Courage & Self-Reflection Key to Personal Growth

Self-Awareness Begins with Introspection

The courage for self-reflection doesn’t usually come easy. Have you ever had a moment in your life where you did something so utterly out-of-character that you’re shaken up by it? Maybe you said something thoughtless, did something selfish, or made a mistake you never thought you would make. Each one of us (rightly) feels that we know ourselves pretty well. After all, who could know you better than… well, you? But according to a study done by organizational psychologist and executive coach Tasha Eurich, only about 10-15% of people are truly self-aware.

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But what is self-awareness? 

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How can it benefit you? 

And how do you start down the road to becoming a more self-aware person?

What is Self-Awareness? And why does it take courage?

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There are two aspects of self-awareness that you should know about, internal and external. 

Internal self-awareness means understanding your own values, standards, strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, and motivations. It involves evaluating your thoughts and actions to make sure they align with “who you are” or, in some cases, who you want to be. This type of self-awareness requires an uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) degree of honesty that most of us subconsciously cringe away from.

Marriage and family therapist Amy McManus defines external self-awareness this way, “The ability to look at your own words and actions from a perspective outside of yourself; to see yourself as others see you.” This can be pretty uncomfortable too. Other people often observe things about us that are mental “blind spots” for us. When a friend points out one of our blind spots, our gut reaction might be to shout, “I don’t do that!” And not even allow ourselves to consider the possibility that they might be right.

So if self-awareness can be awkward, uncomfortable, and even painful, why pursue it at all? Grab your courage and keep reading!

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The Benefits of Self-Awareness

Becoming more self-aware might seem scary, but the benefits completely outweigh any discomfort you might feel. Here are just a few of them.

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  • Decreased anxiety
  • Greater self-confidence
  • More compassion
  • Better listening skills
  • Deeper and more meaningful relationships
  • Increased happiness
  • Expanding your creativity
  • More success at your job
  • Reaching more of your goals

Do you want these benefits for yourself? Let’s see how you can get started. The courage for self-reflection can start small and grow.

Self-Awareness Begins with Introspection

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Self-awareness means thinking about, understanding, and contemplating your internal landscape. And introspection is the door that gets you there. The American Psychologist Association defines it this way: “The process of attempting to directly access one’s own internal psychological processes, judgments, perceptions, or states.” So how do you get direct access to your internal self? How do you open that door? 

According to Tasha Eurich, we should ask ourselves the right kind of questions. Her research suggests that we should ask what, not whyWhy questions often cause us to fixate on the problem and view ourselves as a victim instead of dealing with it healthily. I.e., “Why is this happening to me?” “Why am I feeling this way?” These kinds of questions can lead to a roller coaster of emotional responses that make us feel worse instead of better. 

So, what are some healthier questions to ask ourselves?

  • What am I feeling?
  • What’s another perspective on this situation?
  • What can I do to respond better?

What questions are solution-focused. They help us identify our emotions clearly. And they help us understand what we can do right now to make our situation better. They makes introspection easier.

The Value of Having a Growth Mindset

So, we understand the benefits of self-awareness and how to get started. But how do we get past the discomfort and pain of confronting our own thoughts and feelings? Well, it’s easy to get into the perfectionist mindset. We have high standards for ourselves, and that’s good! 

But at times, we won’t meet those standards. Instead of being crushed under the weight of “who we should be,” it’s healthier to see our shortcomings as opportunities to grow. A growth mindset will allow us to become better people every day and enjoy the road to getting there.

Do you want to become more self-aware? Then start with introspection, ask the right questions, and develop a growth mindset. The more you practice self-awareness, the less anxious, more successful, and all-around happier you’ll be.

The Courage for Self-Reflection: Get Started

Self-reflection, introspection, and analysis will help you learn a lot about yourself. You will know why you do the things you do and what it means about where you are. 

Whether you are at your happiest or lowest point, there is a place for introspection. Don’t you want to know where your emotions are coming from? What is guiding you? You can’t grow as a person until you take time to pause, reflect, introspect, analyze, and move forward. 

I’d suggest you start by sitting down with a blank piece of paper and writing about how you’re feeling. Do this without allowing your mind to shift into the blame game or without slipping into negativity. I want you to reflect on what you’re feeling non-judgmentally so you can get to grips with what’s going on. 

