Self reflection

self reflection
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I’ve written quite a bit about self care and self esteem.  Now I want to look at self reflection.

First of all, what is self reflection and why is it a good idea?  Self reflection is, in its simplest terms, looking at ourselves and our behaviours closely and with a sense of acceptance.  It means looking at who we are and what we have done, warts and all, without shying away from the difficult bits.  It’s a serious exercise that helps us learn more about ourselves and how we interact with the world.  By having this knowledge and understanding, we can work out whether or not we are doing what is best for ourselves and the people around us.  As with any journey, the first step to going anywhere is working out where you are starting from!

Self reflection can help us to learn what our strengths and weaknesses are.  We can identify patterns of thought and behaviour which are helping us or hindering us.  We can reflect on how other people see us, and work out whether what they see is accurate and how we wish to be seen.

It’s important to retain balance – don’t overlook the things you are unhappy with, but don’t beat yourself up either!  We all have good and bad sides, helpful behaviours and harmful behaviours.  We all make mistakes, but the biggest mistake would be failing to learn from one.

So how do you self reflect?  It’s up to you!  Here are some ideas:

  • Daily journalling or Morning Pages
  • Mindfulness
  • Expressing your feelings creatively – such as painting, drawing, or making music
  • Scheduling a set time to ask yourself questions about how you handled the events of your day
  • Using worksheets, prompts, or exercises such as this one or these
  • Read books, or watch films/TV shows and think about who you identify with (or would like to), and why

It’s up to you!  What will you discover?






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Just over a year ago, I wrote about the difference between ‘resignation’ and ‘acceptance’.  Today I will be saying more about what acceptance is, and how to go about developing it.

First of all, acceptance is not an “end point”.  It’s an ongoing process that might involve stops and starts, changes in direction, and occasional setbacks.  The good part is that you will keep progressing with it, using what you have learned to build on each day.  You will also become more skilled in applying it to various other things in your life.

So, how to begin?

It might sound back to front, but a good first step is to work out what you are not going to do or become.  By definition, acceptance means coming to terms with the idea that you will not (and cannot) be Perfect.  We all have an image of our Ideal Selves and Ideal Lives, but we don’t always recognise it.  You could start by writing out what your Ideal Self/Life is like, to specifically identify why you are pushing yourself.  How realistic are the things you’ve written?  Do you really want to be/do/have those things, or are you trying to live up to someone else’s expectations?

None of this is to say you cannot work towards being your Best Self… but it does mean recognising that “Best” doesn’t mean “Perfect”.

By comparing the list you have written with how you view yourself and your life now, you can more realistically judge not only what you want but what is actually achievable.  You could use the SMART goals format for this. Knowing what you can change then helps you to recognise the things you can’t, which is a big step on your journey of acceptance.

You might need to grieve for the things you expected to have but do not.  You might experience sadness, anger or frustration.  Do not criticise yourself for these feelings.  Just observe them as you watch them arrive, acknowledge them, and then let them go.

Next, you can write out a list of things that you have gained from not being/having/doing the things in your Ideal Self/Life list.  For example, by having a different career to the one you originally planned, you may have gained opportunities to meet people and try new experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise have had.  Spend a bit more time on this.  You may tell yourself that you won’t be able to think of anything.  Letting that belief go and proving it wrong is another step on the acceptance journey.

You could ask a trusted friend or loved one to help you with this second list.  You might be surprised by what they come up with!

Some things, especially traumatising and painful things, will seem impossible to accept.  That is why it is important to think of this as a journey, one in which you will face setbacks.  It’s okay if you never become a 100% unruffled, serene being who floats through life’s slings and arrows.  No-one is!  That’s human – so you don’t have to beat yourself up for it.

If you would like to work through and move on from these issues in a safe and supportive environment, please contact me to book an appointment.

