The Importance of Self-Reflection

We’ve all heard of self-reflection, and I’d wager most of us would feel comfortable defining it. But generally, self-reflection exists more as a concept that’s understood in theory rather than in practice. How many of us genuinely self-reflect consistently? And how could we? Why should we? Today’s world is full of information, activity, and resources; it’s hard to find the time or sufficient justification for why self-reflection is needed in the first place. Yet, it’s that abundance that makes self-reflection all the more essential right now. In the following, we’ll take a look at what self-reflection is, why we all need it now more than ever, and the value it can bring into our lives.

What is Self-Reflection?

In the simplest terms, self-reflection is setting time aside to evaluate and give serious thought to your emotions, behavior, motivation, thoughts, perspective, and desires. It’s about going beyond the surface level to find the “why” behind these elements of ourselves and the experiences we have. The idea of self-reflection is to gain a more profound, rawer understanding of yourself. And for those unfamiliar, you’ll find that with that understanding comes empowerment and clarity that simply cannot be captured otherwise.

Today’s world is more advanced than it’s ever been and constantly reminds us of what’s out there and available to us. But within this environment can lie a trap. A trap that convinces us that the answers we need to the hardest questions are out in the world for us to find, rather than within ourselves waiting to be unveiled. With that being said, let’s dive into the reasons why self-reflection is more vital than it’s ever been.

Why Now?

Covid & the Climate of Uncertainty and Hostility 

We start with a somewhat obvious one: the present state of society. Over the last year and a half, we’ve all likely felt like we’ve been carrying extra weight around. The air of uncertainty combined with what seems to be growing polarization and hostility has placed a lot on us personally and societally. In times like these, in particular, self-reflection can be a great friend to us. It can help us stay grounded and sharpen our ability not to lose perspective. Just because you engage in self-reflection doesn’t mean the world will change or problems will go away, but it can certainly help in your ability to manage said problems and stay true to what brings you fulfillment in life.

The Modern, Digital Age

Let’s be clear; this piece is not intended to portray our modern advancement as a negative. There are certainly great benefits to it. However, there are legitimate downsides we’ve all likely experienced. Whether it be social media, the internet as a whole, the many gadgets we use, etc., the point is that there have never been more distractions in the world that make it incredibly hard to stay within ourselves. Every day, we’re constantly reminded of what else is out in the world, what others have that we don’t, and people’s perceptions of us. A failure to keep these reminders in check is a recipe for all kinds of negative mental repercussions. Self-reflection can help you in this regard. It’s an incredible tool for staying focused on what you have in life, what matters most to you, and understanding your true identity, no matter what others may think.

Mental Health Crisis

It’s no secret that mental health issues have become a national, if not a worldwide, concern. More and more young people report suffering from mental health problems, and of course, the issue has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And while we’ve evolved tremendously in our acceptance of mental health struggles, we still have a long way to go, particularly with helping people navigate these difficult times. Self-reflection is not a cure-all approach, but it certainly won’t hurt in managing mental health issues. As mentioned before, when done right, self-reflection ultimately can be empowering and fulfilling. And as we’ll see next, there’s a lot of value it can bring into your life, whether mental health has been a problem area or not.

The Value of Self-Reflection 

Tool for Learning & Growth

We naturally tend to believe we know ourselves well, which is a fair assumption. However, you’d be surprised how much you don’t know about yourself if you don’t self-reflect often. Not everything is always as it seems on the surface. Sometimes our emotions are driven by something else deep within ourselves, or perhaps our behavior was motivated by a force we had never considered before. We’re far more complicated creatures than we give ourselves credit for, and it can often be hard to keep up without taking the extra time to retrace and reconsider. Self-reflection opens up doors that perhaps have never been seen before, let alone opened. And with that knowledge comes the power to learn, evolve, and grow as a person.

