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Practising Self-Reflection to develop Self-Awareness

Posted 01 October 2020
by Clare Davy

"The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination. Until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life." – Iyanla Vanzant

Self-reflection is conscious introspection, assessing who you are, what values you hold and why you respond to situations the way you do.  Reflection means to think about something. Having the ability to self-reflect means – reflecting on how you behave and what thoughts enter your mind in different situations - you can build self-awareness.  And from there you can monitor your thoughts and emotions as they arise then respond appropriately.

Why develop self-awareness?

According to Daniel Goleman, becoming self-aware is central to developing emotional intelligence. Being able to monitor and reflect on our emotions and thoughts is key to understanding ourselves better and enables us to manage our thoughts, feelings and behaviours proactively. This will not only lead to a more honest view of yourself but also help you build a more open relationship with other people.

Having self-awareness allows you to see where your thoughts and emotions are taking you.  Consider the following:

  • Are your thoughts filled with negative self-talk?
  • Or, do you remind yourself that you are truly capable and worthwhile?

Being aware of your thoughts allows you to take control of your emotions and behaviours so you can make changes you want in your life. Until you have a moment to moment awareness of your thoughts, emotions, words and behaviour, you will have difficulty making changes to the direction of your life. As you develop self-awareness, you are better able to make changes to your thoughts and emotions then your interpretations of events.   For example, noticing that negative self-talk and becoming aware of it allows you to change it – in whatever way works for you – reciting a personal mantra, listening to music or going for a walk.

How to practice self-reflection to build self-awareness

  1. Assess your self-talk:  Tuning into your thoughts is the first step in self-awareness.  Listen to yourself. What is going on in your mind? Is it a series of negative thoughts that make you feel down? Or are you always looking on the bright side? Take some during the day to notice your thoughts and consider whether they tend to be positive or negative.  
  2. Learn to look at yourself objectively: It's nearly impossible to look at yourself objectively, but it is always worth a shot.  The main idea here is to evaluate your decisions. Even better, find some trustworthy friends to talk with and listen to their feedback and criticisms.
  3. Meditate: Meditation is the practice of improving your ability to be present in that moment. Most forms of meditation begin with focusing on your breathing.  This does not need to be formal or ritualistic. Greater clarity can also come from regular moments of pause and reflection.  Perhaps, try to gain greater awareness by simply finding a few seconds to focus on your breathing. Often the most frequent form of “meditation” that people practise comes from doing seemingly mundane tasks that inspire a degree of therapeutic serenity, including washing dishes, working in the garden or going on a walk. During these meditations ask yourself:
    1. What am I trying to achieve?
    2. What am I doing that is working?
    3. What am I doing that is slowing me down?
    4. What can I do to change?
  4. Write your manifesto: A manifesto is a declaration of intentions, motives and your overall vision. The main purpose of self-awareness is self-improvement, so it makes sense that you need to have goals. If you're struggling with that part, a manifesto is a great way to push yourself into figuring out what you want.

You know the saying - ‘Stay true to yourself’?  While this is important advice, it is not easy to stay true to yourself if you do not know who you are.  By practising self-reflection and developing your self-awareness, you will better understand your strengths and limitations, build self-confidence, and potentially open up opportunities that may not have been available before.

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