Updated: Jul 10, 2019
Self-reflection is an act of introspection/meditation, which aids an individual to become aware of their values, priorities, expectations, desires, fears etc., and therefore analyzing the crux of their character.
In the last article, we discussed desires, expectations, and fears as factors impacting your personality.
Day to day, we are always collecting new information through our senses. Due to your previous lives, your current thoughts, and your actions/re-actions, you are continuously shaping your subconsciousness, which influences your personality.
The way you entertain your desires, the way you are debilitated by your fears and the anxieties of tomorrow, the amount of attachment you dedicate to expectations, the way you execute the values you hold dear to you, the degree of honesty applied to your intentions (how true you are to yourself), the extent to which your past affects your present (mistakes leading to self-loathing/decreased self esteem vs. learning opportunities leading to progress + better decisions), your coping mechanisms to unexpected circumstances, how much you let others’ judgments of you affect you, the influences of your company (family + friends)...
Pretty much, there are a lot of things that cultivate your personality whether you realize it or not. Which is why when Grandma says, “Hey buddy, what the heck happened? You’re such a shit disturber now”. You won’t realize what kind of person you are unless you check in with yourself regularly and take responsibility for your flaws, shortcomings, mistakes etc.
The reality is that there are a lot of people who don’t do this, and are living their lives until someone says something very real to them or the person has an epiphany about themselves...and the next thing you know, you’re bawling your eyes out in a room for 2 hours to the point where you’re trying to figure out where everything went all wrong. Existential crises aren’t uncommon. But what’s funny is that questioning your purpose, your values, your flaws, your actions, your desires, your fears etc. are all a part of self reflection and self improvement. The difference is, for the seeker, questioning yourself is regular and the seeker is in control. The person having an existential crisis is not practicing regular self-check in’s, and that’s why the process is so overwhelming and uncontrollable. Self-awareness is like an onion. There are a lot of layers, and the more you peel, the more you’ll cry. Regular self-checks make the sting much less drastic and controllable.
In order to reflect on your character, it’s necessary to reflect on your values and priorities.
Values underlie everything we are and do. If what we value is unhelpful, if what we consider success/failure is poorly chosen, then everything based on those values – the thoughts, the emotions, the day-to-day feelings – will be distorted. To simplify, everything we think and feel is based upon how much value we give it. Most people aren’t the greatest at answering “why” questions, and this deters them from being able to deepen their knowledge about their own values.
For example, let’s say you complain that you’re lonely. I ask you why. You give me an array of reasons like people suck, people lie to you, and/or people don’t understand you. The blame shifts over to the people. But the more “why”questions you ask yourself, eventually the shift will go from external to internal questions. Eventually, you may arrive at, “I have low self esteem, I have unrealistic expectations for friendships/relationships and therefore have a lot of negative feelings built inside of me” etc. Usually, the more uncomfortable the answer is, the more likely it’s true. It’s only uncomfortable because you are questioning your own character.
You have values and you have metrics. You’ll assess a situation by the value, and the metric used to evaluate the value.
Simple value: Cleanliness
Simple metric: Shower everyday and moisturize
Value: Loving your parents and being honest with them
Metric: Tell the truth, serve them, and respect their decisions
However, flash-forward, and you’re dating someone. You don’t think your parents would approve of your dating, or you don’t think your parents would like this person. You lie to your parents, and see this person anyway. It becomes more complicated because you have created the value for yourself in the first place, and you are not in sync with the metric. You eventually tell your parents, and your parents disown you even though you’re 25 with a stable job. Guess what? Your partner is hard working, great looking, smart, caring, and funny...but unfortunately, they are from another caste/religion/culture. You two love each other, but then the family is hesitant because they have to think about what society thinks...
One of the most complicated, but prominent value is giving a shit about society. The metric is variable. But everything down to what you wear, what you say, how loud you say it, who you say it to, what job you have, how much money you have, etc. has really made it a lot more difficult to navigate life because at the end of the day, society is dictating people on how they should live their life. Here’s the problem. We slowly adopt destructive values from society, and are silently suffering from them.
Here are some examples of societal values:
1) Pleasure: Most superficial form of satisfaction. Easiest to obtain and easiest to lose. Temporary. But at the same time, everywhere you go, it is pleasure that is marketed to the masses. Research has it that people who focus their energy on superficial pleasures are more susceptible to feelings of anxiety, emotionally instability, and depression.
2) Materialistic success: People base their self worth off of income and status. The funny thing is, research shows that once you can provide for basic physical needs (food, clothing, shelter), the correlation between happiness and worldly success becomes zero. The thing is, this “bar” of survival is so variable these days... the “needs” and “wants” are often confused and do not stop, therefore, the bar of survival progressively fluctuates for people.
3) Always being right: It’s like self-defense mechanism for “I can’t be wrong, because mistakes are weaknesses, blemishes, and make me look bad as a person”. When you close off new opportunities to learn and become stubborn about what you know, you close the door to self-improvement.
4) Staying positive: Constant positivity is a form of avoidance of negative emotion. Let’s face it: Shit happens. It’s life. The key is to deal with negative emotions in a healthy manner and express them in a way that aligns with your values (usually, this is natural). When we force ourselves to stay happy, we deny problems. If we deny our problems, we miss out on the opportunity to add meaning and importance to our life by solving these problems.
Productive values vs. Destructive Values
1) Reality based
2) Socially Constructive
3) Immediate and Controllable
Ex: Honesty, innovation, self-respect, humility, standing up for others etc.
2) Socially Unproductive
3) Not immediate or controllable
Ex: Manipulation, cheating, being the centre of attention, not being alone, being liked by everyone etc.
In a nutshell, self-improvement is really prioritizing better values and choosing better things to care about.
We believe the endless quest in the utter gladness of new realizations is the sign and symptom of a Sikh.