Vessel for Self-Peace

This builds off that understanding touched on before. By having a more authentic conception of yourself, you can make better decisions and engage in behavior that you know will ultimately be rewarding to you. For example, not everything we enjoy doing is necessarily beneficial for us in the long run. Sometimes we engage in behavior that gives us what we need at the moment but leaves us empty in the long haul. It can be hard to truly realize what’s good for us and what’s not until we take that time to dive deep within. And once we do, we have more control over our ability to feel at peace with who we are, where we’re going, and what matters most to us in life.

Your Life GPS

Where those previous points lead you is here, a conceptualized roadmap for life. Now, let’s be clear, a big part of life is the unknown, taking chances, learning from experience, and simply “living.” However, most of us often have an overwhelming feeling that we have no idea where our life is going, what we want from it, and where to go next. And that’s precisely where self-reflection and that understanding of self can help. You’ll be able to better understand what fulfills you the most, what you want to get out of your time here, where you want to go next, and how you might be able to do that. Self-reflection will not give you all the answers or allow you to map your entire life step-by-step, nor should that be desired anyway; that’s what living is for. But it can help you on your journey towards getting those answers, learning from your experiences, growing as a person, and finding your purpose in life.

Conclusion

It’s important to know, value can only be experienced if you approach self-reflection with discipline, legitimate intent, and consistent action. Self-reflection also requires a willingness to be honest with yourself and possibly confront areas you may have been reluctant to in the past. But, what you get from self-reflection and how you do it is really just up to you. Below, I’ve included a few resources to help you get started. If you’re new to this, try different ones out and see what sticks for you. Don’t look at self-reflection as a daunting task; it’s meant to be helpful, not stressful. You have to find what brings the most value to you. And hopefully, this journey will leave you feeling empowered, more connected with yourself, and more clear on what you want from this life.

Resources to Get Started:

https://positivepsychology.com/introspection-self-reflection/

https://www.minimalismmadesimple.com/home/self-reflection/

https://www.wikihow.com/Self-Reflect

How Astrology Enhanced My Spiritual Practice

I have always been interested in astrology, mostly for entertainment purposes. Over the years, I would spend time reading my horoscope in the paper or digging through the odd astrological book. I would kind of play it in whatever way suited me at the time. If I liked what was being said, then I bought into it. If I didn’t like it, I tossed it out. It’s just astrology, after all.

Well, that all changed for me about a year ago when I was introduced to a man who has spent his life researching, discovering, and developing an approach based in astrology and integrated with spiritual principles, making a real difference for me.

His name is Christopher Witecki and he discovered the 11 Steps to Sirius Joy. He is the Sensei to Sirius*JoY! Christopher is a psychic-astrologer, web TV series host, and software creator who combines his unique talents to form a cohesive life-coaching program for people seeking to find their joy and happiness. His weekday series “Namaste Today” provides daily spiritual guidance inspired by astrology and focuses on individual daily achievement with practical applications.

I’ll tell you more about Christopher late. For now, I want to tell you how these steps have changed my life.

Learning about the different states of being which exist within us has provided me with so much more information in order to understand the process we go through as we experience our lives and create our experience.

Self-Compassion

I’ve had a couple of key takeaways this past year that have changed the playing field for me entirely, both personally and professionally. Christopher taught me about the need for Self-Compassion and how deeply lacking I had been in this regard.

Previously, I had equated self-compassion with letting myself off the hook when I felt I had screwed up. It was really more like making excuses as opposed to genuine self-compassion.

Before, I thought it had to do with giving myself permission to be “lazy” instead of doing something for my health because after all, I deserved it. It was really a justification for my lack of follow through and commitment to myself and to my own wellbeing.

When I felt sad or afraid or anxious, my past behavior would be to go to something for relief as quickly as possible whether it was destructive or constructive. The goal was to get away from the feeling instead of acknowledging it and honoring its message.

When I most needed someone by my side ~ when I most needed to be by my own side ~ I was nowhere to be found. And I actually believed I was pretty good at demonstrating self-compassion. I mean, I knew I could be really hard on myself and wallow in guilt and shame for longer than I needed to, but still…

Well, I realized after absorbing the material I was learning from Christopher that I had a long way to go in my capacity for self-compassion.

