Sometimes, I look in the mirror and don’t recognize the person I see looking back at me.
Like the reflection is distorted, dust on the corner of the frame stretches and blurs the image. Sometimes, I stare and stare, hoping the image will shift and change to reflect back how I feel on the inside.
There is a kind of art, photorealism, which is described as paintings of photographs that represent an image of an image of life. An image of an image—a representation that is twice removed from the original.
When we meet new people, we are often presenting a side of ourselves that is far from the original. We’ve spent time polishing and perfecting both our outward and inward selves to put an image out there that we want the world to see. We want them to see the version that’s been photographed, painted over, airbrushed.
Self-reflection is defined as self-examination. It is the careful thought about our own behaviour and beliefs.
The opposite of self-reflection? Distraction. These days, we are in a constant state of busy, directing our minds toward anything but our own thoughts. Months can go by on autopilot, and suddenly, we find ourselves burnt-out, worn out, and looking at that mirror, unsure of who we see looking back.
I was at my cottage this weekend with my family for the first time since last fall. As soon as I walked through the front door and into our home away from home, I felt at peace. I could see the greenery surrounding us out the windows, the evening light beginning to trickle in through the swaying branches. But the feeling of peace was quickly overtaken by a feeling of unease. Once we settled in, I sat at the kitchen table, looking out the window and thought, what now?
I turned to my dad and said, “I don’t know what to do right now.”
He laughed, “What do you mean? You’re at the cottage. Do nothing!”
I realized that I didn’t know what doing nothing felt like—I hadn’t “done nothing” in so long. There was never a moment for me to just sit and think. Or rather, I made sure there was never a moment.
I took my dad’s advice and sat on the couch with a glass of wine, staring out at the beautiful view in front of me. There was quiet music in the background, the smell of dinner cooking, and the slight rustle of trees, and I let my mind wander.
Self-reflection is not about looking at ourselves in the mirror. But it is about taking the time in our day for introspection so that the image we see looking back is a better reflection of who we are.
It’s important to ask: what is our reflection trying to tell us when we don’t recognize the person looking back? Is it telling us that something in our lives is not aligned? Maybe we’re at a job we hate. Maybe we’re in a relationship that’s not right. Maybe we’re in a group of friends who don’t allow us to be ourselves. Whatever it is, feelings of asynchrony are a sign that something needs to change.
The less time we take to self-reflect, the more likely we are to feel like a photorealist painting, further and further from the true version of ourselves.
Photorealism was an art movement meant to “complicate the notion of what’s real”—mixing the real and the unreal together. Sometimes, when we work on autopilot, we become so lost in the busyness of our day-to-day, we lose touch with ourselves so much that we can’t decipher what’s really us and what’s not.
Self-reflection allows us to pause and take a moment to pinpoint what’s working and what’s not.
As I sat on the couch, my mind began to wander, and I began to think about my life over the past few months. Self-reflection can be passive. But, like any other skill, it’s something that needs to be done actively, too.
There can be three steps in the process of active self-reflection: 1. Identification, 2. Understanding, and 3. Resolution.
Through identification, we can get to the root of the cause, understand the reasoning behind it, and move forward with ways to resolve it. We can ask ourselves questions to dig deeper, like: What do I want to see in the mirror looking back at me? What brings me joy? What are my values? What’s holding me back?
Self-reflection allows us to be better people.
We spend so much energy on everything but ourselves because we’re so afraid to look inward. But distraction only keeps us further from realizing our true potential, and we need to take the time to self-reflect to remind us who we are and why we’re here.