Facing The Unknown: The Courage For Self-Reflection
Who am I?
Whether out of exasperation, wonderment, sarcasm, or genuine curiosity, you’ve probably asked that question at one point or another. And you’re not alone. The world is obsessed with self-discovery.
It does take courage to decide to face the unknown and self reflect . There are therapists, clubs, groups, and techniques all dedicated to helping you find yourself. There’s so much information available to you, it might be hard to figure out where to start. But the first step on the road to self-discovery is introspection.
What is Introspection?
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as, “the process of observing the operations of one’s own mind with a view to discovering the laws that govern the mind.” It comes from a Latin term meaning, “to look within.” So introspection helps us see ourselves more clearly and understand ourselves better. How can this process help you?
Let’s say you’re on your way to a friend’s house and you get a little lost. If you call your friend to ask for directions, what’s the first thing he’ll ask you? Where are you? Why? Because it’s impossible to give you good direction without knowing where your current location.
The same is true in life. We all have goals we want to achieve, qualities we want to develop, and new things we want to learn. But we can’t reach those destinations if we have no idea who we are right now. Introspection is the door to knowing ourselves better, we just have to walk through it.
The Benefits of Introspection
How else do we benefit from introspection? We become better people. In what ways?
● Introspection can help you identify and get rid of harmful thinking.
● It can help you have a more positive view of yourself and others.
● It’ll boost your confidence in tackling difficult problems.
● It contributes to stronger relationships.
● It’ll help you reach your goals.
Why It’s Hard
So if introspection is so great and delivers so many benefits, then why do many people struggle to do it? We live in an extremely fast-paced world. And because we’re deeply entrenched in the busyness of day-to-day living, most of us feel like we don’t have time for introspection.
We’re often exhausted and running on auto-pilot. The time we do have is spent stressing about the next thing on our to-do list. So what can you do?
Stop. Take a deep breath. And create just a little bit of space for yourself in your day, even if it’s just five minutes. Find a quiet place where you can think clearly without judging yourself.
● When I wake up in the morning, do I feel ready to take on the day?
● Am I reaching my personal goals?
● What concerns do I have about the future?
● Am I living the life I want?
● Do I have issues that interfere with my happiness?
● Do I need to put more effort into my relationships?
● Who am I?
● Am I stressing out about things that are beyond my control?
● Am I thinking about negative things before I fall asleep?
● Am I holding on to something I need to let go of?
● What’s most important to me?
But what if those questions feel too big and overwhelming? What’s the starting point for an introspection beginner?
Introspection Begins with Observing Your Behaviors
Psychiatrist Judith Orloff describes a technique we often use to understand other people better. More than just listening to what others have to say, we often find ourselves interpreting their non-verbal cues. We observe their behavior objectively and try and understand how they’re really feeling or what they’re really thinking. Why do we do that?
According to Orloff, what we say communicates only 7% of our meaning. 55% of communication is through body language and the rest comes through our tone of voice. Even if you didn’t know the stats, you likely have learned through personal experience that there’s usually a lot going on behind the words a person says. But how can this help you learn more about yourself?
Transform Inc suggests the following, three-tiered technique.
● How is your mind? What are you thinking about? Where is your attention focused right now? Notice and root out any self-judgment, negative comparisons, or assumptions.
● How is your heart? How are you really feeling right now? And how are your emotions affecting you?
● How is your body? Are you tired, tense, energized? What is your gut telling you?
It can be difficult to observe ourselves honestly, but it’s definitely worth the effort. The more we practice self-observation, the easier it will become.
Who am I? You might not feel like you can answer that question right now. But by making time for yourself and practicing self-observation, you’ll understand yourself better and experience all the benefits of introspection.
Facing The Unknown: The Courage For Self-Reflection
Isn’t it scary to think about how you got to where you are now? Or maybe it’s scarier to think about where you could have been if you had taken the shots you didn’t? That’s why self-reflection takes courage. It’s scary to ask yourself the tough questions to determine whether you’re happy where you are or if you took some wrong turns.