When we are lacking in self-compassion it shows up in so many ways in our lives. We feel it in the times of resentment and remorse. We sense it when we step out of integrity and deny our own truth for any reason. We hear it when we tune into the bully inside our heads which never lets up. We recognize it when we see ourselves accepting scraps and crumbs because we don’t believe we deserve any better. We have settled.

Recently, I had an epiphany. The situation itself was small in the grand scheme of things but the insight and shift was profound.

I was sitting drinking my morning coffee ~ the only one I want and enjoy all day.   A few seconds earlier when I had added the cream, I noticed there were a few flakes floating around and I got to scooping them out with a spoon. I took a little sniff followed by a little sip and thought to myself, “It’s okay…I can drink this.”

A few sips later, I was fully aware the cream was sour but I kept trying to convince myself it would be okay and I could just “suck it up,” so to speak. Suddenly, I realized at that moment, I didn’t even think enough of myself to pour it down the drain and make a fresh cup. I sat there trying to make my way through a cup of coffee I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Wow!

I declared right then and there this habit of settling for something or pretending something is good enough when it clearly isn’t was over in my life. Done. Finite. And I didn’t take another sip.

Later that morning, I heard Christopher say quite often we only think of self-compassion when we do the “big” things like leaving a toxic job situation or relationship, perhaps after suffering for many years. But, the truth is, acting with self-compassion is most powerful in response to the “little” things; the way we treat ourselves each day.

Feeling Good

Another profound piece of Witecki Wisdom which has altered my life in the past year is this notion that my primary task on a day-to-day basis is to feel good. Wow! Really? Could it be that simple?

Well, when you think about it, it is. If I’m engaging in authentic self-compassion with a focus on my ability to feel good, I’m likely to be a much more powerful force for love in the world. I’ll bet you any Service I wish to extend to others will be more genuine, of higher quality, and ultimately fulfilling to me as well. If I’m feeling the love, there is a greater chance others will feel it, too.

I have come to realize honoring my heart’s desires is a very profound way to demonstrate self-compassion. I don’t have to make myself jump through hoops to prove I am worthy of what I want and need to make life safe, secure, comfortable, easy, and fun. And neither do you.

About Christopher

Witecki has pioneered a new arm of astrological study he calls “step astrology.” His method combines the knowledge of numerology, astrology, and sacred geometry into a definitive, step-by-step method to self-awareness. His approach known as “the 11º steps to Sirius*JoY” walks a person through a process of self-enlightenment, opening the doors for personal joy and manifesting abundance.

Born to a psychic beautician and a self-proclaimed Jedi knight, Christopher grew up in a spiritually eclectic household of Catholicism, Buddhism, Tarot, Star Wars, and the occult. He discovered his passion for studying astrology at age 19 while pursuing filmmaking at Columbia College, in Chicago Illinois.

In 2006, at age 33, Christopher launched his first YouTube web series, “Soul Horoscopes” where he hosted a video horoscope for all 12 signs, five days a week. (60 videos a week) He continued at this pace for five years, producing over 16,000 videos before moving on to host and produce a variety of free spiritual videos on topics ranging from Feng Shui to Archangels.

In July 2014, Christopher began his most recent web series, “Namaste Today.” Airing on weekdays, Christopher provides the “Zodiac Weather” of the day and dives into a fascinating spiritual topic with “Tea Time.” The series compliments his daily Sensei Service. To watch Christopher or book a personal reading with him, please visit www.siriusjoy.tv.

Listen In

Believe me, I could go on and on but I would rather you learn more about the Steps to Sirius Joy from the Creator himself ~ Christopher Witecki. Chris joined me as my guest on the Spiritual Astrology episode of Serving Consciously.

Christopher’s work is mind-blowing and heart expanding. Where do you stand on the relationship between astrology and spirituality? Tune in to other live shows and become a part of the conversation.