It might not sound like much, but it’s a start, and it should put things in a different light. You will uncover truths that you had never before realized, both positives and negatives. You might realize you love your job, but the commute is driving you insane.

Is Changing Yourself Really Possible – And What It Takes

What do you dislike about yourself? Yep, the stuff we don’t want to talk about. Self-reflection takes courage, for sure.

You didn’t have to think too hard or too long to come up with at least one thing, did you? It’s relatively easy to put your finger on something about yourself you wish wasn’t the case, whether it’s a physical trait or part of your personality. When you think about those things you don’t like, do you also think about what you could do to change things? Or do you just shrug and assume you can’t change. 

Is changing yourself really possible? Yes. The big question, however, is what it takes to change, isn’t it? A leopard might not be able to change its spots, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the same boat. 

Here’s the thing, it isn’t going to be as simple as wiggling your nose or snapping your fingers. It takes time to build habits and establish patterns. It would be nice if it were as easy as that, but change takes work. 

Change Is A Process, it Takes Courage and Self-Reflection

The first step in the changing process is awareness. It might seem like an obvious statement, but it apparently isn’t. If you are accustomed to blaming others for your problems, then you lack self-awareness. If you blame the negative aspects of your life on bad luck, then you lack self-awareness. If you have been walking through life dazed and confused, then you are living in denial, not in self-awareness.

 Think about it – how on earth will you be able to make any changes if you can’t recognize how your thoughts, actions, and behaviors led you to this point right now?

It isn’t enough to be self-aware; however, you have to be self-aware without judgment. It’s a bit like you would look at something from the outside, an emotionless recognition of the problem. 

Yet, you can be aware of bad habits and not change. So, what’s the missing component?

Intention. With Courage and Self-Reflection.

A casual attitude towards change is not going to make change happen. Similarly, a week of dieting isn’t going to deliver your weight loss goals. Two-weeks of dieting and exercise are not going to deliver your weight loss goals. You have to overhaul your lifestyle and commit to effecting change. 

Self-discipline. That’s the missing component you need to effect change. You recognize what needs to be changed, why it needs to change, and what it takes to change. It should be easy from here on out, right? Well, it’s going to be uncomfortable at first; change always is. You may experience resistance, but here’s the thing… if you change your mindset and view change as the opportunity for personal growth versus an unwanted burden, then you can be unstoppable. 

You should not view the world the same now as you did when you were 20, and if you do, you’ve been standing still. Self-reflection takes courage – so put on bravery and keep going!

Summing Up – Courage, Self-Reflection, Change

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Even small changes can deliver significant benefits to your life. The best place to get started is with small steps. Positive change can increase your confidence, boost your career, enrich your relationships, and empower you. That’s quite the pay-off from making small changes to improve yourself. 

So, is changing yourself really possible? Of course, it is! Anything is possible if you’re prepared to commit to carrying it out. What it takes is the intention, focus, self-awareness, self-discipline, and consistency. If you’ve got courage and grit, then you can change. 

Start paying attention to why you think specific thoughts and act in certain ways, follow the trail back to the starting point, and decide what you need to change. Once you have a good handle on what to change, it will become easier to create plans to change. 

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Identify Your Character Defects – Ouch!

It may be tough to admit, but we all have character defects whether we want to admit it or not. Rather than running from the truth of that fact, the best strategy is to embrace it, get to the bottom of our exact character flaws, and then work towards making the necessary changes to improve upon those defects, so they don’t continue to negatively impact us. This process first requires a measure of truth and honesty with self that begins with self-awareness and introspection. 

Self-Assessment like Self-Reflection takes Courage

Self-assessment is a means of analyzing one’s personal growth or lack thereof. One can use self-assessment to look at past mistakes and present shortcomings in a constructive manner as a building block to be learned from and built upon. Through self-assessment, an individual can identify areas of lack and flaws in character that they can then improve to help them reach outlined goals (Leah, 2016). 

Consult a Therapist

A therapist can be a great support system when it comes to identifying character flaws. Therapists can offer a safe and constructive space to help people process through their faults, weaknesses, and struggles without judgment or shame. Therapists can also help, once those flaws and imperfections have been identified, to develop strategies for addressing those flaws so that they don’t remain weaknesses (Bailey, 2020). 

Ask for Feedback

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Consulting people around you is another intense way to get information about your true self. Those around you can see your blind spots and often better identify your weaknesses and be more willing, to be honest with you about those defects. While it can be hard to hear, asking friends, family, and even people you work with can uncover some critical character defects that you can then reflect on and work to improve (Bailey, 2020). 

