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Sometimes we need to slow down and get to know ourselves before moving too fast. Our society is persistent in being “actionable,” meaning that we tend to favor taking immediate, measurable, and physical steps toward solving our problems. This can be a great thing, however, the most crucial and frequented aspect of our development is often the expense: our inner thoughts. According to Michigan State University’s Stress Less with Mindfulness program, “the average person has around 80,000 thoughts per day. […]. Ninety percent of these thoughts are ones we have had before” (Millet). If we’re so familiar with these thoughts, then why do we tend to avoid them? One answer could be that our thoughts can pull us into a state of vulnerability; self-reflection requires acknowledging that you don’t know certain things and need to explore them further. However, do not let this deter you – self-reflection is a critical factor in principle life skills such as communication, leadership, and of course, mental health.
From a neutral standpoint, having a conversation with ourselves allows us to clarify our values in moments of uncertainty, doubt, or reassurance. Self-reflection improves communication skills. To significantly impact others, you need to have a real effect on yourself first. There are a few key steps in doing this. The first is to define your identity, which can include your sexual orientation, ethnicity, or activities that you enjoy. Next, find a resource pertaining to that identity. Suppose you like coding; you could participate in a hackathon to meet new people with a like interest. Lastly, after you’ve found a community or audience to present yourself to, go back and analyze what you wrote, or said. Sometimes when you come back to work after not looking at it for a while, you have a different mindset. From there, you can compare what worked and what didn’t to improve your communication. It’s important to note that we are always communicating, both orally and nonverbally. Emails, conversations, body language and retweets are all forms of communication. Critically consider how you’re presenting yourself through all communication avenues. Self-reflection is an essential component of your delivery and purpose.
There is also a correlation between self-reflection and leadership. Once you begin to strengthen communication with yourself, it will start to improve with others. Self-reflection enables self-guided learning. When you can reflect on what makes you happy, sad, or encouraged for example, you become a component of empathy. Being an empathetic leader bridges gaps between various groups of people. Reflection allows you to make ethical decisions and provides a basis for continuing to be motivated in your leadership. According to the Journal of Character Leadership and Development, the formal definition of reflection is “the deliberate act of cognitively processing, exploring, or making meaning of information” (22). Inner examinations allow you to look at new information and relate it to what you know about yourself, how you can approach it, and how you can use it well. This leads to better problem solving because it provides a starting point for tackling otherwise grey situations.
To summarize, the benefits of self-reflection can be seen in improved communication and leadership. Strong internal communication builds the foundation for external confidence. Moreover, the ability to think critically about your actions enables smart decision making in positions of authority. So yes, talk to yourself because if you are your greatest confidant, advocate, and mentor, you can be the same for others.
Contact Gretel Tassah at firstname.lastname@example.org
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