Five Tips for Overcoming Self-Doubt

Your comfort zone

Some self-disclosure here—I’m a rather sensitive person and I often tend towards self-doubt, thinking something is my fault if it doesn’t go well and lots of critical voices in my head always.  With time, I’ve learned to see this as a strength since it means I’m constantly evaluating myself and pushing myself to become better.  However, often in the day to day, this self-doubt can be difficult.  And especially so in the field of social work, where decisions made often have far-reaching repercussions.

Over the years I’ve had to develop methods to help me not to linger in my own self-doubt and to feel more confident in my decision-making.  I’m guessing there are other social workers out there who have struggles with self-doubt as well, so wanted to share the methods I’ve used and continue to use today, to help feel confident and to shake off the nagging self-doubt voice.  These are applicable to non-social workers, as well so feel free to share with others you know who might find these ideas helpful.

1. Regular self-reflection.

This almost seems counter-intuitive, but I’ve found it to be very helpful. For years, I don’t think I recognized or acknowledged my struggles with self-doubt and so maybe didn’t realize I needed the extra support.  It can be helpful to talk with your supervisor about your own self-doubt so that they can help you process what is reality versus what is going on in your mind. Once you become more accustomed to those kinds of questions, you can ask them of yourself.  This will help you to be able to figure out what is the truth in the situation compared to thoughts based on self-doubt. Are there tangible things to be learned that will help you improve your practice in the future? If so, learn from the experience and move on.

2. Continued professional development.

I love learning…and have found that when I know more about myself, about the profession, about current practices, current issues, etc., the more I feel like and am a competent social worker. It’s interesting, but I feel this area has actually gotten harder to take time for as my personal life has gotten busier and required more of me.  I didn’t realize how much I craved professional development until I did take two days a few months ago and went to a conference that for me was all about professional development.  I left feeling so recharged, confident, excited…and during a timeframe when if I had not gone I probably would have felt professionally drained and would have questioned myself lots and lots.  By taking the time for professional development, one grows. And when you know you are growing, self-doubt can take a back seat.

3. Be aware of your biases.

Letting my supervisors and/or trusted colleagues know my biases and asking them to push me on certain topics based on my own self-awareness has been extremely helpful. Self-reflection leads to self-awareness.  I know most of my biases…and have been sure to share the ones I know about with my supervisors. Often this has been within the context of case-specific work. When I know I’m struggling with a decision because of my own experiences and biases I share that.

I think it’s so important to know and acknowledge my lens and share it with others, not to convince them that my lens is right, but so that they can help by asking further questions and making sure my assessment is based on all of the facts of the situation.  Having others there to help me explore means a more collective decision-making process as well, and more minds and eyes on the situation generally lead to better, more well-thought-out decisions and less self-doubt.

4. Learn from perceived mistakes and trust your gut.

I’ve been in the same general profession, a social worker in child welfare for over a decade.  I’ve seen my successes and I’ve seen my failures.  There are, sadly, cases I worked on over 10 years ago that I ran across again because of failed adoptions or failed reunification…adoptions and reunifications that I was in some capacity a part of.  And hearing about these cases breaks my heart and makes me want to crawl under a rock because of my participation in something that did not turn out to be the positive ending that I thought it would.

But, once I’m ready to pop my head back out and again go back to #1 and reflect, usually there is some wisdom gained.  Sometimes it means I realize I had a gut reaction, and the next time someone else brings me a gut reaction about a case I will push them further—will point out the importance of the decision and will ask what else can we assess so that the gut reaction isn’t just a gut.   If you are a natural self-doubter and in social work, then PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, trust your gut. And then dig…you may find something concrete to support your gut.  I’m 98% sure of it.

5. Practice self-compassion.

No one is perfect. Even those who don’t struggle with self-doubt are not perfect.  As a natural self-doubter, you are also a natural self-improvement person and that is actually a sign of a true leader.  You will take the time to recognize what you need improvement in and improve it.  And when you doubt yourself and it’s not warranted, with time you will learn to treat yourself with the same compassion that you treat others with.  I’m still working on this piece, but am realizing how important it is to treat myself as I would a friend–listen, acknowledge, support, and be kind.  By doing so, I can move on and be better next time, without unnecessary guilt to hold me back.