Journal

Journaling is a very reflective activity that will help you stay organized and accountable for the process of self-discovery. As you journal and reflect on yourself, feelings, thoughts, actions, and choices, among other things, you can uncover patterns and preferences that reveal some significant flaws in character. Once these have been exposed, journaling can continue to be used to track progress towards improving in those identified areas. You can continuously go back, and view/reflect on what you uncovered, track progress or lack thereof, and use it as a means of helping you grow (Bailey, 2020). 

Note Your Critiques of Others

Often those things we are critical of in others speak to the inner workings of weaknesses within ourselves. If you find yourself always angry or upset with someone else for a character defect, it might be a sign that you need to pause, reflect, and see if there is any sign of that same defect in any form or to any degree within yourself.  The courage for self-reflection takes work.

To get to the bottom of our character defects, we have to be willing to do the work that will help us see and expose them. And while that process may not be the most comfortable or pretty, it will help us gather the information necessary to achieve the personal growth and development to move us closer towards our goals. 

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How To Change Yourself Once You Know What You Want To Change

I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase every day’s a school day. At least, it should be. If you’re living right. You aren’t supposed to stop developing as a person. As long as you live you should be striving to become more knowledgeable. 

But what happens when you have spent months, even years, growing in the wrong direction? You have reached a point where growth has slowed and as you look back on your journey thus far you realize you took a wrong turn. You don’t like what you’ve grown into and you don’t like the path you took and you want to change. What then?

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Well, you change. Just like a plant, with a bit of pruning, you can learn how to grow in the right direction. You cannot change yourself, however, until you know what you want to change. Step one is understanding the parts of your life that you’re unhappy with and knowing what you would like to improve.

Progress is reinvention. This isn’t about reaching a point, holding your fist high, and saying you won. This isn’t about winning or reaching the end of a path. It’s a continuous journey that will not end until you leave this mortal coil. And every good journey begins with courage. Make it even better by adding self-reflection!

Chances are that the self-reflection and introspection will reveal some hints of defect that will alert you to areas that you can first work on for yourself and then be less critical and judgmental towards others (Leah, 2016). 

Outside In ~ Courage for Self-Reflection

If you were to sculpt a piece you would constantly watch as your art took shape. You would consider how many different ways to shape it and take steps to change tact if it’s going the wrong direction. It’s just natural. That is how you need to look at yourself. 

You are a constant work in progress, but a work of art waiting to be uncovered. You don’t have to beat yourself up about the things you don’t like. You just need to get to work. First, however, you have to look at yourself from the outside to find what you want to change. 

Difficult Habits

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Typically, the parts of ourselves we want to change revolve around habits. To make the change you have to know what habit triggers the behavior you dislike. So, if you know you’re overweight and that’s what you want to change, you have to look at the habits that got you to that point in the first place. Change your habits to eradicate the problem trait you want rid of. 

Practice

Change requires consistency, so once you identify what you want to change you have to keep at it in order to achieve change. Consistency requires courage AND self-reflection for seeing what road blocks we are throwing up for ourselves.

Realistic Goals

You won’t wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly find extra patience. So, when you do identify what you’d like to change you have to set realistic goals around nixing the problem. You can’t demand more of yourself than you can deliver.

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall 

The courage for self-reflection is a key aspect of recognizing what you want to change. You cannot avoid it. I encourage you to reflect often, which will allow you to make corrections to your course if necessary. 

Truth-Tellers

You need a strong support network, but you need people around you who are willing to be open and honest with you. If everyone always backs you up and tells you yes, then you’re not going to grow very far in the right direction. 

Take Risks, the Courage for Self-Reflection

If you want to become the person you truly want to be, then it begins by not being the person you currently are. The only way out of it is to step out of the comfort zone and walk through difficulty. That requires risk and if you aren’t prepared to take a risk into the unknown, then you will always be where you are now which is not where you want to be forever. 

The process of changing yourself and reinventing who you are is a process. This isn’t a quick fix, there isn’t an overnight solution. It’s a daily practice, one that requires intention. 

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Facing The Unknown: The Courage For Self-Reflection

Isn’t it scary to think about how you got to where you are now? Or maybe it’s more frightening to think about where you could have been if you had taken the shots you didn’t? That’s why self-reflection takes courage. It’s scary to ask yourself the tough questions to determine whether you’re happy where you are or if you took some wrong turns. 

