Self-reflection, mindfulness, and how to cultivate better habits.

It’s that time of year again! The end of one year, and the beginning of another. Typically it is tradition to reflect on the year that has gone and make plans or resolutions for the year ahead. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been very good and making resolutions and keeping them. I used to make some, I’d give it a go, but invariably I’d end up forgetting about it, or get back into my old routine and they’d slip away. Not very admirable, I know! Some people, like my husband John, find it easy to change behaviours. I don’t mean that he instantly adapts to a new path and is immediately successful. What I mean is that he has the ability of self-reflection, to recognise when something internally is amiss and set about changing.

I’m not so good at this. I suppose that’s why I’m writing about it. Maybe through learning how to be more reflective of oneself, it would be easier to succeed in the New Year. Not with things like losing weight (although I’m sure I could lose a bit) or with starting some fandangled new hobby that will fizzle out by February. No. What if we got better at understanding ourselves and by doing so, became a better, freer version of us that improved our relationships…what if…

So what is self-reflection really?

Self-reflection is the ability to introspect. Or in other words, to attempt to learn more about yourself, your behaviours, emotions, habits, and beliefs. Seems like a daunting and slightly scary task. Who knows what we might dig up?!

So why do it?

Why? Because it allows you to look at yourself and align who you are with who you want to be.

The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination. Until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life. – Iyanla Vanzant

So by looking more intently at ourselves, we can better the person we are, love our self more, accept where we are, and then aim to work towards where we want to be. I don’t expect it to be easy. But then, nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Right?

My other thought on this matter and why we should learn to self-reflect is that we have become such a society of judges. Social media has opened a can of worms that seemingly allows people to proffer their uninvited opinions about anyone or anything, without giving full thought to the consequences of their actions. We, therefore, need to be looking inwardly first and bettering ourselves before uttering one single word towards another. And I include myself in this too!

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbour’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbour.”Matthew 7:1-5, The Message

So how does it work?

Self-reflection is like a mental muscle. Like other muscles in our body, it requires consistent and habitual training in order to become strong. I’ve come to learn about three ways in which we can become better at reflecting on oneself: Openness, Observation and Objectivity. Let’s take a look at each in turn.


This is the ability to see things for what they really are, and not what we think they should be. In becoming more open, we learn what our biases, stereotypes, and default beliefs are about ourselves, other people, and the world, and learn to challenge them and eventually overcome them. Force yourself to notice the little things that have an impact on your decision making and you’ll gradually train yourself to see more clearly. Try writing them down and see if there is a pattern.


Is the ability to watch yourself in the same way you would objectively watch external events. With perspective. By observing our own behaviours we can begin to notice compulsive, addictive or habitual behaviour that we can work to overcome. One way of doing this is to practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention. Paying attention to what is going on internally, both physically and mentally. It’s about taking time to stop and silently consider our own thoughts and emotions and identify what needs to be altered to be more realistic. In stressful situations, we react to what is happening outwardly or make the leap into what-ifs. But if we get into the habit of mindfulness, we can counteract the habit of poor decision making during these stressful times and better understand our own behaviour and what drives it.


Being objective means stepping outside of oneself and separating our thoughts, feelings, and emotions from our identity. Of course, it is important to realise that these things are a part of who we are, of what makes us uniquely human, but they do not dictate all of who we are. And they certainly should not be controlling our behaviour. If we do allow them to take the reigns, our mood, and overall performance each day, will suffer.

Try slowing down your reactive thoughts when you’re in a heightened situation. Even write down what you feel if it helps as it will allow you to see the links between what you feel and what you think, and how you can approach a similar situation more objectively in the future.

Self-Reflection in training

Each of these three methods of self-reflection will individually or in combination help you towards becoming a better version of yourself. I would not expect you to try them all at once, or indeed see immediate success with them. But like all new habits, they must be practiced, perfected, and embraced in order to become ingrained within us. Eventually, we will have reached the ability to real-time self-reflect.

As we enter into 2021, let us first look to ourselves. Don’t be the person who identifies the flaws in others. What we see as flaws in others, are really just our own insecurities manifesting themselves in an ugly remark towards someone else. Learn to look first at oneself, become your best self, and then support those around you, lift them up, and be a positive light in our world.


  • Ginny Palmer

    Dear Katie..
    What incredible insight of oneself! Your so right, we need to all take a deeper reflection of how we can overcome certain weaknesses and not be so afraid of not fulfilling our goals in a timely manner. Resolutions don’t have to be completed by a certain date as we have been taught by man’s calendar.. It’s the journey! It’s more important to concentrate on how we can become better versions of ourselves, as you said. As long as we are growing spiritually, it’s all God expects from us!

    Both you and John are continuing to make a huge difference in the lives of people everywhere, and your wisdom of encouragement is truly heartfelt to me & so many:)
    Ginny @artbyremlap.com

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