As an enormous book-geek and quote addict, it won’t come as any surprise to any of you that I have a number of favourite authors who take up the majority of the space on my bookshelves. Like most things with hobbies and interests, they tend to centre around a common theme. Recently however, I stumbled across a common trend that was somewhat different to what I was expecting.
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Life lessons are all around us should we choose to look out for them. In this case, a similar quote, written by no less than three of my all-time-favourite writers at different times, got me to thinking that there is certainly something in the message they give. George R R Martin, Cassandra Clare and Jim Butcher, all have quotes with a common message which stuck out like a sore thumb to me – introspection. Now the quotes themselves, you’ll find conveniently placed amongst this article, all say the exact same thing – and that is that as human beings, our one fundamental flaw is an inability to see when we are wrong.
I’ve learnt this lesson the hard way over the years; in nearly losing friends and nearly losing my husband. All of this through my inability to be introspective and understanding that blame outside of myself is only part of the problem. As people, our ability to learn from our mistakes is something that we don’t always use as a life tool. Which is a shame. But as the song lyrics say, “sorry seems to be the hardest word!”. It’s belittling and embarrassing to admit we’re wrong. But thinking about it sensibly, what more could be achieved if we were, as human beings, more introspective on a regular basis?
How much progress could we have on a personal and emotional level if we applied the simple rules of looking in the mirror and realising our approach to a subject, conversation, business idea, parenting decision, whatever it may be, was flawed and that it was us who were wrong. Imagine finding that out before we go ahead and make those mistake, say those words, commit to the wrong path? What difference would that play in our lives? How much could it really impact us?
Now this idea could be taken to the extreme, and those that are overly self-critical are often diagnosed with the wonder that is anxiety. Because we spend too much time over-thinking our own actions and worrying for the outcome of things. But I genuinely believe that a fine balance of being able to be both introspective and self-aware, can have such a positive impact on our lives that it is staggering.
This process, well known in psychology and introduced by Psychologist Wilhelm Wundt is also known as Experimental Self Observation. I haven’t looked too deeply into it, because I know myself, and know that I would end up over-examining the ideology behind it and become too immersed for my own good! But what I do know is that it’s a terrible shame that I didn’t have this level of self-awareness until I hit my 30’s and nearly lost my mind! Could it have been that looking more into my behaviour at an early stage could have saved my mental health? I doubt that, but what I do know is that it has become a very soul-soothing and self-gratifying way for me to decompress at the end of the day. It has almost become the meditative state that I fall into before I fall asleep.
A Little Exercise to Try
Again, I’m not mental health professional and have little experience when it comes to offering advice to others around the topic; but, it’s certainly worth some consideration isn’t it? Why not try this little exercise for yourself?
- Take five minutes at the end of the day and be completely relaxed and ensure you won’t be disturbed.
- Take one example of all the things that happened to you that day. It could be a decision at work, a conversation with a friend, a reaction to a naughty toddler (*holds hand high in the air*)
- Think about your behaviour at that time
- What were your actions?
- What were your decisions?
- What choices did you make?
- Now, consider that you were outside of your body, looking on to that same scenario. No that you’re on the outside looking in, would you have made those same choices?
- Would you do anything differently?
- What other opinions could impact the though process that lead you to the result?
- How do you think the other person involved in that scenario felt? What choices did they have?
- How do you feel?
Some of this thought process came about for me as a result of hearing the terms “self limiting beliefs” and “The Law of Attraction” (look those up for a whole different world of ideas!) applied to business coaching processes. It was also from reading The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I genuinely believe that this is the starting point of understanding where negativity comes from with me. Perhaps born out of frustration? If I know I might be wrong, perhaps I might be less frustrated at events and circumstances that are out of my control?
With emotions like grief, we are all pretty much aware that there are five stages that most folks inevitably go through at some point. Some skip a few or do things in a different order, because hey, we’re all different. But the basic human nature element understands that we will process loss with denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. My idea is that, when applied to a different emotion, in this case, embarrassment at being wrong (sucks doesn’t it!) we can follow a similar process in our heads with a view to reaching acceptance more quickly. Learning from it and moving on helps us to be stronger, wiser and more favourable? Huh?
The ideas do make sense to me and resonate somewhere on a deeper level I think. Especially after finally understanding that I was the villain of my own story on more than one occasion! So, I have decided that in order to keep my positive pants pulled up to my armpits (so fetching!), I need to accept that I am not always perfect but change where I can. That my opinion isn’t always the right one, and that my ability to see that can and will help me to grow as a person. I mentioned it in my book too, so it obviously means something to me. I have decided that my new mantra for life will be this:
“Know yourself and accept that you are awesome and flawed.
We all are.
Seeing those imperfections for what they are will only result in being more awesome.
And that begins with acknowledging that we are none of us perfect.”
What about you? Do you think being more introspective might help aspects of your life? I can’t wait to hear!