If you’re not careful, if you aren’t more mindful about the direction you’re heading in, then you could end up miles from where you want to be. I encourage you to take courage and practice self-reflection. You will have the strength to face the unknown if you have the courage for self-reflection. Use the two questions below regularly to keep you on track. 

Do I Use My Time Wisely?

Time is fleeting, and once it’s gone, you cannot get it back. Your goal should be to use your time wisely. For example, you can relax for an hour and be productive because it helps you relieve stress. If you’re stuck in a job you hate, but you don’t leave it because it offers decent pay, what are you doing with your skills? What value is it adding to your life? Does it offer you anything beyond the ability to pay your bills? 

You need to have an honest conversation with yourself. Imagine yourself ten years from now, looking back at this moment. What would future you want or think? There’s nothing wrong with a stable income if you find a way to use your skills, strengths and indulge your passions. But are you?

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Do I Take Things For Granted?

Do you? In the event of a breakup or a breakdown of a relationship, self-reflection is an important part of the healing process. Yet, we tend to look at everything the other person did and cast the blame in front of them. Have you ever taken stock of your role in the relationship? Perhaps you took them for granted? 

You’re mad because they saw through it all and walked away. You hate your job, but it pays the bills and keeps a roof over your head, so there’s something of value it offers. One of the scariest aspects of self-reflection is what we learn about our true selves. However, if you dare to understand it, you have the strength to move forward. 

The beauty of these two questions is that you can ask them of yourself at any time for a quick bout of self-reflection and courage. You can also sit down and think more deeply about them for serious self-reflection. It is as simple as you make it. 

Courage is simply the ability to do something even though it terrifies you. It isn’t merely the opposite or absence of fear; it’s the ability to act in the face of it.

Without self-reflection, it’s challenging to move forward in life.

Through self-reflection, you recognize patterns, strengths, weaknesses, values, and it’s all about building your self-awareness.

How can you face the unknown if you are unarmed?

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 Courage provides you with the power to quit your job and start a business. It gives you the strength to end a bad relationship or start a new one. Additionally, courage gives you the bravery to make and embrace change. 

Therefore, courage is an essential part of growth. It takes courage to reflect, and it takes courage to face the unknown. The only way to find fulfillment in life is to pursue an authentic life. You cannot live authentically without first having the courage to practice self-reflection and arm yourself to face the unknown. 

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Getting Started with the Courage for Self-Reflection

Journaling is an excellent way to start your introspection journey. First, decide which period of time you want to reflect on. Do you want to cast your mind back 5 years? Or back to last week?

Begin by taking stock of what was going on during this time. This will be easy if you’re already a regular journal keeper. Think about whether you traveled during that time, where you went, what milestones you experienced (either familial, personal, or work-related). 

Ask whether there were changes in your passion projects, relationships, or work situation. You can’t look back and leave it at that; you have to ask questions and force yourself to be open and honest about what was going on during that period of your life. 

Find the highlights, but look for lowlights, too.

Are there specific people or certain activities that stand out as highlights (or lowlights)? It isn’t easy to revisit your low points, but it’s an integral part of the process. You can’t grow or experience peace unless you do. 

For every lowlight you uncover, I want you to ask yourself if it was within your realm of control. If the answer is yes, you will need to consider how you will handle a similar situation next year. If the answer is no, you need to think about how you will find peace. 

Your journal should contain lowlights and highlights, with time to reflect on each individually. You can also consider what you’d like to accomplish in the short-term, mid-term, and long-term. 

What would you like to change in life? What do you think you can and want to improve? This is how you find perspective and clarity in life.  With the courage for self-reflection.

So, when should you consider self-reflection? It’s a useful tool to use weekly, but if you do so regularly, you likely won’t need to get into it as deeply as you do the first time you try. 

You may want to leave it as an end of month exercise and then a final annual review. Through the process, you will gain perspective, and it will help you ensure you’re living your life to the max. 

If you fail to self-reflect, then you lose all sight of perspective. This will only lead you to get caught up with the meaningless things that don’t matter. You will lose sight of what does matter.

References: 

Bailey, M. (2020, January 2). How to understand your character flaws and correct them. Beliefnet.

Leah. (2016). 5 insightful ways to identify and change your character flaws. Common Sense Ethics.

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