Self-reflection is different from self-criticism separated by a thin line.
That line is an invisible razor edge. There is an innate value in being able to examine our thought processes, beliefs and actions in a weird sort of detached ‘consciousness observing consciousness’ way (mindfulness, anyone?). We can reason against harmful and illogical thought patterns, and limit self-destructive behaviour. In fact, philosophy itself is based upon inquiry and examination.
However, we’ve all, I’m sure, experienced how easy it is to fall into self-criticism. We criticise ourselves for the actions we take or don’t, for what we lack – for our weaknesses. Why, then, do we spend such a huge chunk of our time in this self-critical state, rather than a productive, self-examining one?
Our self-perception is formed from an early age. Factors such as the amount and quality of maternal attention during childhood to negative/positive reinforcement from peers all determine how we perceive ourselves. Self-perception is complicated, and is formed over years, mainly in response to stimuli in one’s environment. We often end up treating ourselves as we’d imagine we deserve to be treated. It is no wonder, then, that self-criticism and condemnation are linked with anxiety, low self-esteem and depression.
The biggest enemies of willpower: temptation, self-criticism, and stress. These three skills —self-awareness, self-care, and remembering what matter most— are the foundation for self-control.
Self-criticism is inherently an evolved survival tool. In an inhospitable environment, where survival itself meant success, criticising mistakes / missed opportunities (or whatever the negative element might be) ensured a higher chance of success and therefore procreation in the future. However, in an era where the survival ‘basics’ (shelter/food/air/water) are met for most of us in the Western world, these evolutionary traits are defunct. Sadly, however, our brains haven’t evolved as quickly as our societies and their respective technologies.
This is where we have to smarten up. If you find yourself having trouble with self-criticism, there are methods that you can use to deal with it. The steps, involving logic and reasoning against illogical thoughts and fears, can be found in a wide spectrum of practices, from mindfulness to cognitive behavioural therapy. They’re tried and tested, and simply need consistency in application to work.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate
Self-reflection and examination, on the other hand, is both beautiful and useful. It’s a productive habit that allows you to process your thoughts, emotions and experiences, and potentially learn a lot from them. We spend so much time paying attention to external variables in our lives (careers, families, hobbies). If we spent a little of that time becoming more aware of the way we perceive ourselves and our thoughts, we’d be better off for it.
The Importance of Self-Reflection and Self-Criticism
In my view, reflection and self-criticism are extremely important parts of self-care.
It is important to reflect on what you do with clients as well as to reflect on virtually every aspect of your personal life.
These need to become regular practices of every caregiver, in our view. Even a few minutes a day helps to bring you to a better place.
We recommend looking at people after each talking session with a general review daily or weekly. We also recommend a review of your personal life at least weekly.
There are many ways to do this. One is through writing. Writing helps you to get your feelings out and to organize them. Also, walking quietly is another way. Still another way is meditation. Each person will find an individual way of doing it.
The point is that it happens.
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