Since early records of human expression, we have looked to understand ourselves better — “know thyself” is inscribed in Ancient Greek temples dating back over 3,000 years ago, for example. The questions of who we are and why we are have hung over us since. Better understanding yourself might be as simple as asking, “What are all the components that make up who I am?”
Self-reflection is examining the components of who we are in order to be more intentional about how we want to grow. Think of it as taking everything out of a drawer and examining it before deciding what to put back in. It starts with observation and asking questions, rather than self-criticism. (Though for many of us, our brain wants to do just that!)
Reflection takes a lot of practice, especially to do it without judgment. It can often be easiest when we have some structure — a goal in mind or people to support us. Especially when we’re conflicted or facing a challenging decision, it can be harder to see ourselves clearly. It’s important to build empathy for ourselves in order to develop a more reliable way of checking in with ourselves — and building our toolbox to identify and share our perspectives, strengths, skills, and interests.