Self-reflection is defined as the process of focusing our attention inward, to observe and evaluate our thoughts, emotions, behaviours, motivations and values. More often than not, we think, feel and act on a subconscious level, and in ways that might not benefit our self-development. Therefore, it can be helpful to bring our habitual patterns onto a more conscious plane, through deliberate self-reflection.
By taking a step back to self-reflect, we can relook at what matters to us in life, and see if what we habitually do on a daily basis is in-line with our core values and who we want to be, or misaligned. This in turn can help us continuously strive towards being authentic individuals, and also live life with purpose and meaning.
Working as a counsellor requires me to continuously practise self-reflection, as part of my ethical and professional duty. This is because countertransference, the phenomenon in which the counsellor/therapist has an emotional reaction that is triggered by something that the client brings up, frequently happens, making it important for counsellors to be aware of their own values and judgements. Often, this feeling is due to the counsellor’s own unresolved issues or conflicts. When we become aware and conscious of when countertransference happens in the counselling room, we can turn it into a useful empathetic tool to attune with our clients.
There are many different ways of practising self-reflection. Some might work for us, and some may not. In the past, I used to do journaling, to write down my thoughts and feelings from the day as a form of self-reflection. These days, I find myself more drawn to long walks and runs in nature, where I may choose to oscillate between tuning outward to the sounds and views of nature, and inward to introspect and self-reflect.
Having heart to heart talks with family and friends is also another way I self-reflect, to gain more awareness of myself. Starting out with a mindfulness practice, like mindfulness meditation, is also helpful for me to ground myself, before I begin processing my own personal thoughts, emotions, and internal parts of myself.
Importantly, let’s be gentle and compassionate with ourselves as we self-reflect. It can be easy to judge and criticise ourselves as we reflect on our past actions, but if we do that, we fall into the danger of rumination and getting trapped by our past. Perhaps we can ask ourselves, what are we grateful to ourselves for, as a way to end off our self-reflection practice in a self-compassionate way.
I wonder, what do you do for self-reflection?
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