The Importance of Self Reflection
Are you willing to be brutally honest with yourself? Can you take it as well as dish it out? Can you face criticism, whether it’s constructive or not?
These are difficult questions to answer. Our ego can be fragile and any form of critique of any part of ourselves can feel incredibly threatening and painful. No one likes to believe they have any faults, big or small.
But what if that honesty and criticism was coming from yourself? Not in a negative self image kind of way, but in an open, independent lense, honest kind of way.
Take a step back….what are your faults and/or weaknesses? Known, perceived, believed or otherwise? What parts of yourself would you like to change or improve, not because anyone else might want you to, but because YOU want to? What aspects in your life, your mind, your body and your relationships, can you acknowledge you could do better in?
When relationships have broken down, romantic or platonic, even if the other person did something catastrophic or traumatic to cause the end of that relationship, what role did you play? How did your actions or acquiesce contribute? In hindsight, how would you handle things? Differently? The same? Better? Is there a version of yourself that you don’t recognise in that relationship? Or you heartbreakingly do, but no longer want to BE that person?
Do you have any boundaries with the people in your life? Are they rigid and no one can penetrate to get close to you? Or are they porous and people take what they want, treat you poorly and walk all over you?
All of these things are tough questions to ask; even harder is answering them truthfully. When we perceive we have been “wronged” by another, it’s easier to lay the blame entirely on them. It definitely makes us feel better, but it also means we learn nothing from the situation. Self reflection is confronting. It is scary. It can be upsetting to reconcile that maybe the problem isn’t always the other person…..that sometimes, it’s actually you. Or that you have contributed in some way.
So, how do you go about changing and improving for the better? This is a little something called “The Own-Your-Shit Method”.
First Step: Identification.
Look back at past events, or even at a current situation that is causing you pain, discomfort, sadness, anxiety or burnout. What happened?
You need to be able to separate yourself from the circumstances and look at it honestly, independently, with clarity, and truthfully answer what happened and how you contributed. This isn’t about attributing fault, it’s about taking an honest account of situations and circumstances and identifying where things could be done better. This level of brutal honesty may seem like a painful experience, but any kind of change is hard. To come out the other side with a lesson learned and a more positive outlook or direction, makes it all worth it.
Second Step: Ownership - “Own-Your-Shit”!
How did you contribute? What could you have done differently? Did you let a partner treat you like shit because you struggle with confidence and self worth and didn’t think you deserved any better? Did you continually say yes to a friend, even though you didn’t want to? You lacked the courage to implement appropriate boundaries because you were fearful of their reaction, so instead you continued to get walked all over and taken advantage of for your kindness and generosity? Never speak up at work, because you have imposter syndrome and barely believe you deserve a seat at the table? Did you drive away or self-sabotage a great relationship because of trauma or issues from a previous relationship that you hadn’t quite dealt with or healed from yet?
This doesn’t discount the other person’s actions at all. Dominant, narcissistic, opportunists will always seek out more vulnerable people to exploit, the trick is not to so easily identify as potential prey. But acknowledging the role you played, owning up to the dynamics within your own mind, that contribute to how you act, and why, is important. Identification leads to greater knowledge and the ability to learn from our past actions, grow from them and react differently. With any luck, better in the future, leading to more beneficial outcomes. Owning-Your-Shit is the best way to not let it control you anymore!
Step Three: Take Action!
Rectify the things you don’t like. About a situation, a relationship, or even yourself. Be proactive. Now that you've taken ownership of ways in which you have contributed, put that new-found knowledge to work. Set boundaries where you had none, learn to apologise when it’s difficult for you, stop playing games with other people’s hearts and minds for attention seeking purposes, speak up instead of remaining passive and silent. Do you lack confidence and self worth? Work on it and yourself! Are you your own worst critic because you have a negative inner voice? Then learn to practice self compassion. Are you unhappy with your body? Get advice from a nutritionist or personal trainer and put in the work.
Nothing will dramatically change overnight, but taking that leap in the beginning, deciding to make changes and improvements, is the hardest part of all. Because choosing yourself, putting faith in yourself, takes courage.
No one is perfect, but there is true beauty in imperfection. It makes us who we are. We’re allowed to have flaws, that’s part of being human, but you also have the ability to change things you’re not happy with. We should always be a “work in progress”, no one stops learning or should stop providing themselves the chance for growth.
We tell others not to settle for anything less than they deserve in terms of a partner, a job, or life in general, why not ourselves too? Why settle for a version of yourself that leaves you in a state of discontentment?
You will always be YOU, but you get to be in control of the version of yourself you present to the world, that emanates from your soul. Make it so you’re proud of that person. Support them. Work hard for them so they succeed, where the past version of you might have failed.
Should you be the “same” person at 25 as you are at 35? No. You shouldn’t. You owe yourself the gift of growth, knowledge, development, advancement, reflection and the opportunity to become the person you want to be, living the life you desire and deserve.
Many have fallen into this common trap in the past; always blaming the "other person" and taking no responsibility whatsoever. I’m guilty of it too. Instead of looking at what led to a situation, what my flaws were or who I wanted to be moving forward. I was blinded by their terrible actions, safe in that victim mindset, instead of stopping and asking “How did I contribute to all of this?”
I realised I had become passive in my previous relationships. I had automatically believed that this was all I deserved, this was how life was meant to be, so I asked for no better and expected even less. I made myself small, accepted incredibly poor behaviour and gave myself about the same amount of respect as I was given by these men. True, I had some of my own childhood demons that contributed to me not recognising that I deserved any better, but that realisation needed time. It needed to be drawn out of me in a way I could never have foreseen back then. It wasn't until I stepped back and reflected on it all, from a place of intense honesty and self awareness, that I could acknowledge my own flaws, faults and actions, accept all that had happened, let go of that "victim mentality" and realize I now knew better. I was finally aware I deserved better and refused to settle for anything less.
Sadly, because that used to be such a comfortable place to exist; that anything was better than nothing, I had remained there for far too long. So I made the choice to evict myself :)
Self Reflection can lead to many wonderful things; growth, strength, power, independence, boundary establishment, learning and recognising your actual worth and value, realising everything you truly deserve and the knowledge of how to navigate similar challenging situations in the future. Even some Post Traumatic Growth is possible, depending on your circumstances.
Can it be scary? Yes, absolutely. Looking at yourself and your own actions without those rose coloured glasses to shield your ego and insecurity, is confronting. But the outcome of self improvement, self discovery, identifying self damaging and sabotaging behaviours, learning to take ownership A.K.A“Own-Your-Shit”, creating better opportunities and healthier patterns for yourself and your future are so, greatly worth it.