So I was thinking (which is always a dangerous past-time), instead of making a New Years resolution I have been reflecting on my life, my personality traits and my core values. I want to use this reflection to help give me more direction and more purpose in life. After all, we only have one shot at this! In the process, I have come up with 7 of the best ways to reflect on yourself.
In all honestly, I use reflection day in and day out. Partly this is because it is who I am. I think a lot and I question myself constantly. And partly this is through my training as a physio. At University we had a whole module on reflective practice – what did you do well, what could you do better, what would you do differently in future etc. Self-reflection is a way to exercise introspection and to learn more about our fundamental nature, purpose and essence. In fact, it is a great way to learn, to develop and to improve.
Perhaps this is why I am am enjoying writing a blog. Blogging is all about reflection, whether sharing information, knowledge or skills, reviewing a product or discussing an experience. However, on reflection I sometimes wonder if anyone is actually interested in what I have to say? Should I actually put pen to paper (metaphorically speaking). Can I actually provide content that is different, unique or any better than the next blogger. The answer is I don’t know. However, I have come to realise that no one has to read what I write. No one is forced to sit and scan through my website. And to the people that do (google analytics is a very useful tool to see that hundreds of people are reading my blogs), I am very grateful for your time and support. I do hope you get something out of what I write.
‘All Shades of Grey’
Sometimes I think that I reflect too much and I overthink. I am a highly sensitive person but many people do not realise this because I hide behind a confident exterior. I admire people who ‘have it together’ and I find a no nonsense approach to life endearing. Why do I always have to think of the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. I see the grey – I rarely see black and white. Which can make life complicated as I am forever questioning things. I often sit on the fence and I can usually see more than one point of view or both sides to a story. I could never be a lawyer!
I want to be liked and to fit in which I have struggled with at times. But hasn’t everyone? I hate to be misinterpreted. I am honest to the core and therefore I hate being doubted. Do all people feel like this? As I get older, my desire to be liked and to fit in is not so strong. I no longer worry being excluded, but I still fear being misunderstood. I still feel the need to explain myself and my actions. Is this linked to my job, in which I need to be able to justify each intervention I use? I don’t know. But isn’t everyone like this to some extent? I think everyone has their own hang-ups. The desire to be accepted will definitely resonate with a lot of people. I also think that many people, like me will be more accepting of themselves as they get older.
I have strong moral values – too strong at times as I expect people to live by my standards and I can dig my heels in hard (just ask my husband). However, over the years I have learnt that my standards are not necessarily the right ones in the eyes of other people. I have learned the hard way that people hold different weight to their values (and this by no way means that my opinions are the right ones).
And I’m extremely sentimental…..to the extent I am a bit of a horder (mum – I hold you responsible). For example, I recently gave my daughter a scarf that my Granny knitted for me years ago. It is too small for me and I have never been able to wear it, however I do not want it to just sit in a draw! It is a beautiful soft, pastel coloured scarf, which is perfect for a 5 year old.
Today, my daughter managed to lose the scarf in a large supermarket. After 20 minutes of scanning every single aisle, the realisation that it had gone started to dawn. My daughter said that we could write to Father Christmas and ask for a new one. I explained that we couldn’t as Great Granny had knitted it and she was now in heaven. My poor daughter was crest fallen and I fought back tears trying to convince myself that it was just a scarf!
I decided to give searching one last shot and asked every shop assistant that I could find if they had seen it. By now I was convinced that someone had taken it. However, to my great relief a lovely shop assistant had found it. She was rather surprised at my animated reaction to finding a scarf! I was so happy that my husband had to convince me that it was not necessary to buy wine, chocolates and flowers to say thank you! You see, to many people it may be just a scarf, but to me it was a gift that I treasure from a very special lady. Sentimental value is so much more important to me than monetary value.
There is a lot of pressure to be a lot of things in life; be successful, be caring, be financially stable, be slim, be fit, be a good friend, be supportive, be understanding, be hardworking and be happy to name but a few! It is important to remember that whatever you are is ok. I don’t need to change my qualities. I need to embrace them and use them to their full potential.
As I write this, it is helping to provide clarity to the fact that whilst some of these traits are not necessarily ones that I would select if I had a choice, they make me me! And while some of these traits I am listing as a disadvantage – actually they can be extremely useful and easily turned into a positive.
