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Self-reflection: 9 tips & 4 exercises for better self-awareness

Self-reflection is a real challenge. We are too quickly blinded, overcritical or self-absorbed. But good self-awareness brings you numerous advantages. We reveal useful tips and exercises on how to improve your self-assessment.

Self-reflection serves to look at oneself holistically. To do this, you should observe your actions, emotions and thoughts, among other things.

Definition of self-reflection

Definition of self-reflection

Self-reflection could also be called self-awareness or self-observation. What is meant by this is the ability to question oneself and to look at oneself realistically and critically. The result is self-awareness or self-discovery.

Self-reflection, for example, is about finding out why we do something and what emotions or reasons keep driving us. However, other aspects are also important:

  • What can I do well, and what rather not?
  • What part did I have in the mistakes, but also in the successes of the past?
  • What is important to me?
  • What am I missing in life? And why do I not make sure that I get it?

So self-reflection, according to this definition, has on the one hand a spiritual component: it is about personal growth. But on the other hand, self-awareness has very concrete benefits for your everyday life: It can be the basis for more happiness and success, and it enables you to learn from your mistakes or work toward your goals. What’s more, self-reflection makes you authentic and prevents you from losing yourself in the constraints of the outside world.

You’ll be better able to make choices that are good for you with more self-reflection. And you’ll be better able to handle conflict because you’ll be less likely to go on "autopilot" when you know what’s driving or triggering you. There are plenty of reasons to work on self-awareness.

9 tips for better self-awareness

We are all too happy to criticize other people. But about ourselves, we are often too sparing with it. In some cases, however, we are too hard on ourselves, which is also bad. We’ll show you how to find a healthy balance and come to a realistic self-image of yourself.

Self-reflection needs rest

Self-reflection needs rest

In everyday stress, you hardly have any opportunities to engage with yourself. Our everyday life with all its appointments, obligations, and necessities is far too much determined by the outside.

To be able to deal with your inner self, you need peace and relaxation. Only in this way can we reflect on the past and future, thus analyzing mistakes and creating proposals for improvement. Therefore, create windows of time that serve your relaxation and belong only to you.

You can find tips against inner restlessness here.

Take your time with self-reflection

We’re sorry to disappoint you if you imagine that everything is done with a few exercises in the next three weeks. You’re going to need some patience. Self-reflection is a long process that may take many years and is always stepwise.

So when you set out on this path, you need to allow for a certain amount of time, over and over again. But of course, even the small steps you take will help you. Each new insight forms a piece of the puzzle that helps you get to know yourself better.

Practice regularly and create routines

If you want to stay on the topic of self-reflection over a long period of time (and you will need to), you need solid habits.

Most researchers say it takes at least 21 days for an action to become routine. So keep at it, especially in the beginning, and practice daily.

Reflect on challenging situations

Reflect on challenging situations

In addition to the daily questions you can ask yourself (you’ll learn more details in the exercises), it’s also important to reflect on past situations. After every difficult situation – regardless of whether it ended well or badly for you – you should take a closer look at what happened.

Why did you act the way you did? What could you have done differently? What steps led to success or failure? That way, you can more easily repeat successes or learn from mistakes.

Use self-assessment as preparation

Use self-assessment as preparation at work

Conversely, you can also use your reflective skills to prepare yourself for difficult situations. This is well known, for example, before a job interview: You will always find the advice to intensively deal with typical questions about yourself and the new job before the interview.

But you can do this on many other occasions: a client meeting, a conflict among friends or family, a big job you want to land, a task that makes you anxious, and so on.

Take the time to look more closely at what you’re likely to face and how you can respond to it in a meaningful way.

Take yourself seriously

Self-reflection is first and foremost about yourself. And that also means you can and should take your perceptions and feelings seriously. Even if they might seem silly to you at first: They have their origin and their justification.

Self-awareness: Be honest with yourself

Some people are true masters at self-deception. Self-reflection is the exact opposite of this. It’s not about making yourself look as good as possible, but about finding out as much about yourself as possible.

Even if it means you might have to go through a disappointment. Therefore, also acknowledge that you have shares in past problems.

Be merciful to yourself

Conversely, don’t be too hard on yourself either. Self-reflection isn’t about dragging down your self-esteem.

Don’t put yourself down, even in your thoughts. If all you perceive of yourself is negativity, you’re certainly not right. You don’t want to let negative thoughts rule you anymore?

Equalize internal and external perceptions

Equalize inner and outer perceptions

It can be easy for our perception of ourselves to differ greatly from our outside perception. That’s why it can be helpful to seek the opinions of others from time to time. Feedback is important.

However, you need people you trust, who are sympathetic to you and who are also willing to tell you the truth. Do you have such people? Then ask them how they rate you.

But also keep in mind that every person has his or her perception filter. That’s why it’s helpful to compare the opinions of several people with your own.

4 exercises for more self-reflection

Not everyone is naturally good at assessing themselves. But the good news is, you can learn self-reflection. With the following exercises, you’ll work bit by bit toward more self-awareness in your life.

Make self-reflection an evening ritual

A good and very simple exercise for more self-reflection is to review your day in the evening. Make it part of your evening ritual to reflect, for example, on what went well today, what your greatest success was, or what you want to improve tomorrow.

Make sure, though, that you don’t go to bed brooding. That can lead to insomnia.

Diaries and apps with reflection prompt

There are several diaries or apps that provide you with daily questions and encourage reflection. They can offer good suggestions to keep you questioning yourself.

The advantage of apps is that they can remind you at certain times during the day to pause for a moment and observe yourself. This reduces the likelihood that you’ll forget to self-reflect on your stressful day.

Self-reflection with morning pages

Many people have good experiences with the so-called morning pages. Here’s how: Write a diary in the morning, a set number of pages. Three A4 pages, for example, are well suited. Just write down everything that comes to your mind, if in doubt, without periods and commas.

If you don’t know what else to write, just repeat the last word until you get back to it. This regular activity does require some self-discipline. If you write these morning pages regularly, you are sure to come up with many interesting insights.

Self-observation with meditation

Meditating, on the one hand, brings you sufficient peace and relaxation to gain insights about yourself. On the other hand, you can also use meditation techniques directly for self-reflection. If you already have a little practice with meditating, then next time take a question or a topic with you into meditation.

The special atmosphere that arises when meditating encourages mindfulness and once again brings you completely different insights than mere reflection.

Self-reflection: examples of questions to ask yourself

Self-reflection: examples of questions to ask yourself

As part of self-reflection, you should ask yourself plenty of questions. Without asking yourself a good question, you won’t be able to determine any meaningful results about yourself either. Therefore, to conclude, we’ll show you a few questions that can get you thinking about yourself.

  • What am I grateful for?
  • Am I dissatisfied? If so why?
  • What can I do better tomorrow?
  • What can I do well?
  • What goals are important to me?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • What else could life ask of me?
  • Where and how do I enrich the lives of others?
  • What could I do without, but do not?
  • If I could turn back time, what would I do differently?
  • Are there things that prevent me from success?
  • In what situations do I stand in my own way?
  • What do I still want to improve myself?
  • What influence do other people in my life have on me?
  • How happy would I be in five years if I continue in the same way?
  • What value do I give myself? Could I value myself more?
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