Growth v fixed mindset

fixed v growth mindset
TED Talk by Carol Dweck, “The power of believing that you can improve”

The model of growth v fixed mindset is something that has been gaining ground recently, especially as some schools are now using it with their students.  It is introduced and explained by Carol Dweck in her TED Talk, “The power of believing that you can improve”.

In short, a fixed mindset is one that sees qualities, traits and skills as innate and unchangeable.  This mindset might lead to avoiding challenges and self-criticism when faced with a ‘failure’.  By contrast, a growth mindset  sees these qualities, traits and skills as constantly developing and arising from learning experiences.  This mindset encourages effort and attempts to reach goals, and gains encouragement from the success of others.

Like many things in psychology, I suspect there can be a bit of both types within the same person.  You might have a fixed mindset when it comes to some things about yourself and a growth mindset for others.  You might find that your mindset changes depending on your mood, what has happened or due to the messages given to you by those around you.

Being able to identify your patterns of thought, and assessing for yourself whether it is helping you or not, can be hugely useful.  This model isn’t something you can only apply to skills such as playing a musical instrument or producing fine artwork.  You can also use it to consider your more personal skills and qualities such as assertiveness, conflict resolution and resilience.  We are all a ‘work in progress’, as previously described in my blog post “Resignation or acceptance?“.  By considering where we are now and where we want to be in the future, we can work out how to get from one place to the other (Egan’s Skilled Helper Model).

Dweck says that changing a “no” or “fail” into a “not yet” can help us keep believing that we can improve.  Failure stops being an ending and becomes a step in the journey.  Where does that journey lead?  That’s up to you!

You can watch the video of the Carol Dweck’s TED Talk here, subtitles and a transcript are provided.

Resignation or acceptance?

resignation or acceptance
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You might shy away from the idea of “acceptance” when it comes to your thoughts, feelings or situation.  Perhaps you are mixing up acceptance with resignation.  There are big differences between the two.  Making an active choice of one over the other for yourself can give you your power back!  Let me explain…

Some people might say that resignation and acceptance are the same thing, meaning defeat, powerlessness, or giving up on any hope of change.  That might be what resignation is, but it’s not what is meant by acceptance in a therapeutic context.

Think of being lost, and needing a map to find your destination.  What is the first thing you do?  Find out exactly where you are already!  You wouldn’t be able to move on with your journey if you didn’t know your starting point, and acceptance is like that. Acceptance is the big “you are here” arrow we need to orient ourselves.

Acceptance can be really hard at first.  It is easy to get caught up in ruminating.  You might fall into a cycle of thinking “this shouldn’t be happening!” or “things should be different!” – sound familiar?  That is the opposite of acceptance, because you are fighting hard against what is happening in the here and now.  This fighting against yourself uses up a lot of energy, causes stress and breeds dissatisfaction.

How would it be if you stopped?  Perhaps you fear that stopping this cycle of thoughts will mean giving up hope of any change?  No!  I have good news for you – acceptance is change, in and of itself!  Acceptance is the first step to making things different and growing.

Carl Rogers, in his book On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy, said “We cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.”  He also said, “It becomes easier for me to accept myself as a decidedly imperfect person, who by no means functions at all times in the way in which I would like to function. This must seem to some like a very strange direction in which to move. It seems to me to have value because the curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change.”

Carl Jung put it more succinctly, when he said, “What we resist, persists.”

Acceptance is about treating yourself kindly.  Much as a child won’t learn if you shout at them, or a plant won’t grow if you restrict its water, you won’t grow while you are fighting yourself and your circumstances.  You can turn that energy to other uses.  Greet your painful feelings with kindness and acceptance.  You might be surprised as they lessen in intensity and duration.  Listen to what your feelings are telling you.  Examine your thoughts with compassion, as you would those of your best friend.  If you wouldn’t insult your best friend for their situation and tell them it must be different, why do it to yourself?  Let yourself grow.

If you find this difficult, or overwhelming, take a step back.  Don’t push beyond your limits of safety.  If you would like to work through and move on from these issues in a safe and supportive environment, please contact me to book an appointment.