Advertisement

Will being more self-reflective help me avoid being automatically nice?

Karen R Koenig
Psychology

Being reflective means keeping an eye on yourself while you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s as if you’re holding up a mirror and evaluating your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors even as you’re going about everyday life. For example, say your friend calls (for the third time this week) while you’ve (finally) gotten into doing your taxes, which are due next week, and begs you to babysit for her three-year-old so she can scoot out to get those fabulous Manolo pumps she saw on sale downtown. A reflective person will consider her reaction to such a request before answering. For purposes of reflection, in this example, it doesn’t matter whether you say yes or no. What’s important is that you’re constantly assessing what you think and do and how you feel and don’t act automatically.

Reflection is like having a video camera running 24/7 that feeds you info about yourself in real time. Of course, sometimes you might get so caught up in the moment that you can’t watch the video and even forget that it’s creating footage. Okay, then, when you have a minute, you simply rewind it, review it, and reflect. If you said no to your friend in the above example, you might notice feeling proud but guilty. If you said yes, you might be aware of feeling annoyed at yourself or at her and hopeful that she is appreciative. Most likely, you’ll find yourself experiencing a mix of emotions.

Reflecting requires existing on two parallel tracks at once: the doing, thinking, or feeling, and observing these activities. It takes a while to get the hang of it, but after some time, it will feel more natural. The goal is not to become so bogged down in every moment that observation and assessment cut into the flow of your life (Should I put on my right shoe first or my left? Go to the grocery aisle now or the frozen foods?) but to alternate fluidly among acting, feeling, and thinking and reflecting on these processes. Without reflection, the door to change remains shut. How can you do things differently if you don’t know what you’re doing? How can you change feelings if you’re clueless about what they are? Contemplation gives you the objective feedback you need to notice progress, stuckness, and slippage back to your nice default setting. It’s an essential ingredient to the change process.

Continue Learning about Personality

All About You: Personality Trait or Disorder?
All About You: Personality Trait or Disorder?
Is your personality trait idiosyncratic and somewhat endearing? Or is it so destructive that it changes the way you and others around you live? With ...
Read More
How do I know if I am a perfectionist?
Karen R KoenigKaren R Koenig
If you’re a perfectionist - and my hunch is that most of you sport this label - you probably know it...
More Answers
Will people stop liking me if I speak my mind, being a nice girl?
Karen R KoenigKaren R Koenig
I don’t know. You tell me what will happen. Or, rather, what you fear will happen. Will some catastr...
More Answers
How Should We Feel When We Think We Think About Death?
How Should We Feel When We Think We Think About Death?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.