Issue #4: Upon Reflection
Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to learn. The same situations will keep presenting themselves to us as lessons to be learnt and opportunities that compel us to change, adapt or grow. Even when the lessons present themselves, we may not always be aware of them or ready to learn from them.
As women, we are constantly evolving and becoming, appreciative of the irony that life must be lived forwards but understood backwards. When we interrogate our deepest truths, desires, fears, and vulnerabilities through reflection, we realise that part of our growth requires letting go of our own dogmatic views and self-righteousness. Through introspection, the beliefs, ideas or ideals we may have held as sacrosanct in our younger years and defended so vehemently in our naivety, may even seem alien to us or no longer aligned to who we have become.
When we are ready to learn these lessons, our humility may sometimes be induced if we do not arrive there by choice. And as we change, adapt and grow, we need to be empathetic towards ourselves and others as we are forced into a reckoning with ourselves and letting go of our past mistakes; failures or regrets.
Self-reflection can feel gut-wrenching, like taking inventory of all our personal flaws, taking account of our thoughts and recounting the mistakes we think we made at work, in our homes or within our relationships. But reflection is not about chastising ourselves for past mistakes—it’s an opportunity to be intimate with ourselves; to be authentic with ourselves; to gain a deeper appreciation for who we are and what we stand for; to own our mistakes; and be generous and kind with ourselves, so that we can move forward with grace and humility.
Love takes various forms —friendships, relationships, kinships. How we show up in these various relationships is often a reflection of where we are in our lives. Hence the old adage that the people we surround ourselves with are a reflection of who we are. Your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship, and it’s the foundation on which every other relationship in your life is built. Part of building that solid foundation is about continuously reflecting on who we are and who we want to become, in pursuit of our own happiness. When we prioritise our relationship with ourselves—not in a narcissistic or selfish way—but in a way that allows for a nurturing and loving relationship, we open ourselves up to developing more meaningful and authentic relationships with others.
Mindfulness and money are concepts rarely put together, and yet emotional and spiritual awareness are key to a healthy grasp of our personal finances. Bari Tessler, financial therapist and author of The Art of Money, recommends a “body check-in” to understand our personal relationship with money. Before the spreadsheets, bookkeeping and budgeting apps, it’s important to get to grips with our own story around money. Tessler recommends acknowledging our physical responses to money—whether spending or receiving—from a change of breathe, anxiety in the pit of our stomachs or wilful avoidance or distraction, to begin to understand the role money plays in our lives.
For some of us, it’s our gut, literally. For others it’s a familiar ache in our neck and shoulders, or a flare-up of eczema. The instinct is to medicate and ignore. We’re not advocating being a martyr and staying in a meeting when you have a throbbing migraine, but if the same pain or physical reaction keeps occurring, it helps to look inward and listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us. Once the painkiller has kicked in, think about what it was about the outside world that preceded illness. Was it conflict with a colleague, lack of sleep or missing breakfast? Now, look deeper still: what was it about a work disagreement that felt so personal, are work anxieties keeping you awake and why were you unable to take a moment to nourish yourself? On reflection, the answer is often an emotional one. The physical, emotional, mental and spiritual are all deeply connected, so take a moment to find, listen to and nurture those connections.
When children misbehave, we give them a timeout – a chance for them to calm down, reflect and create some distance between them and the situation. The timeout is a disciplinary technique for the child’s misdeed, but a timeout or time away can really also be a necessary break for adults to regather one’s thoughts or composure, and refocus on the tasks at hand. Many of us are constantly moving from one task to another, often feeling overwhelmed by the seemingly never-ending to do list. We seldom take time to reflect after a challenging day at work, or even after a really good day. We tend to simply work harder. When we take the time to reflect on the outcomes of a difficult meeting or conversation, or the achievements in a day, we can extract key insights and learnings to improve career development and performance.