- Self-reflection is the key to self-awareness: it allows us to look neutrally at our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions.
- Through this practice, we are able to look at ourselves with interest and curiosity.
- We begin to dig deeper, to question our very being: why do I feel this way? Where did these thoughts stem from? What are these physical sensations?
- However, self-reflection can turn dangerous if it becomes obsessive—in such a case, self-judgment takes its place and your inner critic comes out.
- You should instead let self-reflection lead you to growth, positivity, and happiness.
Self-reflection is a skill; the ability to be aware of yourself. It is a particular kind of awareness that is applied to yourself on many levels:
When we engage in self-reflection, we’re developing what is known as an inner witness. This is the ability to look at yourself—even your own thoughts and even what is beneath the thoughts and emotions—from a slight distance. It’s almost like peering at your image in the mirror, except that the potential for self-reflection goes much deeper than your outer appearance.
With self-reflection, we look at ourselves with interest, curiosity, and inquiry, particularly when exploring our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. First, you notice exactly what you are feeling in your body, experiencing in your emotions, and thinking in your mind. That is the essential content of your experience. But then, self-reflection calls us to go deeper with inquiry:
- How did that thought arise?
- What is really happening when I tell myself I’m feeling sad?
- What might be deeper still than this feeling of anxiety?
- When I experience these sensations in my body, what are they expressing about how I feel about my situation?
Self-reflection is an essential skill for personal growth. Without it, we walk around unconscious and often reactive to others and even our own selves. If you have ever had an emotional response to something or blurted out words that you later regretted, you can see how self-reflection might assist you in choosing more healthy responses and changing behaviors (even thoughts) that aren’t working well for you.
There’s an infinite capacity to self-reflect within us, and regular, consistent self-reflection with support can deepen your process of personal and spiritual growth and transformation. But there is a word of caution here: if self-reflection becomes obsessive, it can turn into self-judgment. Use your self-reflection to observe if you are witnessing neutrally what you are experiencing, or if it’s just a sneaky way for your inner critic to rear its head. Self-reflection that becomes critical can turn into comparing yourself to others, believing that you’re falling short, and reinforcing false ideas about yourself (like ‘I’m not good enough’). The intent of self-reflection is to assist you in positive change, not to bring you down! Let self-reflection instead lead you to better ways to support yourself, practice self-compassion, and listen to your inner knowing.
*Rev. Connie Habash is a licensed marriage and family therapist, yoga teacher, and interfaith minister.*