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Practising self-reflection to develop self-awareness

Health & Wellbeing

What is self-reflection?

Self-reflection is looking at yourself internally, assessing and making judgements about what you see.  Reflection means to think about something. Having the ability to self-reflect means you can build self-awareness.  And from there you can monitor your inner world – your thoughts and emotions as they arise.

Why develop self-awareness?

According to Daniel Goleman, becoming self-aware is the central to developing your emotional intelligence. Being able to monitor and reflect on our emotions and thoughts is key to understanding ourselves better and enables us to proactively manage our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This will not only lead to a more honest and genuine relationship with yourself but also 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 in the direction of your life. As you develop self-awareness you are able to make changes in the thoughts and interpretations you make in your mind.  By changing the interpretations in your mind allows you to change your emotions.  For example, noticing that negative self-talk and becoming aware of it gives you an opportunity 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

  • Assess your self-talk.  Tuning into your thoughts is the first step in self-awareness.  Listen to yourself. What’s 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.  ​
  • Learn to look at yourself objectively: It's nearly impossible to look at yourself objectively, but it's always worth a shot.  The main idea here is to study and criticise your decisions. Even better, find some trustworthy friends to talk with and listen to their criticisms.​
  • Meditate. Meditation is the practice of improving your ability to be present in that moment. Most forms of meditation begin with focusing on the breath.  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.  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?

Often the most frequent form of “meditation” people practice derives from carrying out seemingly mundane tasks that inspire a degree of therapeutic serenity, including washing dishes, working in the garden, or taking a walk.  

  • Write your manifesto: - 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’?  This is really important advice, but it’s not easy to stay true to yourself if you don’t know who you are.  By self-reflecting and developing your self-awareness will enable you to understand your strengths and limitations, build self-confidence, and potentially open up opportunities that may not have been available before this introspection.

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