Self-Reflection: An Essential tool on the Yoga Nerd Path
Self-Reflection is the first step to Self-Awareness.
What the heck does that mean? Let’s break it down.
Self-Awareness – knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions. Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence.
Self-Awareness is conscious, in the moment knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires. Self-awareness is a key factor in the healing path. It is the surveying tool needed to create a map of yourself. Once you have a map of yourself, you know where you want to go. But it’s not easy. Being self-aware is being present; it basically means living in the moment. It’s very hard to be self-aware. This is why learning self-reflection is so important.
Let’s talk briefly about being present and not present in your life. Most of us walk through life on automatic pilot. We have habits and reactions that drive our behavior without us even thinking about it. Driving a car is a good example.
Most of the time, when you are driving a car, you aren’t even aware of your foot switching from the brake to the gas pedal. You aren’t aware when you look in the side and rear view mirrors. It’s automatic. It’s as if the car has become a part of you. This is being on auto-pilot and you aren’t present in the moment.
When you are present in the moment while driving a car, you are very aware that you are inside a metal container with wheels and you are controlling this vehicle. You are aware that there are tons of other metal containers with wheels around you moving at high speeds.
Most of the time, we as drivers are on auto-pilot. We become present when there is danger of some sort. Driving on icy roads, a cop driving behind you, or driving at night are all examples of times we become present with our driving.
So, take this example into your own life. Do you remember what it felt like putting on your shoes this morning? Do you remember eating your breakfast? For some of us, we were eating our breakfast WHILE driving!
So, learning to be self-aware throughout your day is a life-long practice. I think self-reflection is a bit easier. A bit.
Self-Reflection – Meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions and motives.
Self-reflection means taking the time to look back at key moments of your day, or week, or life in general in which you may not have acted the way you thought was appropriate or healthy.
When self-reflecting, you are noticing what was happening inside yourself at that moment. You are just gathering information so you can use the knowledge in the future. Try not to make judgements on your behavior. Be kind to yourself. Ask yourself why you reacted or behaved a certain way. These are clues to look for in your behavior in the future. When you notice that behavior happening in real time, you are becoming self-aware. Once you are self-aware, you might be able to change that reaction or behavior in the future if need be.
For example, it is in my programming to make sure the people around me are at ease and comfortable. I naturally want to make a connection with people. This can put me in situations where I might say or not say something in an appropriate manner. It is up to me to learn to be present in the moment and stay true to my own beliefs and morals. For example, I will look back on a conversation and think to myself, “What that person said about my co-worker was really mean and I didn’t agree with it. But I didn’t say anything. Why? Because I didn’t want to create confrontation or make that person feel bad. But I feel bad now that I didn’t stand up for my co-worker.”
Each time I do this, I get closer and closer to being able to say something at the moment. The next time I am in the same situation, I am hopefully aware in the moment that I don’t agree with what the person is saying, but I still don’t say anything. And maybe the next time, I do say something in a very passive way so as not to rock the boat. Maybe one day, maybe, I’ll be able to say what I believe in that moment and not worry about that person’s feelings because I know I am right. Just writing that last sentence made me a little nervous. Baby Steps.
I’ve also done self-reflection when it comes to making eating choices. For example, during the holidays last year I ate way too much. I was miserable by New Year’s Eve. When I looked back, I realized I kept telling myself, “It’s the holidays! I never eat this stuff throughout the year! It’s fine. I want to celebrate with my friends and family and enjoy!” Yeah, seemed logical at the time. So, this year I have written a warning in my planner. The week of Thanksgiving it says, in big letters, “Do not over eat! You will be sad!” And at the start of December it says, “I know all the yummy food sounds awesome – Don’t Do it! You feel awful after and get all depressed. DON’T DO IT!” My hope is these messages will keep me more present and aware. We’ll see what happens.
So, how do you do this “Self-Reflection?”
Journaling – Journaling is a fantastic way to get to know yourself better. You don’t have to do it every day. But if you are trying to piece together how you feel about something, journaling is a great tool. Just set a timer for 20 minutes and start writing about whatever it is you are trying to understand. Just let the words come out without judgement or analysis at that moment. Just write down whatever pops into your mind. Even if it’s unrelated like, “I forgot I need to put the washed clothes in the dryer.” Hopefully, by the end of the 20 minutes, you will have some answers. Keep writing if you don’t. Or sit down another time later in the day and try again.
Meditation – Meditating on a situation is also a great tool. For some it is difficult at first, but it gets easier as you practice it. Simply sit in a comfortable position, take some deep breaths, and begin to “re-live” the situation. Be very present with how you feel. Sit with the emotions. What do they remind you of? Try not to judge the feelings, but identify them and acknowledge them. Maybe ask why you felt that way. I know sitting with the emotion can be uncomfortable sometimes, but if you honor that emotion, it will give you clues and then fade away. Emotions don’t last forever. Being with them and honoring them allows them to pass faster.
Ask a Trusted Friend – You would be amazed what the people close to you know about you that you don’t. The people closest to you have the advantage of observing you from the outside. AND, they are observing you with unconditional love. Asking a trusted friend what they think the motivations are behind your behaviors can be extremely eye opening.
My husband and my best friend have been the consiglieres in my life. Both have given me invaluable insights into my behavior. I don’t make a big decision in my life without running it past them first. They have been spot on in every situation (and have saved me from making big mistakes!!!!)
Find a Therapist – This is the more costly route, but definitely a slam-dunk way to figure yourself out. If you are having problems understanding your behaviors and habits and the emotions that coincide, then a therapist is definitely worth it. They are professionally trained to see through your BS and lead you to the side of understanding.
These are the top four Yoga Nerd tools I use for self-reflection. If none of these tools are for you, I’m sure there are other tools out there. A quick internet search will help you find them. The important thing is finding a tool for self-reflection that works for you. It is a key stepping stone on the path to self-discovery and healing.
Who are the consiglieres in your life?
What tools do you already use?
What puzzle about your life are you trying to figure out?
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