Do you struggle with self-doubt in regards to your decision-making and/or work life in general?  How do you help to overcome it? Do you (like me) see this as a potential strength?  I’d love to hear from you so we can learn from one another!

Finding Joy In Service: Exploring Compassionate Curiosity with Dr. Gabor Maté

Powerful service to others is based in one fundamental element and that is connection. We strive to create a space of connection that will help to build on feelings of trust, openness, acceptance and unconditional care for another person.

As we go through academic preparation and learn from the less formal interactions in our lives, we learn how to create this space of connection with others; we learn how to let others know that we are present and engaged. We learn how to send the message that we care.

Offering compassion as we develop connection with another is our way of saying that we care and that it is safe. Curiosity sends the message that we have a desire to understand and to explore the nature of an experience.

When these two elements come together, the results can be magical.

Compassionate Curiosity

What is compassionate curiosity? And how do we engage in that energy? My understanding of this most beautifully combined process of exploration involves an intricate balance of energies that can open deeper experiences of conscious service.

When we bring curiosity to our experience of compassion, we gain greater capacity for understanding of our own experience as well as that of another. Curiosity keeps us exploring and opens us up to deeper levels of willingness.

When compassion guides our natural curiosity, we learn to probe gently in order to connect within and with others in this process of life and learning. It is in this place that we enter a space of authentic empathy.

Curiosity directs our compassionate energy. Compassion creates a space of acceptance and healing and helps us transcend judgment.

“Compassion does not create fatigue. Lack of self-compassion is exhausting.”

Whatever energy we are creating to welcome others and to serve others is only as powerful to the extent that we include ourselves.

Include Yourself

How can you take the position of compassionate curiosity with yourself?

Consider how you respond to you when you feel you have made a mistake or when you decide that you have not lived up to your own standards. Are your words sweet or salty?

In those moments of sadness or fear, can you be present to your experience? What do you tell yourself? Are you open to feeling better or are you mired in self-punishment? How do you soothe your tender heart?

What about those times when you have just nailed it, you experience a personal victory or success? As the sense of humble pride and confidence arises, how do you greet it? Do you quickly shut it down because it is conceited to feel good about yourself; you don’t want to appear boastful and bigger than your britches. Do you immediately downplay your joy because you don’t want others to feel jealous and ultimately, not like you?

Is it possible to embrace it all in a way that honors our full experience? Can we be present to ourselves whatever the moment brings?

I am learning this in my own life now. I realized with guidance from helpful people that I am always talking to myself anyway, so why not make it encouraging and comforting? What if I came to myself from a place of compassionate curiosity? How would that change things?

I imagine how I would respond to a small child or someone I love deeply, and I take that approach with myself. That is the quickest route I have found so far to engage in self-compassion and self-love.

So, what does this have to do with finding joy in service? Joy naturally springs from the same place as compassion and curiosity, love and belonging. One of the bravest actions we can take is to explore with curiosity and compassion that place where our joy lives. And when we find it, feel ourselves light up, and open up to receive and follow our joy, we demonstrate self-love. When that overflows to others, we are engaged in conscious service.

Join The Conversation

I remember when I first heard the term compassionate curiosity like it was yesterday. The words went directly to my heart and set off bells inside my soul. I was attending a workshop and listening to an eloquent and wise speaker. I am beyond ecstatic to welcome this man as my guest on the next episode of Serving Consciously at www.ctrnetwork.com on Friday February 10, 2017 at 12:00 Noon (PST).

Dr. Gabor Mate

Gabor Maté is a medical doctor recently retired from active practice. He was a family physician for two decades and for seven years he served as Medical Coordinator of the Palliative Care Unit at Vancouver Hospital.

For twelve years he worked in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with patients challenged by hard-core addiction, mental illness, HIV and related conditions. For two years he was the onsite physician at Vancouver’s unique Supervised Injection Site, North America’s only such facility.

He is internationally known for his work on the mind/body unity in health and illness, on attention deficit disorder and other childhood developmental issues, and his breakthrough analysis of addiction as a psychophysiological response to childhood trauma and emotional loss.

