• 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 newfound interest and curiosity.
  • As we begin to dig deeper, we may question our very being, asking, “Why do I feel this way?”
  • The importance of self-reflection can’t be understated, but it can become unhealthy if it becomes obsessive.
  • 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:

  1. Physical
  2. Mental
  3. Emotional
  4. Spiritual

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 and importance of 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, part of the importance of self-reflection is that this process allows us to go deeper as we inquire:

  • 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 importance of self-reflection lies in its ability to assist you in creating positive change, not to help bring you down! Let self-reflection instead lead you toward better ways to support yourself, practice self-compassion, and listen to your inner knowing. If you want to experience the benefits of self-reflection but need a little assistance, working with a life coach can prove helpful.

*Rev. Connie Habash is a licensed marriage and family therapist, yoga teacher, and interfaith minister.*