The Importance of Self-Reflection

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle


What is Self-Reflection?

Self-reflection is a process to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves and our experiences. It is the effort required to think about our life events and to develop an insight into them.

Self-Reflection vs Reflective Practice

Reflection is its wider sense is a broad analysis of all aspects of your life. Self-reflection is knowing how your personal thoughts and actions impact on your direction in life.

Reflective practice, on the other hand, is specific to our professional context. There are many models of reflective practice that can be used at work to help us identify areas for development.

Why Is Self-Reflection Important?

If we don’t make time for self-reflection, we are likely to repeat the same patterns of behaviour and thinking which would inhibit growth or positive change.

The simple practice of self-reflection can make a positive impact in many aspects of our lives, such as:

  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Developing emotional intelligence
  • Building a better understanding of others
  • Developing creative thinking skills
  • Improving relationships
  • Enhancing personal development
  • Reducing stress
  • Improving our decision-making
  • Helping in competency-based interview situations

How to Develop Self-Reflection Skills

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

reflective thinking

Consider Your Values When You Reflect

Our values determine the guiding principles for how we want to live our lives.

Ask yourself questions to reveal more about yourself and the things that are important to you:

What are my 5 core values?

Why are they important to me?

What would my perfect day look like?

What do I enjoy doing?

If there were no limitations, what would I do?

Being clear about your values can empower you to create a future that reflects your important beliefs.

Watch Your Reactions

Whilst it can be easy to fly off the handle when life throws you a curve ball, remember that emotional reactions can lead to more stress or chaos. Controlling your reactions and applying a positive mindset can help you to feel more centred which will make you more effective when dealing with challenging circumstances.

See our article on building resilience for tips to work through adversity.

Write A Self-Reflection Journal

Sitting down and capturing your thoughts in a journal can help to focus your mind and consider ways to move forward. Just start writing and see where your thoughts take you.

Personal reflection is not just about wanting to change something, it can also be an opportunity to take stock and highlight things that have gone well. Why not write a daily gratitude journal?

“When the mind looks outward, it is swayed by the heavy winds of the world. But when the mind faces inward, we can find our center and rest in stillness.” – Haemin Sunim

meditation mindfulness

Practice Mindfulness

Find time to engage in mindfulness activities, such as meditation or yoga, that encourage you to breathe deeply, focus your mind and be in the present moment. As well as being good for your physical wellbeing, these activities can also develop your self-awareness.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Be honest about your flaws, weaknesses or assumptions, and seek to improve them. It’s not about dwelling on what you can’t do but to recognise specific areas for growth and proactively work towards addressing them.

“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

Ask questions to achieve happiness, goals and personal growth

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin

As the inner workings of the human mind are so complex, we can never truly know ourselves completely. But it’s important to acknowledge ourselves in imperfect states, be aware of our behaviours and how we present ourselves to the world. Reflect on questions, such as:

Why do I act the way I do?

Why do I think the way I do?

What could I do differently?

How do I want to move forward?

self-reflection choices

Creative Self-Reflection

Engaging in creative activities, such as painting, poetry or songwriting, can help us channel our emotions and express our response to life events. This positive and productive form of self-reflection can also be very therapeutic.

Reflecting With Others

Ask a trusted friend or someone in your close network to ask you questions to challenge your own thinking. By getting perspective from others, you can gain a deeper understanding of yourself.

Remember that getting feedback from others is only helpful if you know what to do with it. So, ask yourself these questions:

How can I use this information?

Which aspects of my own self-reflection does this relate to?

Does it highlight how or why I do things?

Next Steps For Reflection

Time spent on self-reflection will ensure that you are focusing on the things that matter the most. But self-reflection is only useful when it’s followed by purposeful action. Put your insights into words and then take action!

By learning about ourselves, we can develop our own toolkit of knowledge, skills and abilities which we can draw on to help us perform to the best of our ability and bring about positive change.

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