For example, by seeing all shades of grey, I hope that I am less judgemental. It helps me be empathetic which is an asset in my job. Listening and empathy are some of my strongest skills as a physio.
Reflection is a really useful tool for self improvement. We can only make effective changes when we have an awareness of where we currently stand along with a goal of where we want to be. Reflection helps to improve self-awareness and self-regulation. This can greatly help you to understand and cope with your emotions, strengths, weakness, values and goals. In turn, this can help to inspire self-acceptance. Many of us live life in the fast lane and our lives are often heavily influenced by the media and social platforms. These influences can easily throw our own self-acceptance off-key.
1 – Ask yourself questions about yourself
For example, what kind of person are you? If you struggle to answer this, as I do, think how would other people describe you? What have you learned about yourself from key experiences (both good and bad)? What do you appreciate most and what are you grateful for?
2 – What are your core values?
What are your beliefs and principals. For example, some of mine are honesty, perseverance and self development. Can you remain true to these values when the going gets tough? Do you have any beliefs that may be holding you back?
3 – Identify goals
Its fine to feel like you don’t have direction. Too many people put pressure on themselves to work out what they want to do in life from a very young age. However, identifying goals, whether short or long term can help give you focus and direction. Setting yourself a time-scale to achieve your goals can help to keep you motivated. Plus, attaining goals gives you a great sense of achievement.
Setting goals is not necessarily about striving to achieve something new. Setting goals does not have to be career related. You could strive for personal growth, undertake a project or plan an experience. Your goals could be orientated around health or fitness, planned around your finances or career or linked to family and relationships. It could be a way that you hope to add value to your life or to contribute to your community.
For example, my current goals are to see more of the beautiful country I live in. I managed to visit Carcassone and Evian-les-Bains last year. Exploring the Dordogne region and Mont Saint-Michel are now high on the list. With very young children this may not be possible in the short term, so I am giving myself two years to reach these destinations.
My award winning friend Emma has an inspiring blog about writing a bucket list: 40 things to do before 40. This is a great way to draw up a list of things that you would like to do and achieve.
So what is stopping you from pursuing your goals? Big things start from small places!
4 – What are you most proud of?
All too often, many of us reflect at times when we are not feeling our best. However, it is so important to look at ourselves from all angles. Sometimes I feel proud just to make it through the day after I have been up half the night with my youngest, even if my clothes are on back to front or inside out! Reflect on achievements big and small and give yourself credit where it is due.
5 – Analyse relationships
Analysing relationships can be with both friends and family. I truly believe that friends come into your life at certain times for a reason. This may be to support you through a difficult period, to learn through or even to share good times with! Even friendships that don’t turn out the way that you hoped can teach you valuable lessons in life.
I am extremely lucky. I have known some of my best friends for over 30 years…..in fact The Money Whisperer and I have been friends since we were two years old!
Have a think about some of the people that you spend a lot of time with. How do they make you feel? Are the relationships respectful, mutual and healthy? I am not one for ever having a clear out of friendships! I have never deleted a friend from social media; even if we haven’t had any communication for years! Perhaps this is because I am sentimental (and often nostalgic). I can understand why people do this, but I would sooner gradually distance myself from someone rather than right them off!
Also think about your own role within relationships? It is all very well reflecting on how other people treat us, but what about how we treat other people?
And for those relationships that make you smile, let them know! I think it is important to thank our friends and family for being there for us. You never know what is around the corner!
6 – How do you handle stress and difficult situations?
Think about a time that was stressful. This could be as simple as loosing your car keys or a more complex issue such as dealing with health issues of a loved one. How did you cope? What emotions did you portray? Were you able to deal with your emotions at a later date? Did your actions have a positive or negative effect on people around you? Is there anything that you could do better or that you would do differently in future?
7 – When are you at your best?
I saved the best question until last. What gets you excited and what keeps you motivated? I am at my best after a few gin and tonics! At least in my slightly inebriated little mind! If I remove alcohol from the equation, I am at my best when I am not sleep deprived and when I am spending time with my family outdoors. Making memories, exploring new places and travelling bring out my best side.
Good luck with taking some time to gain some insight into yourself. There is no right or wrong way to do this but hopefully I have given you some food for thought. Try and see beyond your own circumstances and continually evaluate and re-evaluate. Weigh up the positives and the negatives, analyse experiences (both good and bad) and build emotional self-awareness.