A beginners guide to self-reflection & why it’s important

As a student training to qualify as a psychotherapist/counsellor we are encouraged to keep a journal as a way of promoting self-reflection and ultimately improving our personal development. In fact, in our student guide, we are required in a way as it will ultimately help with the completion of our assignments. Being able to identify our own personal values and beliefs, outlining how these can affect the helping relationship, being able to identify why we have decided to partake in this career: what's our motivation to help others, identifying areas for our own development in our personal skills and qualities and eventually developing these skills in the future. However, five weeks into my level 2 course I have realised how truly important self-reflection is for our well-being and why even if you are not training to work within the helping profession you should still try to put time aside to part take in a time-honoured way. 

Why you should take the time to reflect

Self-reflection is a great way to get to know yourself better and as I mentioned earlier it is closely tied to personal development. Nowadays it is becoming harder and harder to switch off as our phones have become a staple in our day-to-day lives. Add long working hours, demands of family and socialising into the mix and before long you realise you’ve not actually had time to pause and breathe.  

Self-reflection helps to improve your self-awareness, it is completely different to the diary you kept at age 11 detailing your first crush and what you got up to when your parents thought you was doing XYZ. It ultimately helps you process your thoughts and feeling whilst putting things in perspective. It is a fantastic tool to help you create a positive mindset. 

Being self-aware you will be able to Consider and maybe even explore the opinions of others but you make the final decision in your life. Without second guessing yourself you will be aware of your feelings, thoughts, needs and wants. You will be able to empathise with others without taking on their burden. 

How to practice the time-honoured art of self-reflection

Firstly, there is no right or wrong way of practising this, what works for me might not work for you. At first, it might feel a little forced and fairly unstructured in fact, the first page of my journal for college says "I do not know what to write, I do not know what to write, I do not know what I am supposed to share. I am doing this out of obligation for my course. I am keen to see what happens with my self-awareness even though this feels a little daunting like I am bearing my soul I do not think it is this serious maybe that's the anxiety that I am doing this wrong"  What is interesting now reading that back is even though I knew this wasn't a diary we were not supposed to just write what happened in class and that was it. I automatically shared my feelings. So even though I was super nervous and apprehensive about returning to college I still did it. Even though it felt daunting I was equally curious about where this could take my self-improvement as somebody who suffers from anxiety. 

So there is no specific way of doing this you might choose art, writing a journal, voice notes anything that feels natural to you make it habit to reflect more consciously and just see where it takes you.  

Be clear on your goal and be strategic about questions that will trigger you. 

 Once you are clear on what you want to get out of the self-reflection practice you have to think about the questions you can ask yourself. Remember this is still private (as private as you want it to be) so you can explore different levels of personal information 

Here's a couple of questions to get you started.

  • What is on my mind right now?

  • am I living a meaningful life?

  • Why do I do the job I do?

  • Where do I want to be in 5 years time?

  • Is what I am doing now helping that vision or hindering it? 

  • What are my strengths?

  • What are my weaknesses?

  • I want people to remember me for what attribute?

  • If I had £12,000 I would...

  • 5 things I'd love to learn

  • 1 person whom I appreciate in my life is...   

and remember there are no rules, however, for a new habit to stick you have to find what works for you. I love writing but I wouldn't like to type my self-reflection so pen to paper works best for me. If I am reading a magazine and something jumps out at me or makes me feel a certain way I rip it out and add into my journal. Being so relaxed about it makes it more fun and makes me actually stick with it. 

Start simple, manageable steps set aside 10 minutes at the end of the day and see where you go from there.