If you’re not careful, if you aren’t more mindful about the direction you’re heading in, then you could end up miles from where you want to be. I encourage you to take courage and practice self-reflection. You will have the strength to face the unknown if you have the courage for self-reflection. Use the two questions below regularly to keep you on track.
• Do I Use My Time Wisely?
Time is fleeting, and once it’s gone you cannot get it back. Your goal should be to use your time wisely. For example, you can relax for an hour and it can be productive because it’s helping you relieve stress. If you’re stuck in a job you hate, but you don’t leave it because it offers decent pay, what are you doing with your skills? What value is it adding to your life? Does it offer you anything beyond the ability to pay your bills.
You need to have an honest conversation with yourself. Imagine yourself ten years from now looking back on this moment. What would future you want or think? There’s nothing wrong with a stable income if you find a way to use your skills, strengths, and indulge your passions. But are you?
• Do I Take Things For Granted?
Do you? In the event of a breakup or a breakdown of a relationship, self-reflection is an important part of the healing process. Yet, we tend to look at everything the other person did and cast the blame in front of them. Have you ever taken stock of your role in the relationship? Perhaps you took them for granted?
You’re mad because they saw through it all and walked away. You hate your job, but it pays the bills and keeps a roof over your head, so there’s something of value it offers. One of the scariest aspects of self-reflection is what we learn about our true selves. However, if you have the courage to learn it, you have the strength to move forward.
The beauty of these two questions is that you can ask them of yourself at any time for a quick bout of self-reflection. You can also sit down and think more deeply on them for serious self-reflection. It is as simple as you make it.
Courage is simply the ability to do something even though it terrifies you. It isn’t simply the opposite or absence of fear, it’s the ability to act in the face of it. Without self-reflection it’s difficult to move forward in life.
Through self-reflection you recognize patterns, strengths, weaknesses, values, and it’s all about building your self-awareness. How can you face the unknown if you are unarmed? Courage provides you with the power to quit your job and start a business. It gives you the strength to end a bad relationship or start a new one. It gives you the bravery to make and embrace change.
Therefore, courage is an important part of growth. It takes courage to reflect and it takes courage to face the unknown. The only way to find fulfillment in life is to pursue an authentic life. You cannot live authentically without first having the courage to practice self-reflection and arm yourself to face the unknown.
Journaling is a good way to start your introspection journey. First, decide which period of time you want to reflect on. Do you want to cast your mind back 5 years? Or back to last week?
Begin by taking stock of what was going on during this time. This will be easy if you’re already a regular journal keeper. Think about whether you traveled during that time, where you went, what milestones you experienced (either familial, personal, or work-related).
Ask whether there were changes in your passion projects, relationships, or work situation. You can’t look back and leave it at that, you have to ask questions and force yourself to be open and honest about what was going on during that period of your life.
Find the highlights, but look for lowlights, too. Are there specific people or certain activities that stand out as highlights (or lowlights)? It isn’t easy to revisit your low points, but it’s an important part of the process. You can’t grow or experience peace unless you do.
For every lowlight you uncover, I want you to ask yourself if it was within your realm of control. If the answer is yes, then you will need to consider how you will handle a similar situation next year. If the answer is no, then you need to think about how you will make peace with it.
Your journal should contain lowlights and highlights, with time to reflect on each individually. You can also consider what you’d like to accomplish in the short-term, mid-term, and long-term.
What would you like to change in life?
What do you think you can and want to improve? This is how you find perspective and clarity in life.
So, when should you consider self-reflection?
It’s a useful tool to use weekly, but if you do so regularly you likely won’t need to get into it as deeply as you do the first time you try.
You may want to leave it as an end of month exercise, and then a final annual review.
Through the process, you will gain perspective and it will help you ensure you’re living your life to the max.
If you fail to self-reflect, then you lose all sight of perspective. This is only going to lead you to get caught up with the stupid things, things that don’t matter.
You will lose sight of what does matter.