Dr. Maté is the author of four best-selling books published in twenty languages on five continents, including When The Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection and the award winning In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction.

Gabor is the recipient of an Outstanding Alumnus Award from Simon Fraser University and an Honorary Degree of Law from the University of Northern British Columbia, among other awards.

He frequently addresses professional and lay audiences in North America and internationally on issues related to childhood development and parenting, physical and mental health and wellness, and addiction.

He is Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Criminology, Simon Fraser University. His next book, Toxic Culture: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a World of Materialism will be published in 2018.

You can tune in live on Friday February 10, 2017 at 12:00 Noon (PST) at www.ctrnetwork.com. Just click on Listen Live and you will be in! And of course, if you would like to interact with us, please call in during the show at 1-844-390-8255.

Self-Compassion And Self-Care: Being As Kind To Yourself As You Are To Other People

woman-beach

Modern life is stressful – so stressful! Between work, study, maintaining relationships, family obligations, childcare, paying bills, cooking meals, organising a household, taking care of pets, exercising, volunteering, socialising…it’s not surprising how little time we can spend thinking of nice things to do for ourselves!

Self-care can mean a huge range of things to different people.  I’ve talked before about how to make self-care work for you, basically by doing the things you like and find restorative (and not just ticking off a huge list of things that are “supposed” to be good for you, but that you may not actually get much out of).  

As a person who has a habit of setting super high standards and being really hard on myself, this year I’ve been trying to focus more on my “psychological” self-care.  That means doing things like going easy on myself, not overworking, not overcommitting, keeping my boundaries, taking regular “nothing time” and forgiving myself if I don’t get it right all the time too.

I saw a great TEDx talk recently by Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher on authenticity, self-concept, and self-compassion and a practicing Buddhist to boot.

Neff talks about how hard we can find it to be compassionate to ourselves, even when we might be very good at extending compassion to others.  She notes how many people tend to use the “stick” rather than the “carrot” to try and motivate themselves to achieve more.  That is, they beat themselves up for not getting things done, rather than providing an incentive to reward themselves when they do.  Curiously, her research shows that, in fact, those who are more kind and forgiving towards themselves when they do fail tend to feel more motivated and get more done in the long run.

So what does it mean to be self-compassionate?  And why on earth is it so hard to do?  Neff says on her website, “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”

Of course, this doesn’t mean slacking off all the time, never doing things you intend to, and then being okay with it! Neff is clear that self-compassion is not self-pity or self-indulgence.  Rather it is about doing things because you care about yourself and want to make changes in your life that allow you to be healthy and happy and not just because someone else tells you to.

It sounds so simple, but how easy it is really?  I think it’s so much harder to consistently treat yourself in a way that is kind and forgiving, especially if you have a lifetime of practice at beating yourself up about things instead.  It seems much easier to just tick a few things off your “self-care plan” and consider it done unless you don’t get it done, then you get to feel bad about that too.

I think self-compassion is both an attitude towards yourself as well as a skill that you can learn. I’ve certainly found I’ve got better at it with practice and patience.  A lot of self-compassion websites suggest cultivating self-compassion through mindful meditation exercises, and Neff has some great examples on her website if you’re interested to give them a go.  I’ve found some of them useful when I’m really struggling to be kind to myself.

For me though, “pulling myself up” on my self-criticism works really well too.  For example, whenever I notice that I’m self-criticising or thinking about something I should have done better or managed differently, I ask myself, “Would I ever say something that harsh to a friend or a client?”  If the answer is “no”, then I imagine a little script that I would say to someone else. The result is something a little kinder and more understanding with a commitment to learn and try something different next time – and forgiveness if I don’t get it right even then.

I’ve noticed that doing this repeatedly does make me feel a little better about my perceived failings and mistakes which I’m also sure are not as big a deal to other people as they are to me. The trick of course is first to notice those thoughts in order to begin a process to address them.

So what do you think?  Are you into the idea of self-compassion as part of your self-care?

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