a worst- case scenario. Through reflection of events that have occurred in our lives, it can help us to 'let go' of the need to control our lives and help us to remember that we do not know the future, we cannot control the past- and there is a feeling of 'Peace' that can come with 'surrendering' to a Source greater than ourselves which we cannot understand- as long as we try our best to lead a life that is 'positive' and helps others.
Reflecting on a positive experience can also be extremely helpful. It can help us to connect our actions to positive emotions and feelings to ourselves and to others around us and hence make it more likely that we will continue that behaviour.
Sometimes an experience that may have been positive for us can lead to negativity in others around us. For example driving around in a fast car can be dangerous and put others' lives at risk. Or indulging in a hobby that provides short term satisfaction such as drinking alcohol, or taking illicit drugs may lead us to lose control of our behaviour and commit a deed that can cause destruction to our relationships. By reflecting on our behaviour and reasons for it, it can help us to take responsibility in our lives and be more in control of our desires for worldly pleasures that can cause harm to others- such as lust, greed, sloth etc- and we often find that long term continuation in events or experiences which provide a short term satisfaction can seem like a delusion that forsakes us in our hour of need and unless we reflect and learn from them- we can lose the ability to hold on to a longer term feeling of inner peace and realisation.
(Above writing based on reflections of Dr Lale Tuncer)